Saying it three times fast initiates a combo.
When they told me I’d be reviewing the biggest fighting game of February, I could not believe it. “What an honor,” I said to the editor-in-chief [Bwahahaha! ~Ed. Nick]. “Of course I will. I will make this family proud.” (We are a very close-knit group.) It was only when Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel arrived in the mail did I realize I misheard. I would be reviewing the first, not the biggest, fighting game of February. Talk about getting the breadsticks after the entree.
Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel is a fighting game your 12-year-old brother would dream up during math class. All women, all of dubious age and fashion sense, fight some great cosmic evil with nary a dude in sight. The female combatants all hail from various Japanese visual novel franchises, with the exception of the DLC characters, which are free until March. It’s a novel idea (get it?) that reminds me of the Super Smash Bros. series, if Kirby were a teenage girl wearing a school uniform.
Fan service is the name of Nitroplus Blasterz, which is befuddling considering how few of their games have made it stateside. Nevertheless, it’s a fighting game, and the most important question is, how does it play? Okay, I guess.
Nitroplus Blasterz borrows heavily from other fighters with little in terms of refinement. Players choose a fighter along with two additional support characters separate from the main roster. There are three buttons for weak, medium, and heavy attacks with a focus on stringing together combos and breaking your opponent’s guard. Other buttons summon support characters for special attacks. An energy bar charges at the bottom of the screen and, when full, allows the player to initiate a game-changing Lethal Blaze attack. Special attacks are of the quarter circle variety, though the game’s stiff movement controls make button-mashing a more viable option.
If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Even the characters themselves borrow heavily from typical anime tropes. A high school girl that’s also an assassin? Check. Creepy girl in a dress that possesses demonic power? Check. A girl with an eye-patch strapped to a giant mecha crucifix? Okay, that one is new. The only other standout character is Super Sonico, who uses her five cats as a weapon (It’s so awesome and adorable, it’s awe-dorable). Maybe it’s because the source material is largely unavailable here, but I found most of the characters to be generic. Coupled with a fighting system that dares to do nothing new, the only exciting thing about Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel is trying to remember its name.
This is not to say that the game doesn’t do some things right. Derivative as it may be, at least it borrows from the right places. The game is welcoming to beginners or those who find fighters like Guilty Gear intimidating. Unleashing a Lethal Blaze attack on your opponent elicits a particular thrill as a small animated cutscene is triggered with each successful attack. One girl summons her giant mecha companion to drop a devastating nuclear blast on your opponent. My personal favorite belongs to high-school student/assassin Ein who inexplicably packs a huge sniper rifle which players can control and fire off a single shot to annihilate the other player. If only more of the character’s Lethal Blaze attacks incorporated this level of player interaction.
Graphically, Nitroplus Blasterz is not the game you’ll use to justify the purchase of a 70-inch 4K television (not for lack of trying). Fighters are 2D sprites on a 3D background. While the sprites look nice and cleanly animated, the backgrounds are an eyesore. Such backgrounds include a warehouse after hours, a gypsy caravan after hours, and a garden (presumably after hours). Where is the audience? When I was in high school, if two girls were about to fight, everyone knew about it. Even Street Fighter II had spectators, and some of those spectators were elephants.
Details like this reflect the budget nature of Nitroplus Blasterz, which thankfully is set at the budget of price of forty dollars. The story mode is an afterthought, with its completion-unlocking “Another Story” Mode, or as I like to call it, “Too Much Story” Mode. This mode at least references the source materials from which these characters spring, but I found most of the dialogue gave little credit to their personalities. There is a training mode, but this too is so barebones it feels more like checking off a box than offering a place to hone your skills. There is no option to change your target’s A.I., making the mode useless for practicing strategies or guard techniques. To their credit, the game does come with a full-color instruction manual with pictures of each character and a list of their moves. You just don’t see that anymore.
Overall, Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel doesn’t do anything wrong; it just meets the bare minimum. It’s like eating a saltine cracker. Bland, but not bad. Without their source materials readily available, few will be able to appreciate the level of fan service present, though I’m sure everyone can appreciate cat attacks. Cat-tacks. (Okay, I’ll stop.)