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Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel (PlayStation 4) artwork

Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel (PlayStation 4) review

"Saber, Sonico, and Saya no Uta? Oh my!"

Dream matches have grown increasingly popular in games and general media over the last few years. From simulations that try to find which year represented the Chicago Bears at their very best, to a film that pits Batman against Superman, there's no shortage of examples available. Fighting games are an especially good way to explore rivalries, and to bring together characters that might not otherwise appear within the same genre. Along those lines, the developers at EXAMU, best known for the Arcana Heart series, have partnered with visual novel powerhouse Nitro+ to create a fighting game that stars a diverse collection of adventurous heroes. They call it Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel.

Fighting games have seldom bothered with a strong central story mode that links everything together and builds a cohesive narrative, but that trend changed with more recent work such as BlazBlue and Mortal Kombat X. Sadly, Nitroplus Blasterz is more old school. It falls back on the classic Arcade modes you might recall from older fighters. There's a small narrative wherein Sonico meets the various heroines and gives them motivation to keep fighting, but otherwise, character paths follow the same structure: seven fights with the occasional bit of voiced dialogue between matches, like a visual novel, all culminating in a fight against the same antagonist.

Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel (PlayStation 4) image

A secondary story mode, much truer to the label, is unlocked once you finish the first one with any character. In "Another Story," heroes from the main roster assume roles in a story revolving around Arkham City and Miskatonic University. If those names sound familiar, it's because both settings are depicted in the fiction of HP Lovecraft. The Old Ones don't make a direct appearance, but there are a number of references to the various creatures and nightmarish beings that inhabit the old city of R'yleh (including an amusing mistranslation of "mindfrayers"). The mode is a pleasing diversion from the game's primary offline content, offering a subtle take on the classic murder mystery that I didn't expect from a fighting game.

Nitroplus Blasterz resembles a number of common mashup fighting games that appeared over the course of the last console generation. The roster of buxom beauties consists of heroines from a number of anime and visual novels, and not all of them have previously made their way West. Notable cast members include Super Sonico and Saber ("Fate/stay night"), as well as characters from the anime "School-Live!" and even the Phantom of Inferno visual novel. To tell the truth, I recognized fewer characters than I could count on one hand, even with main characters and assists combined.

Setting up a combat team requires you to choose one of 12 characters (14, if you purchase DLC that adds Heart Aino of Arcana Heart and Homura from Senran Kagura) and 2 assists, from a roster of nearly two dozen. Then combat begins.

As you battle, you'll use five buttons in a variety of combinations: 3 primary attacks of varying strength (ABC), an escape action (D), and a context-specific heavy action (E). Assists are summoned using a combination of A+D or B+D, depending on the order in which you initially selected them. They typically can be summoned even in the middle of a combo, or in nearly any other circumstance, so it's important to keep them on hand in case you need them to help turn the tide of battle in your favor.

Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel (PlayStation 4) image

Mobility is your single most important ally in Nitroplus Blasterz. Dashes are one way to remain in motion, but the D button does the most to affect momentum. Depending on the corresponding direction pressed, you can change up the type of dodge your character performs. That might mean anything from short hops to somersaults across the ground that evade projectiles. And in high-pressure situations, you can fall back (as if blocking) to gain a stronger shield while executing a "Vanishing guard." This pseudo-parry is useful if you need to open an opponent up, perhaps so that you can then launch a counter-attack, but there were instances when I tried to poke out a quick attack and instead wound up eating another move. It's important to know when to control the spacing and when you should press the advantage.

The combination of creative dashes, normal attacks, and support assists makes possible some unblockable setups and combos that really shouldn't be permitted. One assist summons a girl on a Segway, who zips past the opponent and then circles back around to strike from behind. What's to stop a player from launching an attack from the front at the same time, thus creating an assault that is impossible to block and which might then lead into a heavy combo? The search for combos that will be deemed illegal in proper tournament play has always been one fun reason to play fighting games, as seen with the Marvel versus series from Capcom. Heroines Infinite Duel gives all of that away, right off the bat, so that even newcomers can piece together flashy combos after only a few minutes of play.

Once you gain the requisite experience offline, your next step is to test your mettle against human opponents online. To enter a ranked match, you must choose your character from a text menu, then the costume and palette color, then assists, and finally a stage on which to play. The lack of visual cues makes it difficult to know what all you're even selecting until a match begins. I frequently had to reference a sheet of paper on which I had written down my preferences for playing Ethica. The awkward interface feels like a developer oversight. Thankfully, the experience is considerably smoother once you get past those initial hurdles. I encountered a few minor hiccups during a long set played against one particular opponent, but not once did I suffer from persistent lag of the sort that would produce dropped combos (except when the culprit was my own poor execution).

Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel (PlayStation 4) image

As I played Heroines Infinite Duel, one annoyance I did encounter was a string of system messages letting me know which scenes could and could not be recorded. Nearly any sequence involving dialogue between characters would produce warning banners, and sometimes the same was true when I earned trophies. If you try the game yourself, you should start with a quick stop to your PS4 system settings to toggle off such notifications, unless you're a fan of such interruptions.

Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel has definite appeal, even in its rough state. There were times when I found myself on the edge of my seat, barely squeaking by after eating a combo that took out half of my life bar, before calling in an assist that turned things around and won me the match. The game comes nowhere close to offering the execution and spectacle that are available in Marvel vs. Capcom, but it still serves as a spectator game that's nearly as much fun to watch as it is to play. The single-player offerings are as slim as they come, but local matches with friends and online beatdowns provide plenty of fun in this up-and-coming fighter.

Gregarious's avatar
Freelance review by Kai Powell (February 05, 2016)

As an aspiring FGC contributor, Kai has earned enough tournament accolades to earn the title 'Eternally Second'. When not pouring his heart out over covering the games industry and running a corporate games store, he also spends his mornings at a ramen-ya

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