You know, I hadn’t played a fighting game seriously in a very long time (PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale doesn’t count) in fact the last real - one on one -
fighting game I had played with any sort of furore had to be Street Fighter II: Turbo on the Super Nintendo - so how did I get on with
Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax? Well you’re about to find out.
For the uninitiated - or outright confused - Dengeki Bunko is a Japanese company that specialises in publishing light novels. First established in
1993, it now celebrates its 20th Anniversary and to commemorate the special occasion, the company partnered with game publisher SEGA along with fighting
game veteran developers Ecole Software and French Bread - who are best known for the Melty Blood series of games - to bring to life
Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax, which first saw a release in 2013 for a Japanese audience only.
Now in 2015 this excellent 2D fighting-game has been brought to western shores for all fans to experience.
Bucking the trend of recent fighting games - such as Injustice and Mortal Kombat - having an in-depth Arcade mode,
Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax opts for a far more meager offering - akin to fighting games born in the early 90’s. Whilst each character’s
story is fully voiced by the original Japanese cast from the anime adaptations, the story itself is told through basic, static, visual novel imagery.
Said story within Arcade mode revolves around a character named Denshin who seeks your help to protect her world of ‘dreams’ - I personally feel
she has more pressing issues to deal with, namely the Dreamcast controller stuck on her head - which is under attack by an evil, shapeshifting force
called Zetsumu - it’s all very pedantic.
No matter which of the 12 playable characters you choose - all of whom stem from some of the most popular anime shows such as Sword Art Online, Durarara!!
and Shakugan no Shana - the journey remains fairly the same, with you being summoned by the aforementioned Dreamcast-clad Denshin and set up to fight the
various other characters - each of which have themselves also been defeated by Zetsumu, and their forms taken for you to now face.
Packaged alongside the Arcade story mode, is a separate and entirely superfluous mode titled ‘Dream Duel Story’ wherein you battle 6 predetermined
characters. Whilst having no connection to the main story, each of the introductory meetings between the two characters facing-off, does bring some of the lore
and personality that particular character is known for in their own series.
It’s a shame that once again, these scenes are brief and don’t really create a situation wherein the two characters would be theoretically fighting at all -
especially when some of the characters seem to get along well within these short dialog scenarios - but like the mode’s title implies, maybe this is all just
a dream. Most fans picking up this game won’t care about any story though, most will be hardened fighting-game players, looking for a new challenge - and I’m
pleased to say Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax provides that in spades.
Part of what makes Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax unique, is the support system, with a simple tap of X (using default controls) on the
controller you’ll summon a secondary character to temporarily help aide you in battle. The choice of this character is entirely dependent upon your selection
before a match and like the playable characters within Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax, each support character is also from an anime, only with a
much larger roster for you to choose from - 23 in total.
The type of effect you will receive will not only depend on the support character you have chosen - from healing to inflicting damage or even binding your
opposition in place for you to deal damage - but also on whether you press X as a standalone or in tandem with a direction, each offering a variation of that
support characters ability. After use, the support gauge (identified with that specific characters portrait under your own) will re-fill in quick succession
allowing you to build strategies around its use, from including it into your own combo’s or regaining health.
Thankfully unlike most fighting games, the combat system in Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax is extremely easy to get into. Combat basically
consists of 3 buttons, those being a weak, medium and strong attack - that default to square, triangle and circle on the PlayStation controller, though
everything is able to be remapped to whatever suits you best - pressing any, in swift succession, will have you stringing together combos making you seem
like a seasoned fighting-game player. All movesets across the board are identical too, meaning once you have mastered one character’s moves, you know them
Obviously each character plays differently, from being fast and offensive, ranged or even defensively minded but the input of their moves remains the
same. This is great news for new fighting game players, creating the perfect jumping on point with Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax, as matches
won’t be decided on who can pull off the flashiest moves - requiring the dexterity of a concert pianist - they instead become a tactical-fare of knowing when
and when not to attack, using your support character wisely and building your gauge.
Speaking of gauge’s, things may look a little overwhelming to newcomers when they first lay their eyes on Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax -
with a litany of meters and other icons filling their purview - a sight that is common with most modern fighting games we see today - but in practice it’s
all far simpler than it looks.
The main gauge at the bottom (with a number beside it) is the ‘Climax Gauge’, this fills whenever you are offensive, rewarding action rather than
defensive play. As you fill the meter, the number adjacent will increase by 1 and the gauge itself will reset, but now allowing you to use a few extra
abilities from strengthening your combo attacks to unleashing your characters ultimate move - known as a Climax Art - that drains two whole bars of meter,
they can be tricky to land - especially on more experienced players - the payoff though is massive damage to your opponent.
You’re offensive output is bolstered even further with ‘Trump Cards’ and ‘Blast’ moves. The former is a finite resource, of which each
player is given two per match - located as icons above your Climax Gauge. Once a Trump Card is activated (by pressing L1 using the default controls) the icon
will now turn into its own mini-gauge that is quickly depleting.
This also creates a visual effect upon the character itself, imbuing a physical transformation that can vary depending on the particular character you
have chosen but is easily recognisable. Whilst in this transformed mode you will feel like a fighting-god, combo attacks will feel ‘fast and furious’
and unless your opponent is blocking they are about to be turned into mincemeat. If you’re unfortunately on the losing end of a round after using a Trump
Card you’ll be given an extra in recompense for the next round.
To compensate all of these extremely attack-minded moves are the Blast actions, that can be used both as an offensive or defensive tactic to get you out
of those tight spots. Without Blast moves, matches would be over before you can work out how to pronounce Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax,
but with a simple tap of R1 (once again using default controls) you can activate 3 different context-sensitive moves.
The first and most useful is for defence, when you are being attacked, trapped and unable to respond to your opponent's onslaught - as you watch your
health bar drain away along with your hopes of ever becoming a fighting-game pro - a tap of R1 will save your bacon, generating a powerful escape blast that
knocks your opponent back and resets both characters into neutral positions. This isn’t a move that can be used too frequently though, akin to the support
character gauge, the Blast meter (located adjacent to your playable characters icon and below the health bar) will drain and replenish after each use.
The second way a Blast move can be used is during your own combo attacks, activating the Blast whilst attacking will send your opponent upwards (or bouncing
against the wall if holding forward) to continue your chain of combo attacks even further.
And the last way to use Blast moves is easily the most powerful - by powering-up your character for a short time - activating the Blast move whilst in a
neutral position i.e. not attacking or being attacked, your playable characters attack and defence will both be increased along with slowly refilling your
own health bar and increasing the rate at which you gain meter for the Climax Gauge. Suffice to say the Blast moves within Dengeki Bunko: Fighting
Climax just add another layer on top of an already extensive tactical fighting game.
Most seasoned fighting-game players will find little challenge against the AI controlled opponents though, and instead will have their eye on far superior
opposition, namely other players around the world. And at the time of writing this review there’s plenty opposition to be found, with a busy server list
displaying both public and private rooms. If you’d like to play with friends, you can easily create a passworded room and invite a friend to join or taking
part in a ‘winner stays on’ public room can be a lot of fun and works smoothly too - though I did once get stuck in a room unable to leave, resorting me to quit
the game through holding down the PS button.
The online also introduces title cards, icons and signatures to make your own profile visually stand out, all of these can be unlocked within the game using
‘CP’ - an internal currency Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax uses which you obtain after every online match, or playing through most
of the offline modes.
One of my favourite aspects of Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax is how complete of a package it feels - a strange thing I know - in a world of
games piecemealed into microtransactions and re-sold as downloadable content it’s refreshing to play a game with all it’s hidden extras either unlockable through
completing the game - in the case of its two hidden SEGA playable characters - or using your playtime to reward you with CP allowing you to obtain
different character costumes, icons, signatures and a whole host of extras that are sure to delight fans of the anime these characters are based upon.
And it doesn’t end there, fans of SEGA will be excited to see all the various stages inspired by their own games both old and new, from Sonic and Shinobi to
Valkyria Chronicles. This is all combined together with some beautiful visuals, whilst not surprising - at least from Japanese developed, fighting game
titles such as BlazBlu - it’s still beautiful to see hand drawn 2D visuals and these anime characters come to life before your eyes.
Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax is an excellent fighting game in terms of both mechanics and visuals, with plenty of content to be unlocked
in-game it’s sure to keep new players invested and give fighting-game veterans a tactical challenge along with a smooth online experience.
With a more extensive single player experience this would be an almost perfect package, and it’s clear SEGA already see a bright future for the series with
a follow-up title planned for the PlayStation 4 later in 2016. If you’re a fighting game fan or looking for that perfect jumping on point, then you should
definitely look into Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax.
Review copy provided by the publisher for the PlayStation 3.