Writhing in the midst of winter, I ponder along the road and see a delicate figure on the horizon, her stare piercing through me like a sharpened blade. Suddenly, without a second thought, she appears into the foreground clasping a bright red blade that shines of incantations. Immediately she takes a swipe.
Her sword is suddenly stopped mid-swipe by an invisible force with a blue aura around it. Moments later a girl, clad in armour, reveals herself: “You have summoned me master, I shall protect you from this evil,” she says. She pushes onwards and calls upon a divine light to punish the foe that stood before her. “I am Saber, your servant. We are now intertwined in this endless battle.”
Much like other games released by Japanese developer Nitroplus, which range from love stories to erogé, Nitro+ Blasterz features characters inspired by its own visual novels. And it’s not only Nitroplus characters that make an appearance, but also characters from anime that Nitroplus has worked on, typically Type-Moon (Saber from the Fate series for instance). However, this is the first time that Nitroplus has worked on a fighting game, which is an interesting expedition into an unknown realm for a visual novel developer.
Fighting games fit into a highly niched genre that generally caters to the hardcore crowd. Finding a new experience can be very difficult, and many games in the genre are starting to feel like they are just copied from each other. Thankfully, the game mechanics behind Nitroplus’ Nitro+ Blasterz Heroines Infinite Duel are anything but mundane.
As Nitroplus has never taken the leap into fighting games before, help has come from fighting specialists, Examu, who has recreated characters into the heroines that they became in their past games. Thankfully, this means that Nitro+ Blasterz is anything but a generic run-of-the-mill punching simulator, but rather a fighting game with real substance and a fresh outtake on combat.
Every character in Nitro+ Blasterz has a different set of combination moves, initially these look similar to other fighting games, but then you quickly realise that what you’re attempting is based on their role in the visual novels. A quick double tap down plus an attack button can unleash a bouncing grenade, or even have a character, while in the air, slash downwards on top of your foe.
What makes the combat truly unique is the controls. Most fighting games have your buttons set to either punching or kicking, Nitro+ Blasterz instead gives you three buttons for hitting (light, medium, and hard), one for a powered attack, and one for a quick dodge/escape/guard. Combining these buttons together can make your character execute multiple special moves, throws, and even go into an Infinite Blast mode to interrupt an opponent’s move – save that for emergencies!
Every character plays and feels different from the next. Saya is incredibly slow but can attack from a distance, Saber can close on an opponent in a split second with lightning speed, and Ignis has a super move that can decimate a target from any location; and that’s just the start. Character variety is very well thought out but there are a few key issues which makes Nitro+ Blasterz rock solid against the computer in story mode.
The initial story follows either of your characters through a typical round of nine battles before the final boss. The final boss is Al Azif Ex Mortis which is a character that acts as a copy of the Necronomicon. Your characters must battle each opponent to rid their soul away from the Necronomicon’s grasp and bring them back to reality. Sadly, the story is extremely weak, which wasn’t what I expected from a well-known visual novel publisher, and it makes getting through the narrative the hardest part of an otherwise refreshing fighter.
The characters range from super easy to defeat to being almost impossible to take down. The balancing issues on a per character basis are off the scale. Many times when reaching the second or third round, I felt like giving up only to miraculously, after dozens of attempts, finally get past and then mow down the remaining opponents.
To help out with the battles, which becomes a key way of winning these outrageously hard bouts, are your sidekicks. You can choose two from a total of twenty characters (Super Sonica, Nitroplus’ mascot, is present as both a playable and support character). Each character has its own special move which can cause great devastation on the opponent if they don’t react fast enough. Some support characters instead prefer doing just that, support. Super Sonica buffs the caster during combat while playing music, and Aoi Mukou lifts her device in the air and freezes time with her God enchantment “touarururururu”, which is quite off-putting to players, but gains you meter for your special moves. Having twenty support characters and fourteen playable characters means that there’s a lot of variety during matches, but the smaller playable roster shortens the replay value somewhat.
The forgettable story finally ends when you have unlocked Another Story mode, and it’s from here that the game becomes more of a visual novel than a fighting game. You can clearly see Nitroplus’ influence on the game in this mode and the story itself is refreshing, if a little confusing. In this mode you’re forced to use the character that you’re given as well as the support characters that follow said character.
In Nitro+ Blasterz it’s likely that you’ll spend most of your time playing online. Offline the game is rather light on modes, and the training mode isn’t much of a training mode at all, more of a sparring session with a lemming on the other side and a command list hidden behind the options button. Thankfully, the multiplayer component offers an impressive array of options, and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding an opponent, especially as you can choose any region instead of being locked to one of the main three (North America, Europe, or Asia). It’s a great way of creating tournaments between players. You can have up to six players in a room taking it in turns to move up a ranking. You can even reserve slots for friends if you’d rather not have a random player join your room.
Online matches don’t suffer either from much lag, which can ruin a fighting game. Testing an online match with someone from across the pond led to fluid gameplay with the occasional, but not often, pause in gameplay when the connections went out of sync – a much better use of syncing issues than continuing to fight when one has a distinct advantage over the other with ping times.
Nitro+ Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel is a fun fighting game that will get your inner waifu going. Without doubt a fan service game, its gameplay mechanics are refreshing enough to provide a great party game experience for you and your friends. Just don’t expect many people playing online once Street Fighter V and Tekken 7 arrive!
Update: Homura and Heart can only be unlocked via a free DLC on the store