Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel – Review

Title   Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel
Developer  Examu
Publisher  Nitroplus, Marvelous Inc.
Platform  PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 (reviewed)
Genre  Fighting
Release Date  April 7, 2016

Before we get into talking about Nitroplus Blasterz, you’ll need to know about Nitroplus itself, since I imagine it’s pretty unlikely that you’ve heard of it. They’re a company who makes visual novels – you know, the dating simulator-y things that have pretty art and focus more on telling a story than perfect gameplay? They’ve been making them for more than fifteen years now, so they’ve got a serious back catalogue of characters and stories that they can show off.

Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel (it just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) is an ensemble fighter in the Marvel vs Capcom vein – a whole host of combatants from a variety of Nitroplus games are brought together to duke it out to the death. There are about a dozen main combatants who can call on the aid of another twenty or so assists, all of whom have a variety of effects, from summoning a horde of zombies to pogoing across the stage. There are differences, of course – for one, every character is female, which is no surprise considering the source material Nitroplus is drawing from. Apart from that though, there are a huge variety of fighting styles, from logical – like Chinese Martial Arts – to the absurd – Super Sonico, Nitroplus’ mascot, uses her battalion of cats and bandmates to attack instead of getting her own hands dirty.

It’s also very much in the anime fighter style, so you’ll be seeing all sorts of aerial manoeuvres, blocks in mid-air, and strings of attacks that will make your jaw drop, and which you’ll never be able to replicate. Each representative is different in all manner of ways, from their size and power to the speed they move across the screen, but without fail every fight is a furiously fast affair that will leave your heart pounding in your chest.

At first, it’s all very intimidating, but once you get the hang of things it all starts to make a little more sense. The basic controls for each fighter are the same, so you know that they all come equipped with certain tools – a light, medium, and heavy attack, a get-off-me-style power attack that simply knocks the enemy to the other end of the screen, a burst mode where you deal more damage, a command dash that bypasses projectiles, and a couple of assists. Of course, no two will use these tools in the same way, so it’s up to you to work out what works best with each character.

There’s plenty of depth to be found too – hours into playing I was still finding out new things that I could do or link. I also took the opportunity to mess with all the characters, as they have their own quirks and abilities. Anna, for example, doesn’t have a standard dash along the ground. Instead, she takes off when you double tap forward and dashes diagonally upwards until you release the input, allowing her to set up traps that change the way the enemy has to guard so as not to get hit. This all combines to allow for a lot of creativity in the way you play – if I were to run into someone else who plays a character in the same way that I do, I would be very surprised.

Nitroplus Blasterz looks good, too. The Nitroplus visual-novel tradition is clearly evident in each of the characters summoned to battle, as they’re all beautifully and interestingly designed, though the anime style won’t be to everyone’s tastes. When you start the game up you’re met with a crisp animated intro that introduces the characters and their source, all to the musical strains of Super Sonico’s band. It’s clear that Nitroplus are aware that they’re a bit outside of their target audience here, and they’ve made an effort to make sure that no-one feels out of their depth, at least when it comes to the people fighting on screen.

When the battles are actually taking place, the titular heroines are in a 2D, slightly pixelated style that’s somewhat reminiscent of Arcana Hearts. It’s an ever-so-slight throwback to the PS2 era where such graphics were common, so when they’re juxtaposed against the luscious backgrounds it actually works really well. For some reason it just seems appropriate to the gameplay, though the host of extra colours on offer (eighteen per character) makes it a little easier to swallow. It’s definitely a stylistic choice that is’t going to work for some people, although I personally enjoy it.

There’s plenty of meat to the game – no, not like that! I mean, that there’s a lot of content to work your way through, with two distinct story modes for your single-player needs, and a perfectly functional training mode that you can use to get to grips with combos and how your character of choice works before heading into the multiplayer modes. Local versus is actually what you would expect, and there’s also an online multiplayer mode with access to ranked matches, casual battles and the option to play with your friends.

The single player modes are really where Nitroplus Blasterz shines through. There’s a real feeling of tongue-in-cheek throughout the standard arcade ladder style story, which takes you through the personal story of your fighter of choice in her journey to fighting the big bad boss, who is wonderfully overpowered and will inspire a fair amount of gnashing of teeth. Between fights there is a scattering of dialogue and artwork, which is all very nicely done. It’s all fully voice acted in Japanese, so I’m not sure if they’ve done a good job or not, but it’s very pleasant on the ears.

Once you’ve beaten the standard story mode, you’ll get access to Another Story, which is undoubtedly my personal highlight of Nitroplus Blasterz, as it takes the fighters back to their visual novel roots, weaving a tale of horror and deceit that is consistently interspersed with fights and misunderstandings. It’s brief, but a lot of fun seeing Nitroplus in their element, and getting a glimpse of the characters as they were originally conceived. There’s also a host of lovely artwork and some clever characterisation that hints at how excellent the source material is. Having said that, the actual plot is densely confusing, and at times the writing is so convoluted that it’s basically impossible to keep up, especially when they’re piling up mountains of exposition on your head.

Of course, the rest of the game is not perfect either. There are a lot of little gripes that I have with Nitroplus Blasterz after spending some time with it, not least of which is the terrific chip damage you take when you block. More than once I’ve been firmly in the lead when an opponent releases their big-damage super attack – each of which have a few seconds of gorgeous anime footage to go along with them – and, despite blocking it, have taken upwards of a third of my health in chip damage. Of course, I’ve done the same a couple of times, but even then it feels cheap and unsatisfying – I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best loser, but I handle it better when I can agree that my opponent played better than me, so losing like that can be a very irritating experience not only for me, but also my neighbours.

I’m not personally a great fan of the way that assists have implemented either. A lot of thought has clearly gone into them, and when choosing the perfect assist for your character, a recommendation is offered up for who works best with them. It’s often right too. The problem is, they’re also massively strong, and though it’s a load of fun summoning a whole horde of zombies onto the battlefield, it’s also a bit disheartening watching them do a whole lot more damage than I’ve managed in my sloppily executed combos. Even worse – some of them are unavoidable and do loads of damage even when they’re blocked, basically ending the game as soon as they’re charged – even if you’re in the lead,

That’s my main problem with Blasterz, at the end of the day. I’m not very good at it, you see, so when I do manage to fight my way to a lead, I feel like I earned it. When it gets so brutally torn from me without me being able to do something about it, I feel robbed, which is hardly the most enjoyable feeling in the world. Unfortunately, it’s all too common with Nitroplus. With the amount of damage that you can take even while guarding, it often feels like wins are stolen away from you undeservedly.

What’s great though, is that at no point does Nitroplus Blasterz take itself too seriously. It has a character that is equal parts fun and silly, and though there’s a deep fighting engine hidden under all those pretty faces, it always feels fun. There’s none of the bloated seriousness that can sometimes befall other fighting games, and though it’s hardly simple, it does feel like Nitroplus Blasterz is designed to be played, not mastered. There’s so much entertainment to be had in sending Sonico’s cat armada into battle that you don’t really mind when you lose. I’ve spent a couple of hilarious evenings with my friends kicking ass and yelling incoherently about cats, and that’s where Nitroplus really shines. I have no doubt that there are players who have dug deep into the system, and can perform combos that would strike me as black magic, but I’m also damn sure that they’re not having more fun than me. And that’s what’s important, right?

  • Super fun to play
  • Fast and furious battles that get your pulse racing
  • Unique, well-designed characters that don’t just feel like your standard fare
  • Lots of depth to explore
  • There doesn’t seem to have been any attempt to balance the fighters against each other
  • Assists and final arts are ludicrously damaging even on block
  • The story is nonsensical at best
  • I can’t recommend it to my friends because I can’t ever remember the whole name

If you were looking for the perfect fighting game, you’ve come to the wrong place. Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel is at times frantic, messy and frustrating thanks to seriously overpowered options and no real attempts at balancing the fighters for competitive play. If you were looking for fun though, you could do a lot worse. There’s a sense of tongue lodged firmly in cheek throughout the game, and the combat is more often than not hugely enjoyable despite - or perhaps because - of it’s flaws. Allied with an ever so slightly retro feel, great art and some gorgeous stages, Nitroplus is the sort of thing that can kick off a night with your mates in the most hilarious possible fashion. Is it perfect? Absolutely not? Is it fun? It most certainly is.

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