People call BlazBlue and Guilty Gear “anime fighters”, but games that get labeled as such are rarely based on anime prior to their release. Perhaps a better term is “air-dash fighters” as it seems to be a common mechanic in games like them. Dengeki Bunko, on the other hand, is a manga publisher in Japan similar to Shonen Jump. Dengeki Bunko has numerous manga lisences under its belt, so with with French Bread (Melty Blood and Under Night In-Birth) developing the game, and SEGA publishing the game, it kind of acts as a huge cross-over game with a solid fighting system. The stages and the music that goes along with them are all from various SEGA franchise worlds such as Sonic, Virtual On, and Nights into Dreams. Some of these stages are only noticeable by the most devout of fans, while others such as Sonic are impossible to portray in subtle fashion. All of them seem to fit in the game in a seamless fashion. Despite having SEGA backgrounds, there are only two main characters and two assist characters from SEGA franchises in the game, and they aren’t shameless cash-grab characters that would seem severely out of place; Akira and Pai from Virtua Fighter, and Selvaria Bles and Alicia Melchiott from Valkyria Chronicles. The remaining cast are representatives from Dengeki Bunko’s combined published works; Sword Art Online, The Devil is a Part-Timer, Oreimo, A Certain Magical Index, Accel World, The Irregular at Magic High School, Black Bullet, Shakugan no Shana, Durarara!!!, Toradora, Ro-Kyu-Bu!, and Strike the Blood.
Cross-over games such as this are usually just slapped together as a fan-service sort of thing with very little regard to the competitive scene, relying on the combined characters’ popularity for sales. French Bread has experience in creating solid fighters, and their finger on the pulse of the fighting game scene as well. While the Dengeki Bunko has some balance issues among its cast, the game is incredibly solid as a competitive fighter while simultaneously remaining accessible to casual fans. For the casual player who just wants to play as their favorite characters, the system is easy to learn. The most difficult commands you’ll have to learn are half-circles and two buttons to perform supers (called Climax moves). All other special moves are performed with either quarter circle forward or quarter circle back with any of the A, B, or C buttons. There are some advanced moves that require two buttons to be pressed at once to activate special abilities, but they are more geared for the competitive players than the casual anime fans. In addition to normal moves and special moves, you have access to an assist character who you can call on using the D button (Cross button by default on PS3 and PSV). Each assist has two moves that can be done by hitting the D button by itself and by hitting the D button while holding left or right. Each assist character has a different set of complimentary moves that you’ll have to figure out how they best fit your play-style, but generally speaking, someone from the same series as the main character will give good assists for their play-style. You can perform some pretty impressive combos simply by button mashing on the A button. Of course, these auto-combos or quick combos do less damage than if you were to perform them manually. The auto combos are more in depth than simply stringing buttons one after another for you. They start by chaining normals into an A+B cancel, then a special followed by an EX move. To perform most of these manually, press the following commands in order: A,B,C,A+B,(quarter-circle forward)+A+B. Doing them manually adds about 5-10% more damage. It’s a minimal increase for sure, but definitely worth doing if you can. Perhaps the greatest reason for doing the manual inputs is the Trump Card abilities. When you activate your trump card (You start with two and gain one whenever you lose a round. You can never have two at a time though), your normal attacks can string together in any order, but if you do the quick combo, it’ll still do the basic one. Learning how to take advantage of more advanced combos, your assists, and when you can apply them properly is the key to winning matches at higher levels of play.
Also integral to high-level play is the blast system. If you’re familiar with Guilty Gear, you’ll have an idea of how these work. There are three different types of blast moves; power up, combo, and defensive. All of them are executed by hitting A, B, and C at the same time. The power up blast is the most important one and you should be using these pretty much whenever you can. They recharge the fastest, make you do more damage, and build your meter really fast as well as increase your defense and heal you quite a bit. To perform a power up blast, just hit the buttons when you’re not blocking or in the middle of a move. Next up are the defensive blasts. Performing a blast while guarding or on the receiving end of a combo, and it will send your opponent flying. These take the longest to recharge, but they can give you space to allow you to get your head back in the game. The final type of blast is the combo blast. Performing a blast mid-combo will send your opponent hurling through the air, allowing you to continue your assault on them. Generally speaking, you won’t get a lot of extra damage out of these, but if you know you can kill your opponent with one, that’s when you should use it. It doesn’t give you the bonuses that the power up blast does and it takes just a little longer to recharge. Learn the blast system if you want to play effectively.
Being a member of a fairly active fighting game community, I wanted to put this game to the test and learn one or two characters well rather than focus on a broad range of characters, but the game is so simple to pick up, that I kind of learned a good handful of mains and a few assist characters to compliment them. I think the toughest part of the game is figuring out how to utilize your assists properly. The game is very good at explaining how the main characters’ moves work, but doesn’t give any insight as to how the different assists work. If you want to learn the game in a better sense, I recommend checking out the Mizuumi wiki and the discussion for DFC at Dustloop. I used these sites quite a lot to figure out some of the game’s deeper nuances and I’ll link to them at the bottom of the review. Thanks to the SEGA for providing a few copies of the game and the Buffalo FGC, I was able to learn how to apply these advanced techniques in a timely fashion as well as determine that Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax is a capable and competitive fighter that is easy to learn yet deep enough to take even pros a good time to master it’s fundamentals.
With all this focus on the competitive side of the game, I nearly forgot the story and arcade modes. Perhaps because the story mode is pretty forgettable. At least the Arcade mode is. In it, Denshin (Who looks like the Dreamcast girl from Sega Hard Girls) summons the playable characters to help fight off some great evil known as Zetsumu who possesses the other characters who had apparently failed against it previously. It’s a really bare-bones story as you might expect from a game like this. What is impressive, and may be the main reason many manga/anime fans pick this game up, is the Dream Duel mode where there are around 60 different cross over stories involving the characters and the assist characters as well. Some of these are really good while others are just lame. They’re a really nice single player bonus, but I was mostly concerned with the versus mode and practice options.
Speaking of practice options, this game has got it all, including some that I think all fighters should have. The first thing I noticed is that the game lets you set and record enemy actions and all that which have become standard in fighters by now. You can also swap characters, assist characters, and your opponent and their assists as well as the backgrounds via the pause menu. There’s a quick load and reset when you do so, but it’s incredibly useful in testing out the different assist characters. The only downside to that is that you need to know the characters’ names as there are no images in the menu. Still, it’s a great option. Last, one of my crew informed me of the frame counter on the side of the screen. This lets you know exactly how long you’re taking between button presses and helps in learning frame data and frame punishes as well as timed combos. It’s not as useful in this game as it might be in Street Fighter or Tekken, but it’s a welcome addition nevertheless. As a little tip before I finish, I recommend changing your C button (Circle by default) to B+C. The reason for this is that when you press the two together, only C comes out, even in combos, but it makes performing climax moves (half-circle forward/back)+B+C much easier to perform.
For me, the game was just a passing interest until I got into the mix. It’s easy to pick up, and has all the tools you need to get better built into the practice mode. I’m really impressed with the practice mode, and I hope more games follow its lead going forward. Frame data is extremely important at high levels of play, and having it all right there for you to see is much appreciated. About the only thing they could add to make it better is hit and hurt box overlays that indicate exactly where your character’s attacks land and how exposed you are during certain moves. Casuals will overlook most of this, and that’s fine, but it’s refreshing to see that developers catering to the competitive scene as well.