Anime and Manga has this certain social stigma that surrounds it: It’s seen as a format wherein which the strange, perverse, and incoherent way, that it is a medium for strange people that enjoy strange things. Those of us out there that have an educated view of the Japanese Pop Culture landscape know that this is the truth only for the minority, and that the general Anime/Manga audience finds themselves constantly looking for what is essentially the opposite of the stereotypical. I find it amusing that not many people outside of the now-booming Japanese pop culture fandom are aware of Visual Novels. Amusing not from a obnoxious standpoint, but simply because it is the Visual Novel platform that produces some of the most bizarre, offbeat, and outlandish storylines and characters, most of which, thanks to an odd level of popularity, are eventually adapted into Anime series’ which are enjoyed, to a decent extent, by those who only choose to stick to the animation-based medium.
Marvelous, the video game development studio behind the Senran Kagura series of raunchy titles, has teamed up with the Visual Novel developer Nitroplus to produce this game; Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel. This game, a follow up to Nitro+ Royale: Heroines Duel, brings together the most popular female protagonists from a number of different Visual Novel series’ under the Nitroplus label for, if you havn’t already figured it out, a cross-over fighting game the likes of which, well…we’ve seen many times before. It seems like a strange decision for Marvelous to allow this game to be localised in a region wherein which most of these series’ were never made available, and that includes the previous game in the series, but like any underrated medium; it is exposure that will help it grown in places that are, essentially, uncharted territory.
Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel features a very flimsy storyline that tries to string together battles between this cross-novel characters in justifiable ways, but unfortunately does not pull this off. The crux of the story relies on Super Sonico starting a new job at what is first described as a technological company but then later as a pharmaceutical company, which didn’t so much confuse me as it did alert me to the fact that either the story was the story script was not written with any dedication to detail, or that something had been lost in the translation process. It is then explained that Sonico has been handing out free mobile devices, for reasons unknown, that are forcing those in possession of them to battle each other. This, once again, is ill-explained.
Periodically, between matches, dialogue will appear that, for the most part, makes little to no sense, but my assumption is that it has something to do with the overarching story that is, in many ways, quite biblical. Unfortunately, there was no dialogue in this fighting game that was written well enough for me to instantly understand that, it was only after pondering said dialogue pieces that I was able to ascertain, to a minor degree, what these characters were trying to say.
Heroines Infinite Duel relies heavily on the already-established backstories of the characters to carry them through the Story Mode, which is much like many other fighting games like it, but because of their individual obscurities and story details, I found that it would have been so much more of an enjoyable experience had I been a fan of at least a few of the visual novels. Now that goes without saying, of course, because it is much the same for many cross-over video games currently in circulation, barring perhaps Super Smash Bros., considering the characters featured are arguably history’s most famous.
The Marvelous-developed fighting game plays like many others of the same type. You string together combos using light, medium, and heavy attacks that, when utilised alongside swings of the thumbsticks, can unleash more powerful. There is a burst mechanic that makes one’s character faster and stronger, albeit for a short amount of time, and once your battle gauge fills to a certain amount, you can unleash one of your small list of special techniques, the number of which varies from character to character.
Heroines Infinite Duel is a fairly fundamental fighting title, but that’s not always a bad thing. It is a game that does not feature too big a learning curve, with most of these characters being understood to a great degree after the first of many fights. There are no obnoxiously long button combinations that must be strung together for one to be able to initiate a special technique, making this game one for both seasoned fighting game players and those of you out there who’re more along the lines of a novice.
The game features few modes that, once again, are like that of any standard fighting game. Your main mode is the arcade/story mode which, once completed, unlocks a secondary story mode that forces you to play as certain characters. You will mostly be sticking to your single player arcade experience alongside two-player mode for the bulk of your time with this game, these two modes have enough to offer for your standard playtime, and all other menu selections will go unused, apart from that of the difficulty selection which is set to a default medium and yet makes the final boss astonishingly hard to defeat. Be forewarned; this CPU is not afraid to “spam”.
Visually this game is actually pretty good. While it’s visuals aren’t the absolute best I’ve seen, unable to be compared to that of Under Night In-Birth or Arcana Heart, it still utilises pixel-based art with a computer generated backdrop in mostly appealing ways. Character animations are smooth, and the style in which they were developed match not only the game as a whole but their respective series’. In fact, as a whole, the games visuals are heavily polished and quite sleek; two great features for a two-dimensional fighting game to have.
The soundtrack of the game, much like the visuals, are good for what they are but unfortunately are mostly forgettable. A majority of the soundtrack is made up of trashy electronic tracks that pretty much drown out all other sounds. If that’s the type of music you find yourself being into, then I think you would absolutely love the soundtrack of this game, but as someone that considers variety to be a strong feature of any soundtrack, I found the constant laser-like tones to get somewhat irritating.
Despite all the negative features I’ve detailed throughout this review; I never had a bad time playing through Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel. I actually found it to be quite enjoyable when I was using a character I was very much aware of (Super Sonico) and I had made it a point to learn her move set before I made it to the final boss of the arcade/story mode. Sure the music was somewhat bothersome, but that issue was easily fixed by, well…not listening to it. I happen to love fighting games but I am not great at them, so a game like this that is made for all skill levels is one that I will find myself coming back to time and time again.
The key to thoroughly enjoying this game for everything that it offers is knowledge: If you’re a fan of Nitroplus’ series of visual novels then this is a game that you’ll really enjoy because of the simple fact that all these characters are here in one game, in full motion. Unfortunately for those of you out there like me who is only aware of a select few characters, you will be unable to get the most out of this title, but you will still be able to enjoy the game’s mechanics, that is something that will stay constant across all who play this game, and I personally think that’s pretty great!