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Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax Review - One Button Combo to Meh

Angelo M. D'Argenio | 5 Oct 2015 13:00
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Developed by Ecole Software and French Bread. Published by SEGA. Available on the PS3 (reviewed), and PS Vita. Copy provided by publisher.

The modern fighting game genre can be broken down into two different styles, and Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax doesn't quite fit either. The hardcore fighter prioritizes it's mechanics above all else. These are games like Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat X, and Guilty Gear Xrd, which are fun because of their deep systems and competitive rosters. The franchise fighter, however, does the opposite. They have very easy but shallow mechanics and prioritize making its characters feel true to their parent IP instead of feeling balanced. They also prioritize single player plot heavy modes as opposed to versus play. These are titles like the Dragon Ball Z series, the Naruto Shippuden series, and other anime inspired titles.

(Interested in merging the two? PC Fighter Rising Thunder tried to split the difference with mixed success.)

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Then we have Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax, the recent crossover anime fighter from SEGA, and it feels like it can't decide which camp to be in. Its core mechanics are simple and mashable, but its deeper mechanics are tough for even veteran fighting gamers to keep track of. Its roster is largely unbalanced, but its assist system allows for complex matchups. It has a roster of beloved anime characters but rarely references the story behind any of them. It's a walking paradox of game design that feels like it's trying to appeal to everyone, but instead feels inconsistent and flawed.

dengeki bunko fighting climax 3

Let's start with the concept. For anyone who isn't a hardcore anime fan, Dengeki Bunko is a Japanese publishing company that is responsible for the light novels a lot of popular anime series are based on. If you have watched Sword Art Online, The Devil Is a Part-Timer, A Certain Magical Index, or Durarara, then you have partaken in some of Dengeki's work and will recognize the characters in Fighting Climax. If not, then you'll probably find some characters to like, like that guy with swords in the black trench coat, or that dude in the bartender's outfit that throws refrigerators at people, but you might also be weirded out by the schoolgirl that fights with cosplay.

The characters all feel like their anime incarnations in battle, utilizing iconic moves that are known for. But they feel out of place in the story. In fact, the story of Fighting Climax is barely worth mentioning. A mary sue fan character wearing Dreamcast themed clothing summons all the playable characters to combat a vague evil presence and, well, that's pretty much it. The characters proceed to fight each other for ill-conceived reasons with a minimal amount of dialogue expressed through cutscenes.

Story is one of the biggest draws of the franchise fighter. The ability to participate in the epic stories of anime characters is why the Dragonball Z game franchise continues to sell even though the anime last aired in 1996. But Fighting Climax barely even mentions the original stories that its characters come from. In fact, its story mode is really just a barebones arcade mode with some dialogue boxes. This is unacceptable in an era where even hardcore fighters like Blazblue have 50 hour campaigns.

Lack of story is harmed further by the random insertion of SEGA properties. I don't care how epic the fight is, I can't take it seriously if we're battling on Green Hill Zone.

So if we can't enjoy the story, let's look to the mechanics and treat it like a hardcore fighter instead. Fighting Climax utilizes the same "Light, Medium, Heavy" three button control scheme that many fighters utilize these days. Light combos into medium which then in turn combos into heavy, special moves, super moves, and so on. Fighting Climax also utilizes an auto combo system, where simply mashing on the light button will make you do every strength attack you have in sequence, a special move, and then a super if you have meter. But unlike other fighting games whose auto-combo only works when standing, Fighting Climax's auto-combo works anywhere. Standing, crouching, jumping, you name it, mashing on light is a one way ticket to decent damage. It makes it very easy to get into the game as a beginner, as you'll be comboing with the best of them right out of the gate, but it also makes the combo system feel shallow, with few "advanced" combo opportunities to speak of.

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