By: Matthew Striplen
Within the depths of gaming-dom exists a great divide between traditional fighting games and just about every other genre. If you’re like me, the thought of picking up the latest installment of Street Fighter sounds daunting due to the sheer complexity of the controls. With so many intricate moves to learn, n00bz like me often get scared off.
Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax aims to bridge the gap between hardcore and casual by introducing a combat system simple enough for the uninitiated, but with enough depth for pros to sink their teeth into, all while incorporating a bunch of characters published by the Dengeki Bunko company. Let’s fight!
Fighting Climax has fairly standard controls for a traditional 2D fighter. Face buttons handle light, medium and heavy attacks — inputs can be changed as you please. Special moves are activated by inputting a series of directions and buttons, which can be strung together to create combos.
Unlike most traditional fighting games, however, Fighting Climax features a relatively simple command list. Each character shares the same inputs, but each one results in a unique move. This expedites the learning process and allows players to easily switch without having to memorize too many commands, instead focusing on playstyle.
If you’ve been curious about 2D fighters but always been too intimidated by the hefty command lists, Fighting Climax will serve as the perfect gateway into the genre.
Since Fighting Climax serves as a crossover for existing light novel franchises, the designers couldn’t take too many liberties with character design. Everyone dresses in their usual costume, so if you like the designs in the original media, you’ll like the characters here. Extra costumes can be unlocked later. Additionally, each stage has plenty of color and detail without distracting from the battle itself.
That being said, the graphic quality leaves a little to be desired. The character models look a little grainy, as do the environments. Maybe it looks better on the current generation consoles, but the PS3 version suffers a bit. Grainy characters don’t impact the game too much, as they usually move too fast to notice the lack of detail.
Fans of the various light novel series’ will be happy to hear the familiar Japanese voice actors reprising their original roles. Unfortunately, no English version is supplied, aside from subtitles.
Musically, Fighting Climax provides standard fair for a fighting game: loud, fast and exciting beats, but nothing to really stick in your mind.
Fighting Climax comes with all bells and whistles gamers have come to expect from traditional 2D fighters, though a few unique components give the game its own feel.
Training mode is self-explanatory. Players select a character and design the training parameters, all the way down to how much lag you want between inputs and reactions. This is a great way for new players to explore the roster and learn moves. Many of them require using power drawn from gauges, there’s a bunch, so let’s knock those out quick.
The Climax gauge is essentially for super moves, which fills by simply landing attacks. Using Climax Arts (super moves) drains two levels of this gauge but unleashes incredible power. Each one gives plenty of satisfaction when landed just from the sheer flashiness of the move.
In addition to the main fighter, a huge list of companion characters is available to accompany you into battle. Each one has two unique abilities, but using them drains the assist gauge. Refill this by waiting the allotted time.
The Blast gauge unleashes an explosion around your character, knocking unready opponents to the opposite side of the screen. But that’s not all. Your character receives a temporary stat boost after each Blast, which perfectly enables the player to punish their foes. This gauges also refills with time.
Lastly are the Trump Cards. These items function differently for each character but always give stat boosts, allow for longer combos and sometimes directly attack the enemy. Unfortunately, Trump Cards are items, not a gauge, meaning they’ll not regenerate with time.
Once you feel ready to put your skills to the test, a variety of challenges await. First, there’s vs. mode, which lets you battle against the computer or local player. Then there are online battles, both ranked and friendly. The setup is very user friendly as rooms have very low occupancy, reducing the time spent waiting to play. Also, the on-deck players can watch the current battle, though extending that privilege to all waiting players would be even better. Fighters in the ranked battles are powerful, so bring your A-game!
There are also two distinct story modes, Arcade and Dream Duel, both of which pit the player against progressively more difficult foes. Dream Duel, however, is unique to the western release of Fighting Climax, so be sure to check that out. The stories aren’t anything special, but we’re here for the action, not the writing.
Last of all are the Challenge Modes: Score Attack, Time Attack and Survival, all of which are pretty self-explanatory. If you’re looking to tweak the difficulty or change the number of rounds per match, all the technical stuff can be customized in the options menu.
Completing any of the previous game options awards points, which can be spent to unlock items to customize your profile. None of this has any effect on actual gameplay, but itcan provide some fun if you’re going for style. Stages and additional characters are also unlocked by simply playing the game.
Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax dishes out a solid product. Although the game doesn’t offer much in terms of innovation, save for the unique move gauge functions, it makes up for it in polish. Whether you grew up on the genre or have never played a 2D fighter before, Fighting Climax is worth a play.