The wheel of fate is turning.
To me, there is no greater fighting game than one made by Arc System Works, and BlazBlue is one of their flagship franchises. Originally released in 2016, BlazBlue: Central Fiction was billed as the final mainline entry in the series. Only time will tell if that remains true, but if there really isn’t going to be another entry into the BlazBlue franchise, then Central Fiction is a worthy grand finale.
BlazBlue uses a control scheme with three basic buttons representing light, medium, and heavy attacks. Basic combos can be easily executed by transitioning from weaker attacks into stronger attacks, providing a baseline for newer, less experienced players. Rounding out movesets are a “drive” attack. Each character’s drive is unique with different properties, such as Ragna absorbing his opponent’s health or Hibiki creating a duplicate of himself that he can teleport to. Drive attacks make each character’s playstyle feel personal to them, creating huge variety in the roster of 36 characters.
The mechanics of play in Blazblue are incredibly complex, but thankfully ArcSys put a lot of effort into making a tutorial that walks newcomers through every single mechanic in the game. Though you’ll start with basic controls such as walking and jumping, you’ll eventually learn even advanced techniques such as Barrier Blocks, Crush Triggers, and Rapid Cancels. The tutorial thoroughly walks you through every step to guarantee you’ll be able to compete for glory in no time. ArcSys even made character-specific tutorials outlining the unique attributes and abilities of every character in the game, ensuring you’ll never have to leave your Switch to learn more about your main.
Even if you can’t get all your friends to play through the in-depth tutorial, Central Fiction is made even more accessible through an optional Stylish Mode that automates attack combos to help level the playing field. Although the manual Technical Mode will always be better at higher levels of play, Stylish Mode helps give newcomers a bit of an edge so that even players that can’t do anything but button mash will at least feel like they’re part of the fight instead of just getting torn apart by players who are way better than them.
If after all that you still can’t get your friends on board, then Central Fiction still has a wealth of single-player options including an extensive story mode that brings the story of BlazBlue to its conclusion. This campaign is a full-fledged narrative that does not hold back, with over 10 hours of fully-voiced dialogue, cinematically framed cutscenes, and unique art throughout. A downside to the story is that it’s very much a sequel to the plots of previous games, and playing it on its own can feel a bit like starting Avengers: Infinity War without having seen any other Marvel movies. Even with the 30 minute recap available at the beginning, I still found it to be a bit impenetrable and had trouble following it.
Though BlazBlue: Central Fiction is an outstanding game on its own, there are a few hiccups involved in the Switch port. Most fans of the series have likely already picked up Cross Tag Battle, released on Switch eight months before Central Fiction, and most players who are invested in Central Fiction likely bought it on their platform of choice three years ago. Playing only two weeks after launch, I found the online player base to be mostly non-existent, and queuing up into my first ranked match took over ten minutes. Additionally, it’s disappointing that even three years later, Central Fiction is the only game in the series not to feature an option for English voice acting. Since ArcSys originally cited a timely release as the reason for no English dub in 2016, it would’ve been nice to see this already late port finally see that dub realized.
The small player base online may be a good reason to hesitate on buying Central Fiction on Switch, but it is nevertheless a stellar fighting game to have on the go. This remains one of Arc System Works’ best releases, and with flawless performance in handheld mode it’s never been easier to take the fight with you to a friend’s house. Though you may have already picked up Cross Tag Battle last year, you’d still do well by checking out this fully-featured mainline entry. Central Fiction is the best BlazBlue has ever been, and this may be the right time to join the battle if you haven’t already.