The wheel of fate continues to turn.
It has been a decade now since veteran fighting game developer Arc System Works brought a brand new IP to the fighting game community named BlazBlue. With Arc being known almost exclusively for the Guilty Gear series, it seemed an odd and risky move at the time to go full on with a new franchise, especially considering the fighting game resurrection had only begun four months previously with the release of Street Fighter IV. But BlazBlue turned out to be a smash hit, and now a decade later we have had four main entries in the franchise, with just as many updated versions, and BlazBlue is a staple in the fighting game community with a devoted legion of fans. The latest entry in the series, Central Fiction, acts as an ending to the series story, as well as a culmination of everything the franchise has led up to to this point. BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition on the Switch is the ultimate version of the series, but with the added bonus of portability afforded by the Switch.
Fans of the series won’t find anything new mechanically that wasn’t already in the standard edition of Central Fiction, which introduced the Active Flow and Exceed Accel mechanics. For those who don’t know, Active Flow is a system that rewards offensive play and when active will increase your damage and make the Burst Gauge recover quicker. Exceed Accel is for when characters enter the Overdrive state and will let characters perform a special, high-damage attack by pressing the Overdrive button again (or holding it down during activation) that will automatically end Overdrive. For those who have played BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, it is very similar to the Clash Assault attack, but far more damaging. Central Fiction Special Edition also includes all the DLC characters from the previous release: Es, Mai Natsume, Susano’o, and Jubei.
Central Fiction Special Edition is a complete experience right off the bat. While this makes it an easy purchase for those who have been out of the BlazBlue scene for a while, or who just didn’t pick up Central Fiction on a previous console, it makes it a little difficult to recommend to someone who already has Central Fiction on other consoles. Chances are you already have everything this version has to offer, depending on whether or not you bought the DLC characters.
What this version does have in its favor is being on the Switch itself. The game looks gorgeous either docked or handheld, and the sprites and backgrounds of the BlazBlue universe have never looked better. The Switch is quickly becoming a great option for fighting games, and Central Fiction Special Edition is further proof of that. The D-pad on the Switch feels great for performing special moves and combos, but I recommend remapping the shoulder buttons from the default setting, as the placing of the shoulder buttons on the Switch can make it difficult to perform multiple button functions like throws, Overdrive, etc. without some tweaking.
Abyss Mode makes a comeback from Central Fiction as Grim of Abyss Mode in Special Edition. You can pick a character and run them through multiple layers of dungeons and boss rush encounters, powering them up along the way. While the mode is fun for a little while, the lack of features other than powering up your character and repeating CPU encounters doesn’t give it much legs for other than the most dedicated players.
Speaking of the most dedicated players, Story Mode returns from Central Fiction with an absurd 40+ hour campaign. BlazBlue has a completely bonkers story, even among fighting game standards, and Central Fiction acts as an ending to the story first started in Calamity Trigger. I imagine that it would be hard for even the most ardent BlazBlue fan to keep up with the story as it reaches Kingdom Hearts levels of convoluted gibberish. However, the saving grace is the characters themselves. Even if the overall story flies over your head, it is still fun seeing these characters interact together, and while there is sadly no English dub, the Japanese voice cast gives a stellar performance. Even if the specifics are hazy, seeing the ending of this 10-year story made me feel a sense of somber completion nonetheless. While I don’t think this is the end of BlazBlue as a series, I do believe that the story of Ragna the Bloodedge and his many friends and enemies that began so long ago has reached its conclusion.
The online in Central Fiction Special Edition does an admirable job, and I only experienced minimal lag when connecting to players with higher bar connections. Just like with previous Arc System Works games like BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle and Dragon Ball FighterZ, however, it is recommended to avoid low bar connections even more than you normally would when playing a fighting game online, as it handles poor connections even worse than normal.
BlazBlue: Central Fiction Special Edition is the ultimate version of BlazBlue. The gameplay and characters are as strong as they ever were, and while not much new has been added to this Switch port, what is here will appeal to fans old and new. But if you already own Central Fiction with all its DLC, it is up to you whether having that same game but portable is worth the double dip. For such a complete experience that is also on the go, I am inclined to believe that it is.
This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.