Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax
Dengeki Bunko is a publisher of what are referred to as ‘light novels’, novella-length stories aimed at a teen audience. Similarly, Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax can be thought of as a light fighting game, an accessible take on genre conventions that lowers the technical demands on players while ensuring they see all the best things fighting games have to offer and still feel absurdly powerful. In that sense, it’s the Holy Grail of fighting game making, but it has come at a cost.
To the eyes, Fighting Climax is akin to Arc System Works’ anime fighters such as Guilty Gear and Persona 4 Arena, with summonable assists, Burst combo breakers, flashy supers and complex air combos. Its cast, drawn from Dengeki Bunko’s output with help from publisher Sega, is overwhelmingly female and predominantly school-age, but when the fists start flying, the game reveals a far greater taste for the slapstick than Arc’s more serious anime stylings. Kirino, a schoolgirl who magically changes costumes between combo hits, flings briefcases, cardboard boxes and beachballs at her foes, and one of her supers traps them in a giant UFO catcher. Another fighter takes this further, swinging train doors, ovens and vending machines. Assist characters hop onto the screen and summon bolts of lightning, magical pools that fill your super meter, or ride a motorbike across the screen that knocks your opponent down. There are more traditional options – Rentaro, for instance, shoots a pistol and has a dragon punch super modelled on Ken’s Shoryureppa – but it says much that he is among the most boring characters to fight as.
Which is odd, really, because every character is functionally identical. This is the key to Fighting Climax’s simplicity: while the dozen characters all have a different moveset, they share a command list. Special moves are performed with either a half circle forward or back; press two attack buttons to perform a super. Tap light and medium attack at the same time while tapping a direction on the stick and the resulting move will break through an opponent’s move, then either perform an anti-air, a launcher or an attack that pushes them towards the corner. If all that still sounds too much like hard work, keep pressing light attack for an auto-combo of three normal attacks into a special and a super.
It’s a remedy to the way new fighting games necessarily require you to stick with a single fighter before you can learn them all, and it’s a novel feeling to look at a character select screen and ask yourself not who you can play as, but who you want to be. The inevitable cost is a lack of depth, but it seems appropriate given that the source material isn’t exactly designed to be read and re-read either.
Assists come in two flavours, depending on whether the stick is neutral or tapped towards your foe. So Shizuo’s motorbike helper, Celty Sturluson, will either travel straight across the screen or fall from the top-left corner