Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax is a fairly recent fighting game based around the characters from Dengeki Bunko inprint – which is basically the Dengeki light novel magazine. It should sound familiar because it’s home to the majority of well known light novels and the original source of many anime adaptations. A crossover like this isn’t a super unique idea, but one that has a lot of potential for interesting scenarios and with so many franchises being represented that there’s probably a few character in it that you’d enjoy seeing in a more accessible game than some PSP visual novel. I say it’s not unique, but actually I can’t think of anything else with such a wide scope of franchises being crossed over. It’s always similar stuff from this or that one company or developer rather than just a shit ton of totally different writers who made totally different stories, so I guess it is fairly unique on some level.
I’m not a big fan of fighting games for a lot of reasons, but I do play a few like Melty Blood, EFZ, a little bit of Blaz Blue, and soon some DoA. Because of that, I can’t really say how the gameplay here is for someone more into the genre, but I’ll say for me it feels ‘fine’. It’s no melty blood in terms of fluidity and speed, but it’s also not a clunky piece of shit either. It’s better than things like Tekken, Street Fighter, and so on in combat, responsiveness, and fluidity to someone like me. That’s the best way I can really put it. It’s fine, it feels fun enough playing it and you feel as if you have good control without much delay. French Bread, the same people who made MB, made this – so it’s a bit strange that it’s not up to the same quality when they had a bigger budget here, but it’s not too far off in this area I suppose.
There is a problem with the overall gameplay though rather than the controls and responsiveness – and that lies in the fact that the game treats itself almost like every fight is a JRPG boss. Against the AI (hard to play online when it’s a very niche import) they will almost always get an attack boost once their health drops below 25% and also just do crazy moves out of nowhere after barely doing jack shit the entire fight up to then, taking you out in a burst of fury, literal combo-breakers, and what seems to be extra invincibility frames simply because all Japanese developers think a weakened foe should always have the upper hand for some fucking reason. It’s not exactly a hard game especially for fighting game fans, but it’s still frustrating to have someone go from about to die to killing you near instantly “just because” or even simply surviving a lot longer than they should have been able to.
The biggest issues though come in the form of the price point and the available fighters to choose from. This is a full-priced $60 plus tax (and import markup if you aren’t Japanese and of course shipping as well) game, however it has the content of a $20 one. It’s got all the basics of a fighter but not much else, clearly hoping to sell entirely around the fact that it has popular characters in it (even though almost all of them are support characters only). I’m not sure how the sales were, so I can’t say if it worked or not, but it was certainly lazy either way. There is a story mode but it’s barely got any substance, which is disappointing from a game with so many cool opportunities thanks to it being a massive crossover. You’d expect something like Blaz Blue’s very beefy single player story from this (though hopefully not as convoluted and weird), not the bare minimum just so they can say there’s more than the arcade mode.
Aside that the other modes aren’t really anything with a real purpose behind them. For example the “dream duel” mode is just…more fighting against pre-selected enemies. Oh, but you do get a whole like 2 lines of dialogue prior to the fight that aren’t in the story mode, so I guess there’s that, though the post-fight stuff is just picked from a pool of a few lines at random (as if they are just random matches). Aside that though it’s the exact same thing and I’m not quite sure how it’s ‘different’ from just doing a versus match as it’s not like your HP carries over or something – it’s just 6 fully separate fights for no reason. You’ve also got your training shit like always, your versus as mentioned already, your arcade, and then some challenges. The challenges are 3 different modes that are also pretty simple shit; time trial, something I already forgot, and Survival. I didn’t bother with any of them because none of them seemed remotely fun.
Now this next issue ties in to the price point as well quite a lot; the roster is both extremely shit and, in many ways, very fucking stupid. It’s lacking in that 90% of the characters that would be awesome to play as are relegated to “support” characters. This wouldn’t be so frustrating if it didn’t have many characters far more suited to be usable than half the roster that IS. For example, the literal king of demons – Maou Sadou from your local MgRonalds – is support, while fucking Oreimo’s Kirino is in a fighter role. Literal Satan or an incestuous slut with absolutely no combat experience or fighting capability…hmm, I think the one who wants to inbreed would be best for our fighting game.
Or, another example, Kino from Kino no Tabi who is a master at martial arts and gunplay is support, while the basketball playing like 10 year old loli from Ro kyu bu is playable.
How this made any sense or was acceptable to them I don’t know. No, that’s not entirely true, it’s clear what they were thinking. They simply put the most long-standing popular characters in as playable ones, while keeping everyone else as a support character so they could claim this game has all those other properties as well to draw players/buyers. Hey, it even worked on me; getting me especially excited by having titles like Boogiepop and Kino’s Journey being represented when I thought they were two franchies I love that I’d never see them anywhere in any form again, let alone a video game. Yet they are only on screen a measly second or two. I’d understand having a couple of these ‘unconventional’ choices, but the roster should be larger if they wanted to include them.
It’s essentially just a roster made out of whatever marketing decided would make it sell the best, and then they saved a shit ton of money by just keeping the roster limited to only a total of 14 characters – and that INCLUDES the 2 secret unlockable ones, and tossing the rest into a cameo-tier role. So you have a fighting game with a roster of 12 characters – which is fucking amazingly small – most of which don’t belong and two of which are FROM THE SAME FUCKING SERIES (Asuna and Kirito both have their own character playable – and if you want to be technical THREE from the same ‘franchise’ as a character from Accel World is playable as well) along with two more that are not even from Dengeki Bunko releases, but just Sega additions (Selvaria and some guy from Virtua Fighter).
There are some nice things about the game though that they didn’t have to do. The one that stands out the most to me would be that every single story represented has the first chapter of their novel available to read (in Japanese) in the game as easy unlocks. I assume this is so if someone plays and doesn’t know, let’s say Boogiepop, but finds them interesting they can go read the first chapter and possibly get into it. I thought it was a nice touch having all that in here.
Another thing I liked, albeit it’s totally fucking pointless, is all the little ways to customize your ‘profile’. I have to assume this shows online somewhere in netplay matches, but I have no idea. Either way, it’s got lots of stuff to unlock via points you earn from fighting and it fired up my collector’s spirit to get all of my biribiri’s unlockables and related ones such as a Gekota to put on my player card and even Rina Satou’s autograph.
And, of course, it’s nice seeing some signature moves from the characters (the ones that would have such a thing), including support ones with things like Kino using her revolver and then driving off on Hermes right after, or Boogiepop whistling Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg as she waits for the enemy to hit her (which triggers her attack).
Overall, I’d say avoid this unless you find it far cheaper than it’s listed for, maybe around $20 total. It’s a fine game – not shit at all, but there’s no way in hell it’s worth the asking price with the measly amount of content and incredibly poorly chosen roster that you end up with. It might seem worth getting to play as your favorite character (if you’re one of the lucky few who can, such as myself with Biribiri) but it really doesn’t end up that way no matter how much you like them; you’ll just wish you ordered a new figure of them instead. It feels like a barebones doujin fighter rather than a high budgeted official arcade fighter, and I think even for fighting game fans this is just too high a price for what you get.
As a final verdict: I’d say this is more of a Dengeki UNKO Fighting Climax than a Dengeki Bunko one for the price.
As an aside, my main team is obviously always Mikoto along with either Kino, Boogiepop, or Maou as a partner. Though I admittedly found Accelerator to be the most useful and overpowered of the support cast so I sometimes mix him in as well.
Update: With the US release coming/being out (I’m not gonna bother finding this after it comes out to edit just this line) I still strongly advise not buying it for over $20. The content is exactly the same and not magically better just because it’s in English. The story and dream duel modes have such a miniscule lazily thrown together amount of text it doesn’t add anything by being able to easily read it because it’s essentially just empty flavor text. The godawful roster, the mediocre gameplay, and the overall barebones-as-a-whole game is going to still be exactly that. Worse, I think we’ll probably lose that thing I mentioned about the first chapters of each novel simply due to licensing issues as some of those novels are officially released in the west by various different companies.