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Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax Review

A Western release of a Japanese fighting game based on characters from light novels published by Dengeki Bunko is certainly something I didn’t expect to see coming out of SEGA’s Western division in 2015. No offence to the publisher, but since their change in focus to the three core franchise pillars of Football Manager, Total War and Sonic the Hedgehog, bizarre obscurities like Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax seem like an odd choice for release in the West.

Thankfully SEGA West’s decision to bring this fighter to our shores is an incredibly welcome one because Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax is a surprisingly approachable fighting game that isn’t as convoluted as heavy hitters like BlazBlue or Street Fighter, but it has considerably more depth than something like Super Smash Bros.

Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax brings together a superstar roster of characters that originated in light novels published by Dengeki Bunko, but most of the audience buying into this game will likely be more familiar with their anime and manga equivalents. The core mechanics of each character are pretty similar with everyone having 3 attacks (weak, medium and heavy) and a series of special attacks that can be pulled off with quarter circles or pressing 2 attack buttons at the same time as a direction on the d-pad. There are also super specials which can be pulled off with half circles. This means that getting familiar with any character in the initial roster of 10 is wonderfully simple but thanks to the inclusion of things like blast attacks which allow you to break out of combos for a small cost, there’s a nice tactical element to the combat as well.

The action is thick and fast and it has that wonderful Japanese noisiness to it that means everything is beautifully over-the-top and vibrant. Characters like Mikoto attack with everything but the kitchen sink and specials like uppercuts using a freshly unboxed novel are wonderfully self-referential. Each character is full of cool little quirks and there’s plenty of amusement to be had when you knock someone out with a God damn vending machine.

What’s odd about Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax is how it often feels like more of a celebration of SEGA than the properties its characters appear in. There are 2 unlockable characters that come from SEGA franchises and every single stage in the game is based on an existing SEGA property instead of being themed around the franchises the characters come from. This is certainly an attractive prospect for SEGA fans as it means you can take the action to Green Hill Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog, the battlefields of Valkyria Chronicles or high atop the buildings from NiGHTS into dreams…

But the real question is, “why?” Why stuff so much SEGA content into a game that doesn’t really call for it? Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax has a presentation problem; is this is a Dengeki Bunko game or a SEGA game? When you boil it down, I think SEGA fans will get more out of this game than anyone who’s a fan of the Dengeki Bunko franchises that are featured and I think the trade-off will probably irritate Dengeki Bunko fans, which is a real shame.

Regardless of this presentation problem, there’s a serious amount of fun to be had in Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax. The game is wonderfully balanced despite the variety of play-styles (some characters are brawlers, some use ranged attacks and some rely on counter-attacks) and there’s a lot of stuff to unlock thanks to the in-game shop which offers new character colour palettes and titles, icons, cards and signatures which can be assigned to your online profile for bragging rights.

Despite the pick-up-and-play nature of the combat, there is still a lot of mechanics to master and taking the fight online certainly made me understand that I had a lot more to learn when it came to playing Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax competitively. But the fact that there’s this whole other world of intense competitive play on offer is incredibly welcome as the fighting elite will certainly find a lot to love as well as more casual fans of the genre like myself.

Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax has the privilege of being a fighting game that caters for a considerably large audience and it’s a highly enjoyable game that has all the electricity of a bright, noisy arcade. SEGA fans will certainly get more from this than fans of the Dengeki Bunko properties it takes its namesake from, but despite the bizarre presentation choice, this is a fighting game that doesn’t deserve to be lost to obscurity.


Written by Lewis “Sonic Yoda” Clark on 10/12/2015

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