The overwhelming feeling I had while playing Blade Arcus from Shining: Battle Arena was that, somewhere along the way, I had missed some vital context. Who the characters were, what they cared about, and how they were related was all somewhat of a mystery. As it turns out, the game does pull from Sega’s Shining series, and relies very heavily on players knowing some of the series’ lore. Since Blade Arcus is a 2D fighting game, the story is not necessarily surprising, but even for a genre that rarely cares about plot, the couple of static images with text overlaid that counts as each fighter’s story is seriously lacking.
In the gameplay department, Blade Arcus is a competent game. It is a 16-character, 4-button fighter (lights, mediums, heavies and call assist), with short combos and limited sets of special moves. The graphics are surprisingly good for a smaller title and the character designs fit well with the anime aesthetic. The game’s interesting mechanic is its emphasis on picking two characters for a match. While you mainly control one character with the ability to call in the other as an assist, you can choose to make the assist your main between rounds.
Unfortunately, the game suffers in the content department. The character variety is nice, but story mode is just a basic arcade mode with a few still-images, there are no combo tutorials, and online versus, while it does exist, is a ghost town. While a good game, and one of the more accessible fighters I have played, with its slower and simpler system, easily read text and high contrast moves, it suffers from poor timing, as much higher profile games are dominating the scene.
As with almost all fighting games, its mobility accessibility is going to be poor just by virtue of it requiring precise button presses within a short period of time. The combos are short, and while special moves require some complex motions (double quarter-circle, dragon punch, etc.), each character only has three or four total motions. You can play with either controller or keyboard (the onscreen one also works), and rebind everything to your liking (which you will have to do on the keyboard, as the default controls are bafflingly atrocious).
There are five difficulty levels, and even near the middle of the bunch, the AI tends to be very forgiving. And as a final note, though it likely goes without saying, there is no camera to control, nor quick time events to contend with.
The game’s hearing accessibility appears a bit worse than it actually is. Subtitles are present for the story mode, and all audio cues have very clear visual counterparts, but there are no subtitles for character intros and outros. This lack of subtitling may make it seem like a denial of information, but all spoken dialogue in the game is in Japanese, and there is no English option.
Blade Arcus’ visual accessibility was a nice surprise. The few subtitles that it does have are in very large, letterboxed, and easy to read font. The menus are also fairly easy to navigate, though the font is less legible than the subtitles.
The gameplay is in very high contrast, with bright, flashing animations. While this can be good in certain circumstances, if both players are using beam attacks, while calling in assists, it can get very confusing as to who is doing what and how you should react to it. Mirror matches can add to these problems, particularly if the opponent tries to pick a similar color to yours, but otherwise there should not be any issues.
The sound design is also quite good for the game, as each hit, light/medium/heavy, has its own distinct sound for each character. While it can get a bit muddled with both people calling in assists and trying to get their combos started, the characters’ voices often come through with enough clarity to determine who is doing what.
* A solid fighting game, both mechanically and visually
* The ability to switch between two characters after a round adds unique strategic depth
* Shorter combos and limited motion requirements aid its mobility accessibility
* A flooded fighting-game market means there’s no online competition
* Lacking in single-player content and tutorials
* The limited movesets left some characters feeling too similar to one another