Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax review for PS3, PS Vita

Platform: PS3
Also On: PS Vita
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Ecole
Medium: Disc/Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

In a sea of beautifully animated 2D fighting games such as Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax received moderate attention in Japanese arcades. It wasn?t until its recent upgrade ?Ignition? that players began to take notice of what Sega and Ecole have unleashed. It received even more attention with its subsequent home release for both the PS3 and the PS Vita. Now, North American fighting game fans have the chance to play as it?s finally being released outside the land of the rising sun! It?s not every day that a game featuring so many licensed characters like this gets a U.S. release (copyright works a bit differently here), but when it does happen, it?s truly a joy to behold.

Fighting Climax features characters from the ?Dengeki Bunko? novel trade, a series of Manga published by ASCII Media Works. These characters are summoned into the Sega World by ?Denshin?, a character based on the Sega Dreamcast console. It seems a dark presence named Zetsumu is trying to steal the dreams of the world?s inhabitants. This evil entity takes the form of your opponents in 9 battles as your progress through your characters individual storyline. You choose one main fighter and another ?assist? character (for jump in attacks only) and battle against other teams until you reach the final battle. Ultimately, depending on how the story progresses, Zetsumu will take the form of Akira Yuki and Pai Chan from Virtua Fighter or Selvaria Bles and Alicia Melchiott from Valkyrie Chronicles, who become playable after you defeat them. It is really cool to see these Sega Characters as animated sprites, rather than polygons for the very first time.

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All of the fighting locations are based on Sega characters as well, with backgrounds designed to look like the worlds of Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star Online, and even NiGHTS into Dreams. All of the characters retain their personalities from the respective Manga they star in, and it?s great watching them interact with each other while fighting. This port is based on the latest arcade release of Fighting Climax Ignition 2.1, so all of the gameplay Improvements and extra characters added since the initial arcade debut are included here.

Like many other fighting games of this type, the home versions are always packed with extra modes, and Fighting Climax is no exception. Of course you have the Story Mode where you can journey through all 14 character storylines, along with other standards like the VS mode and Practice. Also included as an exclusive mode is the ?Dream Duel? mode. Here you can fight in a sort of ?What if? Scenarios between certain characters. I won?t spoil the matches that can be experienced in this mode, but I can assure fans of the various Manga represented that the battles can be epic.

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Controlling your character is an absolute joy in Fighting Climax, thanks mostly to a very simplified control system. Usually in games like this, there are many difficult maneuvers and combos that can be mastered with practice, but here everything has been made easier so that even novice players will have a good chance of pulling off devastating combos. That?s not to say hardcore players will be turned off as these simpler controls are there to make everything a little more fair. Novice players can jump right in, while veterans can use the simple commands to better their reflexes. This is a very pick-up-and-play 2D fighter, and it is a refreshing change from other recent releases like this.

The presentation is really special here, with all of the characters animations being fast and fluid. The level of sprite animation is top notch, mixed with the 3D backgrounds, it all blends exceptionally well. The visuals are on the same level with many Arc System Works games like Guilty Gear. On occasion, you may forget you are playing a fighting game and watching an anime, especially when you pull off some of the full screen animated super moves. The background music is great, with some original tunes loosely based off of Sega properties, but it will be hard to hear during the fight, since each character on screen will be shouting at each other non-stop as the fight progresses. It does tend to get a little hectic to the ear, but doesn?t really affect anything negatively.

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Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax may have a strange title, a relatively unknown roster to many players and simplified controls, but that doesn?t mean you should avoid it. In fact, fighting game fans, Anime and Manga fans along with old school Sega fans should be running out and picking this one up. It?s fun, fast and a great alternative if you find other 2D fighters like BlazBlue or P4 Arena a bit overwhelming. This is one game that may even sway you if you aren?t a fan of fighting games, as it?s a great way to introduce anyone into the genre. It?s accessibility and very reasonable budget price makes owning this one a no brainer. It?s a lot of fun and highly recommended.

Grade: A