Blade Strangers

Universal soldier

When the universe is in peril, its overseers must crown a new champion and protector. What better means of seeking one out than a franchise crossover winner-takes-all tournament. Help determine who is the greatest fighter across all of reality with Blade Strangers, out now for Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4.

Blade StrangersGame Details

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Developer: Studio Saizensen
Publisher: Nicalis
Genre: Fighting
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Epic mash-up

Blade Strangers brings together characters from multiple franchises, including several from Code of Princess, Cave Story, and Umihara Kawase. It also features a few recognizable indie darlings such as Isaac from The Binding of Isaac, Gunvolt from Azure Striker Gunvolt, and Shovel Knight.

This is a fun cast of characters to cross over and battle with. In particular I really enjoyed battling as Shovel Knight—one of my favourite new heroes in recent years. His pogo combos and gem-digging moves are an amusing way to blend the style of Shovel Knight into the fighting genre.

But what brings this random assortment of fighters together in the first place? Developer Studio Saizensen has come up with a clever scenario to explain everyone’s sudden presence in a fighting tournament for ultimate supremacy.

Blade Strangers

Enter the matrix?

Blade Strangers is a multiverse, where every universe is a simulation that is run by a group of sentient servers called “Motes”. When an evil entity known as Lina shows up and begins wiping out simulations, the Motes must engage a new champion (or Blade Stranger) to protect themselves and the remaining universes.

Enter our heroes. Plucking these familiar protagonists from their respective simulations (ie. the games we know and love), the Motes choose to wipe their memories and make them believe they are all participating in a tournament. The winner will ultimately be crowned “Blade Stranger”, and set upon the task of defeating Lina and saving the universe.

Story mode essentially encapsulates this mission. You can complete the story independently with each character—running the gauntlet against the rest of the heroes to become champion. Once crowned the victor, you will take on Lina.

In this respect the story mode is quite short and very repetitive. Each character has their own story and flavour text between matches. Still the overarching narrative itself remains unchanged in each brief arc. Completionists will essentially rinse and repeat for each potential champion.

Sparse game modes

Unfortunately there isn’t much going on outside of story mode to make for a very fleshed-out game. Blade Strangers features standard local and online multiplayer matches, as well as an exhibition style arcade mode. If the main selling point of Blade Strangers is playing with friends or taking on the online leaderboards, then you may be satisfied with the game’s offerings as they stand. Just don’t expect much more in the way of single player-focused content.

Blade Strangers does include a “Missions” mode, however I was pretty disappointed to find that this was really just an extension of the tutorial. The “missions” in question here are simply slightly more complex move combinations that the player executes on a dummy AI—just like the tutorial, but to a more advanced and complicated extent. I had at the very least expected “missions” to involve some manner of active gameplay.

Strive to survive—for a little while anyway

Finally, rounding out the available gameplay menu options is “Survival” mode. Here the player must survive round after round of combat. Only a certain amount of health will regenerate after each match. The amount of health regenerated is dependant on one of three difficulty levels chosen.

This is easily the most fun supplemental game mode, but even here I found myself a bit let down. I had assumed that survival mode would include an endless option—I mean, why wouldn’t it? Surely the ability to constantly challenge how far you can go on a finite amount of life would be a no-brainer, offering excellent replayability.

Unfortunately it isn’t so. Survival mode ends after a preset number of rounds. There’s some replayability in running the gauntlet with each character, but ultimately once you’ve completed Survival on the hardest mode (which truthfully isn’t that hard), you’re done. Unless you are interested in personal speed-running, there isn’t really anywhere else to go.

I’m a bit baffled that the developer wouldn’t at least give the option to leave Survival mode open-ended. It’s truly a missed opportunity to stretch out a game that is already a bit lacking in replayable content. Perhaps with the difficulty threshold as low as it is however, an endless mode might just begin to feel like exactly that for any player with a modicum of skill—endless.

Blade Strangers

Anyone can play

There are no complicated button combinations to memorize in Blade Strangers. Every type of action—from a simple punch all the way through to executing the highest special move is mapped to a single button press. Sure, more complex combo streaks require a bit more finesse and planning.  At the end of the day though, anybody can at least feel strong playing Blade Strangers.

This makes Blade Strangers an excellent choice for newer players who aren’t as familiar or comfortable with the genre. It eliminates the frustration of not being able to perform your character’s unique abilities, or the need to memorize complex button combinations that are often unique from fighter to fighter. Anyone can jump into Blade Strangers and perform a dazzling finisher with little difficulty.

Conversely this may turn off more advanced fans of the fighter genre however. The easy controls are part of what makes the game such a breeze, even on its most challenging single player settings. It certainly brings a whole new level to the potential success of a button-mashing strategy as opposed to mastery of a complex move list.

Blade Strangers

Final thoughts

Blade Strangers is an amusing hodgepodge of some great gaming franchises. It’s especially fun to play as recent indie heroes such as Gunvolt, Isaac, and Shovel Knight. The combat itself is simplified and extremely welcoming to novices of the fighting genre. On the other hand, more advanced players will likely feel like they are playing with the training wheels on.

For the most part there is a bare skeleton of single-player content. The brief story mode is surrounded by extra modes that barely pushes past the concept of a tutorial. That said, the art style is appealing, and there’s still fun to be had if you lean more into the multiplayer aspects of the game.

+ Easy controls that are welcoming to newer players
+ Play as awesome indie all-stars like Shovel Knight

– Bare offering of single-player content
– No endless option in survival mode
– Low difficulty ceiling


Gameplay: 3.5/5
Graphics: 3.5/5
Sound: 3.5/5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.4/5 (68%)

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Dave Neufeld
Dave is an avid gamer, a musician/songwriter/recording artist, and an ardent reader with a degree in the Classics but a love for comics too. When he's not gigging with the band or pulling books at his local comic shop, he can usually be found gaming on any platform, from consoles to PC to his self-built personal arcade cabinet.