Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax

REVIEWThis era of fighting games has seen no shortage of sprite-based "anime" fighters, which in essence is a good thing for fans of the traditional 2D format, since the forefathers of the genre (KOF, Street Fighter & Guilty Gear) are all going with 3D graphics these days. Personally, I enjoy both graphics styles... but at least diehard 2D fighting game fans still have some options. It seems like every year, at least 3 or 4 new anime fighters are announced, whether they're sequels, doujins, or other random spin-offs that only the truest of weebs can appreciate. (I kid.)

Developed by French Bread and Ecole Software, Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax definitely falls in the latter category I just described... with the crossover title bringing together a colorful mix of characters from various light novel series published under ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Bunko imprint. The title also celebrates the imprint's 20th anniversary. Some of the anime franchises represented by characters in Fighting Climax, include: Sword Art Online, Strike The Blood, Accel World, Valkyria Chronicles, The Irregular at Magic High School, Durarara!! and Toradora!.

That said, if you know little to nothing about the aforementioned series... we're actually in the same boat. No, I don't watch anime or read manga like I used to. I s'pose you could say I'm an "old school" anime guy. Not old old school or anything, but I still hold dear my Berserk, Initial D, Death Note, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, and maybe even some Dragonball Z & Fist of the North Star from time to time (for the fights at least). But no, I don't follow the latest anime trends (and I don't look down on those who do), but I am a fighting game critic... and it seems I have to review DBFC as "fighting game" without prior knowledge of any of the playable characters. (No problem, I've been doing this quite a while.) Well, the good news is: DBFC's character select screen gives a brief bio of each character, providing the basic "gist" of each fighter and where they're from. It's a good starting point at least.


Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax character select screen.


to understand and appreciate each character's in-game appearance and special moves (major references ahead), prior knowledge of their backstories and series is a must. Because without that knowledge, most of the characters' "powers" and their abilities won't make much sense at all. Hardcore anime fans might say... "well duh, obviously"... but this quirk is not the case in all anime fighting games. Many fighting game characters can make a statement in-game without a previous understanding of their canon storyline or backstory. On that note, DBFC's in-game story really doesn't help much to flesh out the characters. I mean, it's the standard, "evil computer / creature" causing havoc in various worlds, and it's up to you (the character you choose) to fix that problem and set things back to normal. (Or something to that effect. I wasn't inclined to pay much attention.)

What did get my attention, was.... Fightinguuuu Climaxuuuuuu!!!
(Which is what each character says at the title screen, not unlike Soul Calibur 2's title screen). Presentation-wise, Fighting Climax is semi-festive, offering what you'd expect from an anime fighter of the last decade or so.... Upbeat cheery music, female vocalist singing along, 2D character artwork flashing across the screen, AKA the usual. I will say that the "3D effect" used on characters portraits during the intro and some cutscenes looks rather cool and sleek. On the same token, it's a shame they couldn't use that style of graphics for the actual game. And zero Virtua Fighter characters represented in the game's intro?!? Boooooooo. (Sorry, but I needed a reminder of why I was playing this.)


Yes, there's a Sonic The Hedgehog stage... but no Sonic, sorry.

DBFC's main menu consists of the following modes: Story, Versus, Network, Challenge (Score Attack / Time Attack / Survival), Training, Customize, Special and Options. Story features the original arcade path for each character, as well as the console exclusive Dream Duel, which offers new vignettes and interactions between characters. Story and Dream Duel are mostly just text & spoken dialogue utilizing "moving" character artworks... but Dream Duel, as a separate mode, seems a bit of a letdown even for hardcore fans. All Dream Duel really offers is a few extra lines of dialogue per character interaction (6 per character). It's quite the yawn-fest, unless you're really really into seeing these characters "interact" with a few sentences. Something a bit more exciting for the casual player would've been nice.

The vanilla version of DBFC features 14 playable fighters and a whopping 23 (or so) assist characters. If it sounds a bit like Marvel VS Capcom (1), that's because it is. All assist characters have 2 attacks each, equating to obvious combo possibilities. Since the default roster is a "dream match" of sorts, some characters don't quite mesh so well with others in terms of looks. It's to be expected coming from a crossover of this nature, but it is something worth noting, because I do appreciate fighting games with a more "focused" and deliberate roster. It's just my opinion, but judging by looks and fighting abilities alone, there really aren't too many "stand out" character designs in Fighting Climax. Are some entertaining at least? Perhaps. There's a girl with a sword, another girl with a sword, a dude who throws vending machines & street signs across the screen, a girl who turns her opponent into a basketball (then dunks you), another girl somehow puts you inside of a crane grabbing machine (and grabs you with the claw). So if you're easily entertained, you'll probably laugh at some of these, but most seem cliche to me. I do like Denshin, the "Dreamcast-themed" girl you see briefly at the beginning of story mode. And I will put this next sentence in bold:
Too bad she's not a playable character.


Virtua Fighter's Pai & Akira in 2D... Better than that Genesis port.


gameplay engine
is pretty standard and simple for an anime fighting game. There's no air-dashing, but there is ground dashing, back dashing, two kinds of jumps, EX specials, super moves (known as Climax Arts), auto-combos (called Quick Combination), assist attacks, and some other systems. The game uses a four button control set-up: A (weak attack), B (medium attack), C (strong attack), and D (support, to summon support characters). When players call in a support character, there is a 4-5 second recovery time before support can be used again. The "Climax Gauge" has various uses and stocks up to 5 levels.

Other mechanics
, that sound more complicated than they are, include: Lightning Marks, Impact Skill, Trump Card, Extend Action, Reflection Guard, Blast, and Potential. Each player starts the match with 2 "Lighting Marks" and if one is depleted, they can regain one in the following round (players can hold 2 at max). "Impact Skills" are initiated by pressing AB or 2AB and will trigger a unique skill. These can be used in combos the way players would use a special move, and they can also be used as a counterattack since the first hit has a guard property. "Trump Cards" (triggered by BC) initiates a powerful, high-damage attack that uses one Lightning Mark. These attacks have invincibility during startup and work as overheads since they are easy to connect. "Extend Action" varies depending on the moves & characters, but basically enables players to charge various special & normal moves. When guarding attacks, players can use "Reflection Guard" to push their opponents backward (this drains a bit of the meter). "Blast" has various uses, one of which is a combo breaker. In a neutral state, it will boost a character's ability, and can even be used as a launcher to follow up with a combo. Finally, "Potential" is a character's unique skill, activated when certain conditions are met.

That all might sound pretty fancy... but i
n my opinion, there's nothing particularly fun or deep about DBFC's gameplay system. By today's standards, it seems Fighting Climax has sort of a "bare bones" gameplay design for a 2D anime fighter (yes, even considering all that crap in the last paragraph). It was clearly designed as a beginner-friendly game, as the simple button commands are nearly the exact same across the entire roster. As a traditional fighting game player, I like diverse button commands to make characters "feel" different and fun to play. In short.... Technically, Fighting Climax is a very simple game. Anyone can play it and pull off big combos with ridiculous damage. (3-hit standing auto combo into mega level-2 super move with ease?). Sometimes simplified controls are a welcomed thing (in more advanced 2D fighters), but in DBFC's case it seems oversimplified. I also found the game to have a "stiff" quality to it, especially in terms of character movement options. One of the only things I like about the combo system is that you can continue hitting your opponent while they're on the ground.


That's the extent of DBFC's Network mode... It's rather lonely here.


In this day and age, fighting games can live or die by their online modes. Unfortunately, to call DBFC's Network mode "bare bones" is an understatement. Rank Match, Player Match & Ranking... that's it. The end. Rank Match doesn't even feature a character select screen, only a slot for you to select your character (and no color options). Player match lets you create a room with some basic lobby options. Worst of all, I couldn't manage to have a single smooth online match... my experience was very laggy, which is ironic because I was playing ultra-smooth matches over on the SFV beta just hours earlier. To be honest, it's very lonely and weird in DBFC's Network mode. I was happy to exit the mode. 

Customize is very similar to UNIEL's color select / unlock system. You can choose your "default" colors for all characters and unlock several more palettes. While some of the unlockable palettes are decent, I did think quite a few seemed dull and rushed. I was eons more impressed with UNIEL's color palettes. Customize also enables players to set icons, plates & titles, and even character autographs? Umm... okay? I really don't understand the purpose of autographs... but if that floats you're boat, go for it. 


Page Updated: February 27th, 2023
Developer(s): Ecole Software, French Bread
Publisher(s): Sega
Platform(s): Arcade, PS4, PS3, Vita
Release Date(s): Mar. 18th, 2014            Arcade
Nov. 13th, 2014           PS3 / Vita
Oct. 6th 2015               /   PS3 / Vita
July 28th, 2015              Arcade - IGNITION update
Dec. 17th, 2015            PS4 / PS3 / Vita - IGNITION update
Characters Asuna, Kirino Kosaka, Kirito, Kuroyukihime, Mikoto Misaka, Shana, Shizuo Heiwajima, Tomoka Minato, Miyuki Shiba, Aisaka Taiga, Yukina Himeragi, Rentaro Satomi, Selvaria, Akira Yuki, Emi Yusa (Ignition), Quenthur Barbotage (Ignition), Tatsuya Shiba (Ignition), Shirai Kuroko (Ignition), Yuuki (Ignition)
Assist Characters Accelerator & Last Order, Boogiepop, Celty Sturluson, Erio Towa, Haruyuki Arita, Hinata Hakamada, Holo, Kino, Koko Kaga, Kuroneko, Leafa, Mashiro Shiina, Sadao Mao, Dokuro Mitsukai, Toma Kamijo, Wilhelmina Carmel, Tatsuya Shiba, Ryuuji Takasu, Kojou Akatsuki, Enju Aihara, Iriya Kana, Alicia Melchiott, Pai Chan, Kazari Uiharu (Ignition), Floretia Capistrano (Ignition), LLEN (Ignition), Miyuki Shiba (Ignition), Tomo Asama (Ignition), Zero (Ignition)

Featured Video:

Related Games: Under Night In-Birth EXE:Late, Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax, Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, Blazblue: Central Fiction, Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm, Arcana Heart 3, Skullgirls Encore, Aquapazza, Chaos Code, Fate/Unlimited CodesXuan Dou Zhi Wang, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, King of Fighters XIV, Street Fighter 5, Akatsuki Blitzkampf

Gameplay Engine  6.5 / 10
Story / Theme  4.5 / 10
Overall Graphics  7.0 / 10
Animation  7.0 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  5.0 / 10
Innovation  5.0 / 10
Art Direction  7.5 / 10
Customization  7.0 / 10
Options / Extras  6.5 / 10
Intro / Presentation  6.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun  4.5 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  5.5 / 10
Characters  5.5 / 10


 6.1 / 10

 Review based on PS3 version    


Final Words: Let's be honest... I'm a fighting game player. I only played Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax to see Akira & Pai Chan in a 2D fighter outside of VF2 Genesis Edition. As always, I give anime characters a fair shake "as fighting game characters" even if I don't know much about their origins. In this case, I wasn't very impressed with much of anything. 

Yeah, they did a "fair" job with Virtua Fighter's Akira Yuki in 2D form... but something also seems incomplete and uninspired. Akira was also a very odd choice for a boss in the game, especially with other characters in the game using swords and guns.

I'm an old school Sega guy. My parents bought me a Sega Game Gear when it came out in 1991. That said, I definitely think some more Sega throwbacks in Fighting Climax would've been nice. Sure, the Sonic the Hedgehog stage is pretty cool to look at (even though there's no Sonic). The Nights Into Dreams stage ain't bad either (even though there's no Nights). And there's even a Virtua Fighter stage,
but you wouldn't know it. (P.S. It's the one with the cherry blossoms). 

Fighting Climax definitely has the aura of an arcade anime fighting game port. In fact, "PRESS START BUTTON" at the top of the screen blinks nonstop during 1-player (even in story mode). Gotta say, it's been a WHILE since I've seen that appear on a console game.  The features are bare bones, along with the online mode, so if you've played some "other" 2D anime fighters in the past several years, you should know kinda what to expect.

While some would say us folks in the West are lucky to even get a localized version of DBFC, it's worth pointing out that the vanilla version of the game was "old" upon arrival in North America and Europe (Oct. 6th, 2015), as the IGNITION update was already out in Japan arcades since July 28th, 2015. (Note that if a major fighting game series did this sort of thing, it would be a huge deal... and hate bandwagons against that respective company would flare up all over the internet. However, since Ecole & French Bread are smaller companies, people don't freak out about release issues like this.) However, I think this is issue must be pointed out, because it is kinda sucky knowing you're playing the "old" version of a game as soon as it comes out.

To review: The original version of Fighting Climax was first released in March of 2014 in Japan. An arcade update titled "Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax IGNITION" was released about a year later on July 28th, 2015, adding 5 new playable characters and 6 assist characters. IGNITION also hit PS4, PS3 & PS Vita in Japan on Dec. 17th, 2015. Vanilla DBFC finally hit North America & Europe on Oct. 6th for PS3 & Vita, and to my knowledge, a downloadable update for the vanilla version has not been announced... so that sucks. But hey, at least the PS3 & Vita scores another exclusive 2D fighter in the library.

It's perfectly clear that I don't fit into the target audience for DBFC. Players with prior knowledge of said series & characters will obviously enjoy the game much more. I was hoping to like "something" about DBFC, but pretty much everything felt run of the mill to me. As a fighting game critic, note that I am comparing Fighting Climax to the likes of Under Night In-Birth EXE:Late, P4A: Ultimax, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, and other more recent 2D fighters, and I honestly wasn't very impressed with this one. Sorry, I guess... but I can't be a fan of everything, because then I'd be a fan of nothing. These days, it's gonna take a bit more than some "decently drawn" 2D sprites (with minimal key animations) and a "been there done that" gameplay system to make a statement in the genre.

~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen
FOLLOW    ON: