Originally announced in 2016 for an early 2017 release under Steam's now-defunct Greenlight program, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Blazing Strike was canceled. However, after years of fine-tuning the gameplay, seeking different methods of funding the project, and undergoing a full visual overhaul, Blazing Strike is finally poised to launch in 2022. I went hands-on with a recent build of it and came away impressed with how the game pays loving homage to the 2D fighters I grew up with in the '90s.
In late 2016, developer RareBreed Makes Games delayed the planned playable Steam demo indefinitely. Following an abandoned Kickstarter campaign in 2019, the dev moved funding efforts to Patreon and decided to rework the visuals from custom-shaded 3D to full 2D pixel art. In May 2021, RareBreed Makes Games announced it had secured a publishing deal with Aksys Games, a publisher known in the fighting game space for its work on franchises like Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, and Under Night In-Birth.
The 2D fighting genre may be alive and well thanks to series like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and the aforementioned Guilty Gear, but that isn't stopping RareBreed Makes Games from paying tribute to the iconic games of yesteryear. With systems that take inspiration from series like Marvel vs. Capcom, Street Fighter, and The King of Fighters, Blazing Strike is a promising blast from the past. But the game is far more than derivations, as the developer implements modern mechanics and mobility into that classic 2D style to create something that has a world of potential.
One of the big missions for RareBreed Makes Games was to create something that is easy and approachable to pick up, but difficult to master. To accomplish this, Blazing Strike implements light-normal combos akin to what is seen in the Marvel vs. Capcom series, giving players easier ways to kick off combos by just tapping the light-normal buttons. Blazing Strike also uses various comeback mechanics, including Critical Strike, which can be activated when your health is in critical state, giving you enhanced speed and combo opportunities.
The game also hopes to give players more mobility, which it accomplishes through one of its main mechanics: the Rush system. This set of mechanics kicks off when a player holds down the Rush trigger. Once activated, Rush mode allows the player to execute various moves, including unique character Rush abilities, special forward-moving Rush combos, Rush specials similar to EX moves in Street Fighter, and faster movement speeds and higher jumps.
Blazing Strike is set in a dystopian future where a resistance group fights against an autocratic government. The roster, featuring 14 fighters with distinct visual and gameplay styles, reflects this bleak, futuristic setting. On top of those 14 playable characters available right off the bat, the developer hints that there could be three boss characters that may or may not be playable in the final game.
The build I played featured just three of the 14 fighters that will be in the main game, but it gave me a good sense of the roster diversity RareBreed Makes Games is going for. Shinsuke gives off serious Ryu vibes, and I love the powerful moves Jake's glowing blue arm enables him to do, but my favorite character in this build is Pink Samurai. Not only is her visual style the most distinct of all the characters who are playable to me, but her sword gives her longer reach (rivaled only by fellow sword-wielder, Ryohei) and I love her moveset.
Since many of the characters' moves utilize the classic fighting game motions featuring quarter-circles or back-forward plus attack buttons to execute special moves, my muscle memory from decades of Street Fighter play transitions to Blazing Strike with ease. The gameplay is smooth and, as the developer intended, easy to pick up and play; after just a short time messing around with the player-versus-CPU mode, I was executing special moves and racking up wins against the A.I. The Rush mechanics, which are activated by holding down the trigger, give you a noticeable speed boost and was instrumental in many of my more successful combos, which admittedly, were also aided greatly by the light-normal combo system.
While I was only able to spend time in Vs. mode, the final version of the game will include a story mode, arcade mode, training mode, persona A.I., and online play featuring GGPO rollback, which will hopefully provide the best online experience with as little lag as possible. Blazing Strike is currently set to hit PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC in either Q1 or Q2 of 2022.