Bengus would be proud
I was a huge fan of Battle Chasers when it was first released. A big reason for that is it was the first comic I ever read that seemed to love my favorite games as much as I did. Artist Joe Mad was just as in love with SNES RPG Chrono Trigger and Capcom’s stable of ’90s fighting games as I was. He brought that love directly into Battle Chasers, in ways both direct and subtle, and I ate it up regardless.
Flash forward 20 years later and Joe Mad has gone on to work on several games, including the Darksiders series and Battle Chasers: Nightwar. Out of the two, it’s Battle Chasers that does the most to capture the energy of Joe’s 2D art and his admiration of the previously mentioned influences. Though the graphics here are largely polygon based, this still looks like a cross between Chrono Trigger and Darkstalkers most of the time, making it one of the few modern games that I wanted to play just for the graphics.
The game’s jump to the Switch has brought along with it a few minor technical quibbles, but for the most part, it’s still a must-have for fans of the comics and/or the games that the comics were inspired by.
For those of you who haven’t played the game already, know that the overworld system and related maps are a lot like those found in Chrono Trigger, but the turn based combat in Battle Chasers has a lot more in common with Final Fantasy VII. There’s tons of different types of attacks, buffs and debuffs, and big flashy summon-style moves, all of which carry with them them Joe Mad’s signature visual flair.
There’s also a lot strategic options to chew on here. For example, like in a classic fighting game, there’s a meter you can build by using regular moves. If you build enough meter, you’ll be able to throw out some some special moves, though for the most part, you can also use Mana (AKA magic points) to pull off the same specials. Mana isn’t always easy to replenish though, so learning if its wiser to do a few regular moves to build some free meter or if it’s smarter to go straight for the jugular at the cost of your MP is something you’ll have to learn from experience.
Thankfully, you won’t have to grind for experience points very often while you go about gaining some battle savvy wisdom. The game has been re-balanced since its initial release to make the difficulty curve a lot more even. These adjustments come built in on the Switch port, so if this is your first time playing the game, know that the devs cared about you enough to try to optimize your experience from the start.
Still, there is only so much they can do with Nintendo’s hardware, leaving most of the load times here to be a fair amount longer than those on the PS4. The on-screen text is also pretty small on some screens. I found this to be more of an issue on handheld mode, where the overworld map is also a tad to tiny for my tastes. Still, these are minor issues that only bothered me here and there, and were more than made up for by the convenience that comes from having the game on a portable that doubles as a home console.
As for the game’s story, don’t go into it expecting Shakespeare, and while you’re at it, you might as well give up on the cliffhanger ending from the comics to ever be resolved. This is more of a side story than anything else, featuring our group of daredevil heroes crash landing on a lost continent. There are are few changes to the cast as well, including a slightly less revealing redesign of Red Monika and a whole new playable character named Alumon.
He’s a devil hunter who works to help tie the characters from the comics into a whole new world and storyline introduced in the game. There’s plenty of new NPCs too, like Lyko, a dead ringer for Leo from Capcom’s Red Earth. The game was clearly made with the intention of allowing new fans of the Battle Chasers franchise to jump right in without having to catch up on the books, but there’s still plenty of of little shout outs for series veterans.
While I love the Darksiders games, they never seemed able to replicate the whimsy and power of Joe Mad’s comics. I have to guess it was too risky. Creating a game that looks and feels like a wild and unpredictable 2D comic book is generally not the way to make the most money possible in today’s AAA game-s-sphere. While I’d love to see Joe make a fully 2D game someday, preferably something in the style of Battle Chef Brigade, Battle Chasers: Nightwar comes as close as any game ever has in expressing his unbridled imagination and serving it up in playable form.