Breaking into the beat 'em up genre is a tough ask for any fledgeling title. With gargantuan franchises such as Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Smash Bros. making up a sizeable part of the Switch's fighting roster, newcomers need to either nail basic fighting gameplay with pinpoint precision or introduce a fresh spin on the genre in order to stand out from the crowd. Thankfully, Lethal League Blaze does more than enough to avoid getting lost in the eShop ether.
Originally released on PC back in 2018, Lethal League Blaze is a continuation of what developer Team Reptile kicked off in 2014 with Lethal League. It's a bonkers mix of dodgeball and tennis that comes together to form a fresh take on the beat 'em up genre, backed up by a superb soundtrack featuring none other than Hideki Naganuma, famous for his work on the Jet Set Radio series. The aim of the game is to whack an anti-gravity projectile (which, for the sake of simplicity, we'll refer to as a ball from now on) towards your competitors within a confined arena, chipping away at their health until you're the last character standing.
It's such a simple premise, but Team Reptile has done a remarkable job in crafting the gameplay to make it accessible for newcomers whilst ensuring veterans have plenty of scope to improve and hone their skills. You’ll have a choice of more than 10 characters, each of whom displays truly unique characteristics: Candyman looks like a walking emoji and sports a rather fetching cane, Dice has a love of ping pong and wields a suitably apt paddle, and Latch is a crocodile with a huge tail and stylish headphones. You’ll soon gravitate towards your favourite after a few sessions, but the game remains fair by limiting each character to only one special ability.
All of the characters have the same basic move sets. You can give the ball a good old whack with a press of Y, aiming more or less in any direction with the control stick. If the ball happens to fly around without hitting anybody, you can give it an additional hit (provided you get on the right position) to increase the ball’s velocity – eventually, you’ll have it flying around the stage at impossibly fast speeds, making it incredibly difficult to counter against. Additionally, should your opponents successfully deflect the ball, this will create a volley – much like in tennis – that will increase with speed the longer it goes on.
But it's not all about just hitting a ball back and forth until you successfully deal some damage; there are additional moves you can use to potentially give you an edge. You can bunt the ball with A, stopping it in its tracks to allow you a brief moment to gather yourself and prepare your next move before continuing. You can also grab and throw the ball, giving it an immediate burst of speed, or you can leap up and perform a smash strike, which really helps to increase its velocity quickly. Of course, the faster the ball travels around the screen, the more damage you’ll ultimately deal to your opponent if they fail to defend themselves.
Finally, each character is granted a special ability that you can access by building up a meter from multiple successive hits. These can prove to be extremely helpful if you’re in a bit of a bind, but crucially never feel powerful enough to immediately hand you the match. Mostly, it allows you to manipulate the ball in ways that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. For example, Dice can put topspin on the ball to make it curve around and hit your opponent, and Latch can actually gobble up the ball and spit it out at an opportune time (when you’re right in front of your opponent, basically).
A multiplayer game at heart, Lethal League Blaze can be played by up to four competitors either locally or online. We’re big fans of playing locally, and with it being such a rarity with games these days, it’s really great to see it given some love here. Online matchmaking is currently limited to include only 4 players, so those who prefer good old 1v1 matches will need to wait for a post-launch patch (which we’ve been told will hopefully arrive in August) before this becomes an option.
If multiplayer isn’t your thing, there’s enough here to keep you occupied in single player for a little while. The game’s story mode features numerous fights preceded by a brief, text-based cutscene to set the stage. This isn’t anything special, but it’s nice to see that the unique characters actually have a bit of personality as well. In addition to the normal 1v1 or 4v4 fights, the story mode also throws in a few surprises and flips the rules slightly for some of the matches. For example, you’ll come across a match that requires you to hit a target behind your opponent, and vice versa, rather than aiming for the character directly. In addition to story mode, there’s a classic arcade mode that will pit you against increasingly difficult foes in a 1v1 setup.
In terms of performance, the game is mostly locked at 30fps at launch. If this sounds a bit disappointing, we’ve been assured that the upcoming post-launch patch will increase the framerate dramatically. That said, we found the performance never falters and remains solid whether you’re playing against one opponent or three, and we suspect that once you get into a few matches, you won’t be particularly fussed about this at all.
If you're not a fan of multiplayer games, then once you've beaten Lethal League Blaze's story mode and arcade mode, there's little to entice you back into the fray. Nevertheless, the gameplay itself is remarkably versatile, allowing newcomers to get stuck right in whilst more seasoned players can tinker with the game's many intricacies. Throw in an amazing soundtrack and some fantastic cel-shaded visuals, and you've got a competitive game that's engaging in terms of both its presentation and its instantly accessible gameplay.
bought this a few days after it launched and it's a blast. highly recommend this as a multiplayer fighter.
I was waiting for a review and am not disappointed. SOLD!
I'm interested but putting it on the back burner. Don't feel like dropping $20 yet.
This game looks so cool I’m baffled it hasn’t performed better on the eshop charts. With the confidence of having read the positive review now I’ll definitely jump in 🤾♂️
Got that Japanese physical copy preordered.
Luckily they have a demo available for this if anybody is interested.
Personally I thought it had a very appealing art style and I thought they did a good job with the presentation and music but that's about it. The actual game was the disappointing part for me, I was just messing around with it and basically due to the way the game is designed I found it easy to win without having to move my character at all, all I needed to do was press a button every time the ball came at me and I would eventually win against the computer every time.
So I have no idea why they are throwing around games like Jet Set Radio because outside of the art direction this game has absolutely nothing in common with that series. I am sure this game is a lot of fun when you are playing multiplayer against friends but from what I have seen that is probably the only way to really have fun with this game.
@JayJ And the music. It's the same guy who did the JSR soundtrack.
@JayJ does that work even with higher level cpus? I'll try it on the demo later 🤔
What is this game even lol
A word of caution: The Switch version doesn't have ranked 1v1 (apparently because Ninty's online infrastructure not being able to support it.) This has ruffled feathers with some players.
Also, there are noticeable performance drops from 60fps to 30fps in both docked and in handheld. This is being looked at in a future patch, but worth noting before you commit to purchase.
Played the crap out of the demo. Haven't had this much fun on my Switch in a long time. An absolute blast in local multiplayer, even with a few instances of framerate drop (which will hopefully be patched out.) Glad to see it get some critical love here on NL... I hope people take a chance on it!
@Damo Yeah like I said I loved the presentation, the graphics and music are top notch IMO, they deserve to be praised for that.
@NullPointerExcep I have no idea what it's like as you get deeper into the game as I only played the demo but I know that I was very disappointed with the AI based off that experience and it is what put me off the game.
My experience with the demo is that it runs prey consistently at 60fps in docked gameplay. I can't wait for the patch to move the game more solidly into 60fps territory! Also, I am looking forward to playing this game more to see if I like it better than Wand Wars, which I really hope comes to Switch!
Seems like fun! I’ll wait for a sale.
Sounds really fun. I didn’t realize there’s a demo, I’ll look into it tonight. I thought this was a fine review, but I do wish we could come to a consensus concerning fighter and beat em up. I’m not sure if it’s a difference in regions, but I often see people refer to fighters as beat em ups and vice versa.
Glad to see this reviewed so highly. Honestly, it's one of those games I scroll right over when I see it in the eShop, figuring it probably isn't my thing. This review makes it sound like it's 100% my thing - so thanks, going to check it out.
@bimmy-lee Fighters shouldn't be called beat-em-ups, they are different genres. A fighing game should be a vs rounds based game while a beat-em-up is a game where you run around and beat up a bunch of enemies that keep coming at you as you work your way to the boss and beat the stage. Funny enough the beat-em-up genre started as a failed attempt to make a fighting game where the developer decided to just make a linear action title instead.
@JayJ - Absolutely. I’m always bummed out when someone refers to a game as a beat em up and it turns out to be a fighter. It’s a small quibble, but I see it quite a bit. That’s why I wondered if it was maybe a regional difference. Fighters are fine, but beat em ups are my thing.
Really hope this game does well sales wise. These games are extremely fun and unique and with friends its a blast.
@JayJ Well you don't exactly play something like smash bros for the AI either right?
@whitemaskedhero The game feels fine if you are playing the AI in Smash, it isn't like this game where you can just watch the AI mindlessly trying to figure out what to do.
@JayJ oh but I mean in versus mode? I just can't beat the AI above level 4
The couple of story mode missions in the demo were really easy actually
Does anyone know if i could take my wife online locally and play with friends online or is it solely 1 person per console. So basically 2 people on one switch and my friend joins a match via his switch.
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