This review was originally posted on Nintendo Scene on 5th April 2018.
Occasionally, the Switch has seen some odd releases, either of unusual indies emerging out of an increasingly experimental indie scene or of ports of the more strange games from other platforms. Speaking of which, Eat Beat: Dead Spike-san is a rhythm action game based on the BlazBlue franchise of anime fighting games. Released originally in 2015 for iOS and Android devices by Arc System Works, this absurd spin-off of an already arguably absurd franchise has now come to Nintendo Switch eShop. But how is it?
The premise of Eat Beat: Dead Spike-san is, admittedly, incredibly insane. Even if you’re aware of the already convoluted and unhinged plot of the BlazBlue franchise, the narrative of this game still stands out as being particularly crazy. In the opening cut scene, it explains that Dead Spike-san, one of Ragna=the=Bloodedge’s special attacks, is tired of Ragna being constantly defeated. It has the idea that if it were to eat more food and become stronger, Ragna would be less likely to fall in his various battles. So, the player has to successfully eat their way through each level to achieve this goal.
How this is done is traditional rhythm action fare, with button presses needed in time to the music playing. The buttons are mapped to “L” and “R”, and various different types of press are needed, all with their own individual tells. This can involve a short tap, a long hold, or a mash of both buttons depending, with “L” being blue and “R” orange. Stay focused though, because if too many beats are missed, the life bar in the top left will begin to deplete and if it runs out, it’s game over. If you miss a couple of beats though, don’t panic though as successful beats will refill your life bar. Also, if you nail enough notes, you’ll gain the ability to activate Overdrive, a temporary state giving more points for successful beats. You can choose whether to manually activate this state, or have it activate automatically, giving a certain amount of strategy to trying to get the highest possible score.
The timing of the button press affects the score, which is comically represented as kcal consumed, at the end of each level; with perfect and great beats garnering the highest scores, and the maximum chain of good or better beats also massively contributing, with lower acting to damage your ending score.. You will receive a grade at the end of each level, and if you consume enough kcal in a level, you will receive a number of stars for the level ranging from one to three. The ranking and number of stars are used to unlock the harder difficulties too, with Normal of a song needing to be cleared to an adequate level to be able to attempt the Hard iteration of a track, which is really needed as the Hard iterations of the tracks often require absurd reflexes.
In terms of content, the game is somewhat bereft, lacking any other modes outside of the main one. The game is also minimal on the in-game options too, even missing the option to remap the controls, which I personally find to be an egregious mistake as the “L” and “R” buttons are not the most comfortable for this game and would be slightly better suited to “ZL” and “ZR”. As an additional bonus to the player, there are other playable characters to try out. As well as Ragna and Dead Spike-san, you can also play through the tracks as either Hazama and Ouroboros or Carl and Nirvana. Although the three different character sets (and their alternate forms) are mechanically identical, it does make an entertaining difference to see Nirvana smashing up the food items whilst dragging a miserable Carl behind her.
Eat Beat: Dead Spike-san is a bright and colourful affair, with a selection of the diverse roster of BlazBlue represented in a chunky, heavily-lined chibi style. The backgrounds of each level, themed upon the character the music relates to, are impactful enough to make an impression and raise a smile in the fans of the original franchise but also simple enough to not interfere with the gameplay. The menus are clear and bright as well, making them easy to understand and navigate. In fact, the game is designed in such a simple fashion making everything available in the game available from almost a single menu, including choosing stage, difficulty and gameplay options. Although simplistic and cartoony, this is a stunning game, especially in handheld mode.
As it is a rhythm action game, the music is obviously important. There are clips of multiple songs to choose from spanning classic characters themes (albeit in the II iterations introduced in Chronophantasma) up to new characters and the theme of Centralfiction 2.0 itself. The music, as it is taken from BlazBlue itself, is unsurprisingly phenomenal despite the fact that each track is cut unfortunately short. Another small gripe is the low amount of tracks with a mere twenty songs from the myriad in the original franchise. This isn’t a deal breaker, by any means, but more tracks would undoubtedly increase the longevity of the game itself by proxy.
So, should you buy Eat Beat Dead Spike-san? If you want a reasonably-priced, cheerful throwaway game in a desperately under-utilised genre, then I cannot recommend this game more. Those that hold the BlazBlue franchise to a certain standard might be disappointed by the utter frivolity on display, but it’s undoubtable childish charm will endear it to most players. The lack of an option to remap the controls is slightly agitating and there is also the severe issue that the lack of content might put a lot of people off; this is understandable, but I have to stress that this is a fantastic little game for its price and I genuinely hope that it gets all of the attention it deserves.
Eat Beat: Dead Spike-san is now available on Nintendo Switch eShop.