2D fighting games have never been my forte, though I’ve always had an interest in learning how to play them as effectively as I can their 3D counterparts. Awhile back, Killer Instinct Gold convinced me that this would never happen by relentlessly and mercilessly crushing my will under the weight of its difficulty, so when I had the opportunity to try indie game Battle High 2 A+, which was accused in an Xbox-version review of being too easy (I’m playing the recent Steam release, but obviously looked into its Xbox One reception first), it seemed like a perfect match.
There’s some good and bad here
I really like that this is a fighting game that I can beat on its default difficulty. It even has a training mode where you can enable visual hitboxes to become comfortable with each character’s strikes while you learn their moves, which is pretty great. And learning moves isn’t actually necessary, as you can pretty effectively button-mash your way to victory (again, on the default difficulty—you can crank it up, but I haven’t experimented with that yet). There are some obvious flaws here, though.
For one, the character art and background art don’t always mesh, and the non-pixel portraits and UI contribute to this disconnect. Then there’s the audio, which is mixed kind of strangely. That’s a minor quibble, but the way sound effects and mid-fight dialogue barks pan wildly to each side as characters move to the edges of each stage isn’t. That kind of panning can be really disorienting when playing with headphones, and it’s used in some really questionable ways. For example, choosing player 1’s character in the menu causes all of the audio to be panned to the left, while player 2’s sound effects in the menu are all panned to the right. I disagree with that decision, but can at least understand the intent there. What I can’t understand is why selecting a character in arcade mode has all the audio panned to the left rather than centered since it’s a single-player mode. That makes no sense whatsoever.
The writing also suffers from that “one writer talking to themselves as different characters” problem. Basically, everyone’s tone and reactions are similar enough that no one stands out or has their own distinct personality, and this prevents the one or two pre-fight conversations each character has in arcade mode from believably conveying the emotion they’re so desperately trying to push.
Challenge mode is driving me crazy
I tried out the “challenge” mode from the main menu, and it appears to be a place where you’re tasked with performing character moves and combos. That’s great, but I can’t for the life of me get it to accept my inputs. Besides which, sometimes what it tells you to do and what you have to do aren’t the same. Take the crouching heavy punch at ~5:30 in the video above; it doesn’t actually tell you to hold down despite it being obvious, and the only way to perform the followup attack in time is to roll over and hold the stick left while you’re still crouched. As in, before you’ve even started the first attack. That’s counter-intuitive to the extreme, and the lack of clarity as far as the need to crouch is concerned only exacerbated my frustration while trying to do the combo early in the video. I never managed to perform it despite getting the first two parts of the combo right and repeatedly doing exactly what it said.