The original Battle High (subtitled Elemental Revolt or San Bruno, still the same fighter, more or less) was a bit of an enigma during its release in the 2011 Uprising, garnering some praise, as it should have, but slightly more criticism (FYI, I enjoyed it). Looking to settle that argument completely one way or the other, the whole San Bruno crew has assembled once again for Battle High 2 (80 MSP), along with a handful of newcomers.
There are some people that will tell you stories in fighting games are as superfluous as plots in porn films, but I’ve always appreciated it (in games, not the porn). With Battle High 2 the narrative continues, and it remains a hybrid of X-Men / Street Fighter, with a school of elementally-gifted students forced to gather after a series of odd occurrences and the sudden disappearance of their peers’ powers. A new principal has taken over. Of course these events are connected. Again, it’s either your thing or not, yet it does give credence to the fighters’ motivations. Each of them has their own rivals / allies, a personal mini-plot woven into the main conflict, well-acted voice quips, and a comic-style ending sequence after climbing the Arcade ladder.
Fighting games live and die by their handling, though, and I found the controls in the sequel to be responsive (something the original periodically dropped the ball on). Most of my inputs registered without problem. You have the standard move assortment of light / heavy punches and kicks, elemental-specific specials, a throw, and an overdrive counter that gives your attacks added weight and / or speed. Each fighter also has a Super attack, used from the same meter, that typically launches into a multi-hit combo or move that does severe damage. Some of these take more controller work or require exact placement in order to hit, but when used at the right moment, it can turn a fight in your favor.
Which is welcome in expediting battles, as the game’s AI can be laughably easy or mildly irritating, depending on the difficulty slider and your chosen fighter. It’s not overly hard to win in Battle High, and odds are you’ll find that raising the difficulty to its max is closer to Normal in other games. In addition to Arcade and Versus, there are the returning modes— an extensive list of Challenges to complete for everyone, Extracurriculars (think smashing / beating automobiles and gym equipment), and the Journal, which categorizes the fighters’ bios / endings and plays host to a long list of achievements that won’t earn you anything but self-satisfaction. Still, if you want to put in the time and effort, Battle High 2 has plenty to offer.
Exactly how I won a lot of my rounds.
There are a few negatives here. As much as I enjoyed most of the new fighters and old favorites, the cast as a whole still lacks a cohesive balance. You’ll find some the characters are overpowered, and it’s easy to hang back and spam ranged attacks all day (the developers are aware; there’s even journal / achievement unlocks for doing this), pushing opponents into corners with little room for an out. It’s also limited in its reach, ultimately, since the only matches you’ll be able to partake in with other humans will be local. Online play can be tricky in getting it to work right, but it should be an automatic inclusion with fighters. This time it gets a pass based solely on its platform of choice and the service’s jury-rigged compromises. Consider it ‘forced-Old School’ in that regard.
I’m hardly a disciple / historian of the genre, but I do know solid execution and construction when I see it. Excellent animation, art, and music abound. Battle High 2 is fun, and features a surprising amount of depth and playability for any XBLIG, let alone a pugilistic one. It won’t replace any of the punch-happy AAA franchises just yet (nor is it right to compare them), but it’s an excellent companion title to something like the original Street Fighter, and leagues-ahead of anything else like it on XBLIG. Highly recommended if you love a fight.