Genre: Fighting Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Classification: PG Release Date: 2nd Apr 2010 Platforms:
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BlazBlue differs from most beat ‘em ups out there in a number of ways. The most immediately noticeable would be the 2D anime styled, hand drawn characters, and boy howdy does it work.
With such a limited roster (numbering only twelve compared to the bazillion or so offered in SSFIV) you’d think they would get old real fast, but this is not the case, not by a long shot. Each character is so ridiculously different in size, style, outfit and attacks you’ll genuinely want to play each one to see how wildly they differ and which is the best fit.
My favourite was easily the Cammy inspired Noel Vermillion for her lightning quick attacks, ever so short skirt and the twin hand cannons she brought the pain with. Each move had her tossing and spinning those bad boys like a whirling dervish, and the Matrix styled blur lines were just the icing on the cake, but I’ll break down the characters a little later on.
As you’d expect, a fighter of this magnitude has the usual bells and whistles, with a Training Mode, Online component, Arcade (to duke it out with your buddies, naturally), Score Attack (survival mode) and a comic book shop’s worth of unlockable artwork. The real meat of this fighter is the branching Story Mode. In a departure from the norm, each character’s individual story is told like an old school point and click text adventure, with the characters slightly animated in the background.
As you win or lose matches (as defeat does not necessarily mean “Game Over”), the story progresses, often giving you simple choices to make and the story diverges accordingly. Before each battle you’ll be prompted to save, so if you do end up losing, and want to take an alternate route, you can always reload and give it another shot. You may very well get to the end of the branch only to find you haven’t unlocked the “true” ending for your character, leading to genuine replayability to try and take the right fork in the road (don’t worry, there’s no crappy Heavy Rain QTEs).
The story is the usual wacky aneurysm-inducing anime fare, with brothers betraying each other, star crossed lovers, a lot of military type dudes and a bit of time travel thrown in for good measure. The best course of action for non-otakus is to just nod glibly and go along for the ride. The lead, rebel Ragna the Bloodedge, has a massive sword, and is unsurprisingly the slowest of the bunch, offset by his metrosexual rapier wielding brother Jin Kisaragi.Noel is a pistol-packing mama with a little crush on Jin, and has an alternate boss version of her as a cyborg called V-13.
Rounding out the clichéd cast of awesome is Rachel the girl vampire (no glittering in a tree involved), Bang Shishigami the lovelorn ninja, Taokaka a feminine cat hybrid, Carl Glover and his robot sister Nirvana, and Hakumen the White Knight and all around hero.
Special mention goes to Arakune, a blob like creature that can shape shift, cloak and teleport, and is one of the weirdest things we’ve seen in the fighting genre, Iron Tager, a huge cyborg with massive arms and more than a passing resemblance to Mike Haggar, and the doctor Litchi Faye-Ling - who’s cleavage-tastic outfit leads her to be referred to as “booby lady” by other characters.
The gameplay is cut from the typical easy to pick up, hard to master mould. Each face button corresponds to a weak, middle or heavy attack (labelled A, B and C), with character unique moves known as Drive attacks on button “D”. You can lay these out on the controller however you see fit, and it’s fairly easy to rack up decent combinations, even for the uninitiated. You have your standard back guard, though this is a hit and miss affair with a true guard, or Barrier, established by pressed A and B together, though its use is limited and you’ll receive extra damage from any attacks while it recharges. You’ve also got a gauge that increases when you deal or receive damage. When this reaches critical you can deal super moves known as “Distortion Drives”. These are by far the highlight of the show, and I found myself risking all manner of suicidal manoeuvres to pull one of these off.
After even a single round, you’ll marvel at how damned pretty this title is. The 3D rendered backgrounds rival Super Street Fighter IV with pure lushness, the unique animations for each combatant’s move set really reinforces their particular styling and differs from its counterparts, and the Distortion Drives are absolutely sensational. It really is a joy to behold and an absolute pleasure to watch and play. I’d be remiss at not mentioning one of the most spectacular uses of Engrish yet, with each round or level referred to and vocalised as ”Rebel One”, which I can only assume is a little in-joke aimed at Western audiences, and it never gets old.
Those of you with a little extra cash will want to spend it on the
limited edition, which gives you an exclusive for each console, with the PS3 getting an arcade stick, and the X360 buyers receiving a faceplate. Clearly the PS3 version is the winner - as a great man once said 'pads are feminine hygiene products'.
BlazBlue Calamity Trigger nearly didn’t make it out here - which would have been a tragedy. It is one of the most entertaining, bunny boiling insane 2D fighters I’ve played, though it does have a distinctly Japanese feel to it which may not appeal to all - I'll be there for another round.
BlazBlue is a welcome change to the fighting genre, which is now flooded with 3D fighters (understandably because of graphical advancements) however this title is a shining example of how beautiful a game can still look using a 2D format. Rich, lush, colourful, highly detailed backgrounds and exceptional character design all presented in an art form that you'd be forgiven for confusing with the latest anime creations.
Now how bout the actual fighting, it’s all well and good to look like a million dollars but does it play like a million dollars? Short answer, yes, the engine is reminiscent of titles like Marvel VS Capcom, Darkstalkers and ofcourse Guilty Gear the creator’s previous title.
Fluid, responsive controls that any fighting veteran will be able to pick up and play, even beginners will smash out some nasty combos with little effort, however for the hardcore fighters the depth in the fight mechanics is an endless chasm, chain standard physical attacks, consisting of Light, Medium and Heavy ( A, B, C) launch opponents into the air and continue the combo airborne, cancel out of special moves with a system similar to Street Fighter 4's EX cancel, connect with throws within a combo, sweep the opponent and punish them whilst they're on the ground or even re-launch them from this position and continue the pain, the list of options goes on and on.
Special mention has to go to each characters Astral Heat, a move that can only be performed in the last round of a fight and when the opponent has less than 20% health, these moves are by far the flashiest in any game I’ve seen in a while, essentially they're a finisher or fatality of sorts, and are usually made up of the character going absolutely berserk with beautifully drawn anime style cut scenes, no better way to rub a victory into someone’s face like ending the battle in this over-dramatic, flashy manner.
Wow there seems to be one for a change, apart from the usual " i'm gonna hold a gangsta fighting tournament and see who the most bad ass fighter is, and if they win they get world domination!!!"
Each characters plot is slowly unravelled as you play through the story mode several times, depending on wether you win or lose certain battles you'll get one of several different endings, as you play through the roster you'll piece together the whole picture, which is an over the top anime style driven plot beyond most mortals comprehension, enjoyable ofcourse.
You may look at the roster and frown, there isn't the usual 100 plus characters available like most fighting games seem to contain now, which usually consists of a myriad of characters that are essentially the same or atleast fight the same, eg Ryu, Ken, Akuma, Sagat, and all those typical characters bound by the same move format which also spans the KOF universe, here is where BlazBlu really sets itself apart, every character is completely different in, size, strength, design, and control. Each character has a unique set of moves (the Drive attack) which sets them apart from their fellow fighters. Ragna for instance has the ability to drain energy upon striking with his drive attack, Jin freezes his opponent, and a few have far more interesting drives, like Iron Taeger, upon hitting with his Drive attack the opponent becomes magnetised, then any special moves that Iron performs after this have a vacume effect, dragging the character towards him into his move. Its this element that provides the replay value and longevity to the game, learning how to effectively use and exploit each characters unique abilities is a sizeable task, with each character being so vastly different than the next, mastering the roster will likely take you thousands of hours, only two character are similar, Ragna, and Jin, and even then their similarities are minimal at best.
For instance, after learning how to use Ryu from SF4 you could easily switch to Ken, Akuma, or Sagat, ofcourse at high levels of play these characters play nothing like each other, but essentially they all work off a similar premise, zoning with projectile attacks and forcing the opponent to jump and then tagging them with an anti-air move, this is completely impossible within BlazBlue, simply because each fighter controls completely differently than the next and don't have the standard move set of: projectile attack and anti-air move, the only character following this format in BlazBlue is Jin and even then its not quite as simple as that, so be prepared to learn a whole a whole new system.
Ofcourse all the obligatory modes are available.
Arcade, training, Time attack, blah blah blah, but its the Online where this game onece again sets itself apart.
Instead of a cruddy system where you have to search for a single challenger, fight, and then jump back to a screen where you search AGAIN for a fight (anyone who has played SF4 online will now the heart ache and frustration involved with this) you can create your own tournament. Either invite your friends or have randoms join and then the matches are duked out in traditional arcade style action as you literally wait in turn for your fight within the tournament, fighting your way to the top of the created tournament and hopefully coming out victorious! not to mention the online mode runs smoothly and rarely lags, onece again anyone who has played SF4 will no doubt have experienced the shocking inconsistency with lag.
So if you like fighting games, dudes with big swords, girls in short skirts, Manga anime, and fast paced fighting mayhem, then BlazBlue is most definitely worth it's weight in fighting gold and hopefully it paves the way for new titles in this genre.