After discovering videos of BlazBlue online last year, I restlessly tried to rid myself of my excitement with other games. When Aksys Games announced BlazBlue for America, my excitement for it peaked again, and I pre-ordered it soon after the limited edition package was announced.
It truly is a remarkable fighting game. After all, it is considered to be the spiritual successor to Guilty Gear. Not only does it feature a great fighting engine, but its story and characters are also fascinating. BlazBlue also features a great soundtrack with some hints of Kotoko and Kageyama.
Like other fighting games, BlazBlue features a story mode for its console versions. Basically, you choose a character from a list and complete his or her story, following paths determined by your actions in and out of battle. It is like playing a visual novel with some fighting in between events. Playing through character stories is very similar to the playing the story mode in Guilty Gear, however, the requirements in battles for story paths are more forgiving (i.e. No OHKO finishes, no time-based finishes). All the characters are unique, both in battle and in personality. So the character stories in Blazblue are definitely interesting and fun. The entirety of the story is a bit hard to comprehend, however. There is also a “Teach Me Dr. Litchi” section of story mode which clarifies much of the background information while you are completing story mode. My only complaint with story mode is having to lose every battle (with the exception of those in one certain story) in order to get a 100% complete for every character. Thankfully, there are several save slots you can use to save places in stories.
The gameplay in BlazBlue is different without straying far from the 2-D fighter formula. The game is 2-D so two characters are moving on a single line with walls, or corners, at the ends. There are four attack buttons: A, B, C, and D. A, B, and C, are your weak, medium, and strong buttons, respectively. A is typically for pokes and repeatable jabs. C is your typical “heavy slash” attack with low damage proration. B fits in between. Although these attacks are ranked this way, they’re all situational and different for each character- especially the way you use these attacks in conjunction with certain directions. For example, even though A is a generally faster attack, B would unleash a faster attack at the expense of range for Taokaka. D is your “Drive” attack. Drives are special moves that have certain… “gimmicks” applied to them. Ragna’s drive allows him to apply darkness to his attacks to drain his enemy’s life. Carl’s drive allows him to control Nirvana and have her attack.
In addition to drive, other special attacks can be activated by inputting commands with the use of directions and attack buttons. There is obviously throwing, but there are other things such as using your barrier, canceling, and counter assaulting which are techniques that beautifully deepen the system. Barriers are like shields that prevent chip damage and push away the enemy while consuming a regenerating gauge. Alternatively, you could barrier burst to push away the enemy further while obtaining invincibility for a second to break combos. Combos are commonly used in BlazBlue and they are often important. Like some other 2-D fighters, you can air combo for more possibilities. There is another button called S, which stands for taunt. Which is just for taunting… although, Taokaka users may want to look into incorporating taunts into combos. Then there are the distortion drives which are super moves characters can perform to create huge dents into the health bars of your enemies. Astral heats also exist as finishing moves in final rounds to beat your opponent in a flashy manner.
For the console editions of the game, you can assign commands and buttons to other buttons on your controller. However, most tournaments don’t allow macros. Not only that, but macros don’t work in online ranked matches.
Network mode features ranked matches and player matches, as well as a leaderboard section for comparing things like wins and score attack scores with friends. The netcode is excellent and the syncing is quick. There really isn’t any reason to be dissatisfied with online play unless you are playing with someone who has a terrible internet connection. Or the other way around. You also get your own card for viewing statistics of your win and lose ratio. Not only does it do that, but it also shows your main and sub characters. Do not be too happy with online play though. Several players will spam certain moves or frustrate you with cheap tactics. Fortunately, with player matches, you can create or join rooms with your friends. The lobby system is flawless in BlazBlue, with three different options for rotation and up to 6 player slots. Additionally, there are several other options for changing the number of rounds, enabling easy specials, etc.
BlazBlue also features arcade mode, training mode (with a variety of customization features), score attack, and versus mode for more fighting fun. You can save replays with casual matches. You can upload scores from single player play. With the PS3, you can bring BlazBlue on your PSP with remote play to play it on the go. There is lots to do with BlazBlue’s modes. Then there are the gallery and replay viewing modes which let you view a plethora of eye candy. The gallery lets you view artwork unlocked from singe player play. It also lets you listen to sounds and voices.
There is just so much to do!
Everything is backed up with fantastic music composed by Ishiwatari which plays all throughout the game. The soundtrack has tons of songs with varying flavors appropriate for the characters they’re created for. The mood of the soundtrack perfectly fits the game.
The art in BlazBlue also help to support everything else. The graphics for the backgrounds are great, especially the effects for making them unique (i.e. the mist at the floor of Hakumen’s stage, the flowing water on the left of Arakune’s stage). Although a lot of the details go ignored in the visuals, they are definitely clever and help improve everything else. The animated cutscenes fit the mood of the game perfectly while having solid animation. They are indeed nice to look at. The battle sprite animations are very smooth. Because the battles take place with the arcade’s 60 FPS, everything flows smoothly. Every animation is clean and eye-catching, whether it be an attack effect, a sprite transition, or the distortion drive background animation.
It’s all just so beautiful. Honestly, I would put this game above Street Fighter IV. And don’t listen to reviewers like the guys on G4. This isn’t a button-mashing type of game. Ishiwatari worked really hard to make this game fun. And it definitely shows.