By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
When I think of Blazblue, I think of intense, fast-paced fighting game action. I also think of fanservice in the form of ridiculous breasts and huge muscles, swearing, violence, and a story that I [still] don’t bloody understand. The series started on both Xbox 360 and the PS3, and transitioned to the One and PS4 as time went on. It does admittedly suffer from SF2 syndrome in that it had a BUNCH of “insert title expansion” updates before it finally moved on to the sequel. We had Calamity Trigger, Continuum Shift, Continuum Shift II, Continuum Shift EXTEND, Chronophantasma, and finally Chronophantasma EXTEND. But for reasons unknown, only until recently has ArcSys delved into the world of PC Gaming. As Guilty Gear showed PC could be profitable, we’ve slowly gotten the rest of their fighting game line-up. That’s going to be the future of fighting games, and you can see it in their product Guilty Gear XRD, Street Fighter IV and V, as well as the current Mortal Kombat – all on PC. The rumor mill was that Blazblue Continuum Shift was leaked online [the arcade release] and so many people pirated it, forcing ArcSys to jump ahead to Chronophantasma EXTEND instead. I can’t confirm it, but it makes for a hell of a story!
Chronophantasma EXTEND is important right now. The PC release is definitely a smart move. It’s faster than Calamity Trigger was, that’s for sure. . . that one took about three to five years to hit PC! But as I have yet to see a release date on the current game, Central Fiction, EXTEND’s existence on PC to drive up interest in the franchise is definitely a smart short term move. While some of the combos and moves might be seen as unforgiving, and the balance might be viewed as. . . rough. . . it is a very good starting point for new players getting into BlazBlue to get a feel, and your skill in it can even transfer over well to Guilty Gear. I also hear those guys at Bottom Tier worked up a video on Blazblue and why you should be playing it! I hear it’s coming soon! Blazblue is a hard series to master, but it’s got some features that will make learning this particular game quite feasible and fun.
As I reported on in Guilty Gear XRD, the ArcSys tutorials on PC are second only to possibly Skullgirls. Blazblue evolves what worked so damn well in Guilty Gear Xrd, taking it a step farther than I’ve seen in recent games. In addition to the basic tutorial that shows you the unique mechanics for Blazblue games, it also has starter tutorials for every character in the game that show their Drive Moves, Special Moves, and STRATEGY. Yes, there’s a tutorial that shows basic strategies for that character: What makes them powerful/weak, combo openings, moves that have priority that can be used as anti-airs, etc. This is amazing, because yes, Blazblue has a ton of characters. Without the tutorial you will feel lost for quite a while jostling around in the school of hard knocks. Go through the tutorial, and I guarantee as a new player, you’ll figure out who is fun for you and who isn’t in a day or two. Though there are only two new characters to worry about if you’re familiar from the franchise – Celica A. Mercury and Lamba, -no. 11-, Bullet, Kagura, Relius, Yuki, Amane and Azrael are new as of Chronophantasma. Basically newbies have a lot of characters to get a feel for!
Speaking of characters, one of the big gripes I have about the game is that most of the -old- characters have clones, or alternate forms, or Magical MacGuffin versions of themselves. Just an example or two: Jin Kisaragi is also Haku-Men; Haku-Men is Jin in the Susonooh armor in an alternate timeline, or the future, or some ridiculous reason. Tsubaki Yayaoi is also Izayaoi, which is Tsubaki once the true form of her weapon, Izayoi, took over her body. And finally, my favorite example, Yuki Terumi inhabits the same body as Hazama, and is pretty much the big asshole of the series, and most of the evil deeds in the franchise are either his doing, or Relius Clover. It can be just as damn confusing as the story, but I love the depth the characters have. Part of the reason I still play is for the fantastic character interactions, of which there are plenty.
There are plenty of modes to play in as well. Of course, Network [Online] normal and ranked; I didn’t find many people in ranked but it was still quite early in the games’ PC launch. I’m sure that will change. There’s the previously mentioned Tutorial. There’s a mode that explains the story so far [as best it can], Arcade Mode which speaks for itself, and the “Score Attack” modes. There’s the normal Score Attack, which is pretty challenging. You fight through one of three sets of predetermined foes, and go for the highest score possible. But then there’s “Unlimited Mars” mode, for the truly masochistic. This is the same as Score Attack, but with “Unlimited” versions of characters. Blazblue features something called “Unlimited” forms, which are not usable in tournaments or ranked play. They are broken, busted, and ridiculously powerful. Hence, Unlimited. Any restriction that may have been placed on their moveset to balance the game is gone. They are definitely fun for casual play with friends, but you will not likely have fun against the Unlimited Mars mode, unless you’re like me, and use that mode to try and survive being completely outclassed. That’s how I get ready for ranked.
REBEL ONE: ACTION
Is the story convoluted? Sure. Far more fanservy than there needs to be? Without a doubt. But is the gameplay crisp, clean, and without all of the hassle and frustration that other new fighting games have dropped with? You better believe it. The only trouble I had was with some of the resolutions. My PC runs 1920×1080, and recording video with Nvidia’s Shadowplay did NOT want to cooperate in full screen. Quite vexing, but I don’t know if that’s ArcSys’s fault. Fortunately Xsplit worked. I love that they included the Japanese “Library” mode for all the characters/terms for the game. I like that you can switch between EXTEND and Chronophantasma mode, and it shows on screen which you are in. This is a Steam exclusive mode, and you can use the balance for Chronophantasma, if that’s what you want.
+ Lots of characters, each one’s unique “Drive” ability is actually fairly inspired. Lots of variety and style of characters. Easy to find something you enjoy.
- The storyline makes it so that there are quite a few “clone” characters. Same person, different setting, different moveset. Can be a little confusing and terribly annoying.
+ Lots of interesting and powerful characters; gameplay is crisp, sharp, and easy to get the basics of. Easy to learn, hard to master.
- Pretty steep learning curve though to get to advanced levels of gameplay, and the character balance isn’t always so great. There are amazingly ridiculously powerful characters. . . and some that are not so hot.
+ Cool gameplay modes, lots of stuff to take your mind off Network/Online play if it becomes frustrating.
- Some of the modes are just clones of one another, like Score Attack/Unlimited Mars. Several Modes are only there for fans of the story, and don’t really do anything but let you do some reading you could do on a website. Still kind of neat to have it in the game client though!