It’s official — Capcom needs to step up their 2D fighting game because Blazblue is here and it’s one of the best fighting games I have ever played. For those unaware Blazblue is from the makers of the widely acclaimed Guilty Gear series Arc System Works and it shows in a lot of ways. While the game does start from scratch it’s also easy to see that it is in some ways a spiritual successor to Guilty Gear which again is a very good thing. Blazblue is a game so full of depth in every aspect that it may be dare I say better then Street Fighter IV should you like a incredibly deep fighting experience.
For those who have never seen Blazblue in motion let me tell you it’s absolutely stunning. The game utilizes incredibly high res sprites against 3D backdrops and the result is often times jaw dropping. The amount of detail that went into each character is incredible and the areas you fight in only add to this beauty. Blazblue has single handedly proven that there is still a lot sprites can do in this day and age and that perhaps Capcom made a mistake with Street Fighter IV’s 3D character models. Blazblue has easily set the standard for which all future 2D sprite based fighting games should look like.
On the sound front the game again is absolutely incredible. The game features a top notch soundtrack courtesy of Guilty Gears Daisuke Ishiwatari however unlike Guilty Gear the game is not just heavy metal rock tracks. There is a vast diversity in the music in the game be it the heavy rock tracks you will hear during the fights or the quiet and mellow tracks you will hear during various portions of the story line(I’ll get to the awesome story mode in a bit) The great news about this is that every copy of the games first run will come with the complete soundtrack at no extra cost so anyone interested in the game should really rush out and get this incredible extra it’s certainly worth it.
Voice acting as well is top notch and it’s a very good thing as the game has hours and hours of cut scenes(Hours of cut scenes in a fighting game you say? Yes we will get to that soon) great voice talent such as Patrick Seitz, Michelle Ruff, Kate Higgins and Jamison Price among many others lend their voices to the great cast of Blazblue. The game also features the full Japanese voice track which is nice for purists however the English cast does such a great job I don’t see any reason anyone would switch unless you just like to nit pick everything.
As far as modes go you have your basics such as Score attack in which you will try to get as high a score as you can while fighting against the CPU. Training mode will help you learn how to play each character which is greatly needed trust me. Arcade mode is your basic fight all the characters and beat the final boss to unlock your characters ending(Beating the arcade mode with a character also unlocks that characters most powerful attack called a Astral Drive). Of course you have Online mode which allows you to compete with players all over the world(I had no lag whatsoever in my 20+ matches online). There is also a Replay mode in which you can view any replays you save while playing online which can be used to study up on how you can improve your fighting. For the collectors out there we have a nice Gallery mode in which you can view movies, pictures and voices unlocked as you play the game which is a nice touch indeed. However with all these modes the one you will spend the vast majority of your time with is Story mode.
Blazblue has a incredibly deep and complex story and it’s very good and well worth playing unlike the vast majority of fighting games out there. In fact as first glance one may think that Blazblue’s story mode was a RPG because of the mass amount of cut scenes. It’s quite common to go 15-20 minutes in cut scenes before you reach a fight. Now some people out there may not like that and would prefer to actually be doing more fighting and basically that’s what the arcade mode is for. While the arcade mode does have story line sequences they are few and far between and it’s more of a set up to the story mode itself. Each characters story mode can last about 1-2hrs and you will often times be given choices that will directly effect which path you take. Each Character has multiple different endings so you will be playing through each characters Storyline many times so you can achieve the 100% mark for that character.
It’s no stretch to think that some may be confused by the terminology and mythology of BlazBlue but Arc System works thought of that too. They added hilarious little extra’s for the story mode called “Teach Me Boobie Lady(Really it’s Teach Me Miss Litchi however Tao’s way of putting it is much funnier) These Teach Me segments will explain a bit of the terminology and history behind BlazBlue and is a nice way to help the player understand what’s going on and again they are very very funny and well worth a look. The story mode has hours and hours of content and it would take the player quite a long time to 100% each character so the replay value is very evident and that’s before you add in the Online mode which basically makes the replayability for BlazBlue endless.
Now a lot of you are probably wondering by now how is the combat system? Well to put it simply the combat in the game is complex and deep to the point that it may actually put off some people at first. A lot of people complained at first at the somewhat small roster of characters for BlazBlue(Only 12) However the reason behind this is how radically different each character really is. The characters combat styles are so vastly different from one another that you will often times have to completely rethink how you play the game just to be effective when playing a new character. For example a character like Miss Litchi effectively has 2 different combat stances. When she is wielding her staff she is slower and more powerful however should the player deem it necessary they can plant the staff in the ground and Litchi’s speed and movement around the area nearly doubles. Learning how to balance these is a key to being successful with Litchi. Another character Carl hardly attacks his opponent directly instead preferring to use his marionette instead. This does not mean however that he is incapable of attack as he can use his marionette as a distraction and attack when the opponent is least expecting it. Similarly each character in the game functions differently and you will have to take that into account when playing each of them or else you will quickly find yourself on the receiving end of a defeat. Another added bonus for those who buy the game in it’s first limited edition run is the added Blu-ray which has advanced tutorials and info on how to effectively use each character. A nice bonus indeed considering you are paying the same price as a normal game.
Each character also has what is called a Distortion Drive which is basically a super move. Once the players Heat Gauge is at 50% or higher they can unleash a Distortion Drive. However these moves are not the be all end all(That would be the Astral Finish I’ll get to that in a second) These Distortion Drives can easily miss a character or be blocked all together so using them at the right time is key. Tacking one on to the end of a combo can often times prevent the enemy from blocking it however this will not work for all characters as some of them need to be in a certain position for the attack to successfully connect. Needless to say the attacks involve more then just using it and hoping your opponent doesn’t block it. A nice touch is the ability to easily trigger the Distortion Drives via a simple flick of the right stick. While this does make them easier to perform players should keep in mind that this option can be turned off in online play so learning how to trigger Distortion Drives normally is very important.
Astral Finishes as I mentioned earlier require the player beat Arcade mode with a character before they are allowed to use it. Astral Finishes are incredibly over the top attacks that if they connect instantly end the match. They are often times stunningly beautiful and are worth the effort of unlocking just to see the animations alone. However keep in mind that the player cannot use Astral Finishes willy nilly as there are conditions that must be met before they are allowed to be used in combat. First the enemy must be at or below 20% health, Second the fight must be on it’s last round and last the player must have their Heat Gauge at 100%. If these requirements are fulfilled the player can unleash their Astral Finish and instantly end the match. Basically Astral Finishes are a big slap in the face to the opponent.
In addition to the mass variety in the characters themselves the game has many ways of Blocking, Countering, Cancelling and Comboing. Some of these blocks and counters allow you to act more quickly after successfully using them and the amount of frames of animation it boils down to sometimes is so small that it really shows how skilled you need to be to take advantage of it. The combo system itself is so deep that if a player is skilled enough they could easily start a fight with a combo and end the fight with that same combo. However that happens quite rarely as I mentioned before the game has many ways to counter and block something like that.
At the end of the day Blazblue offers more depth in a single character then most fighting games have in their entire rosters. Blazblue also has the most in depth story mode ever seen in a fighting game. Along with the fact that there is so much to do and unlock in addition to the endless replayability of Online play. Quite simply put if you are a fan of the Fighting game Genre you have no excuse not to pick up BlazBlue it is easily one of the greatest fighting games of all time and the massive story line may extend that appeal beyond fighting fans as well.