Farewell, Ragna the Bloodedge.
It’s been over seven years since I was first exposed to the Blazblue series with its first installment, Calamity Trigger.
With its limited roster of only 12 characters, and a rather poor balancing (I mained Tager back then- THE STRUGGLE), it’s a game with many flaws but I still remember it fondly all the same.
During the course of these seven years, the developers at “Arc System Works” have been hard at work adding additional characters, mechanics and much more and their latest release, Central Fiction, marks the end of the story arc for its main protagonist, Ragna the Bloodedge.
For an event this many years in the making, I had hoped that Central Fiction would be something special- something that goes beyond the iterative experience that I have come to expect and after spending a few dozen hours with the game, I can say with confidence that this is easily the best BB title to date.
Platforms: PS4, PS3
Multiplayer: online vs mode
Played: 24~ hours
Blazblue as a series has taken its story very seriously for better or worse, and even though they certainly embrace the absurdity of it all, it’s a tale that’s been building up over the years revolving around the main character, Ragna.
However, unlike Street Fighter, there is an actual beginning and end to the story presented here, and Ragna’s story comes to an end in Central Fiction.
While I found the rather lengthy story mode dragged on longer than it should have with its visual novel presentation, punctuated by some fighting here and there, I couldn’t help but feel invested it in how it all played out, as I have known these characters for so long.
It’s not going to win any awards for writing any time soon, but if you’re like me, who has been following along from the very beginning, I think you will appreciate how it’s wraps up. Otherwise, prepare to be very confused.
From a visual standpoint, Blazblue retains its high quality 2D sprites that look great in motion as they do in screenshots, and while I would agree that the 3D wizardry presented in the Guilty Gear series is a step up, there’s a certain charm to 2D sprites that endures throughout the ages.
As for the gameplay, it remains mostly the same, with some notable additions in how the burst system is handled.
There is a new special attack accessible to everyone called the “Exceed Accel”, when during an overdrive the player can trigger the input for overdrive again, activating a move with high invulnerability frames.
Then, there is the “Active Flow” mechanic that enhances the power of “Exceed Accel”, and grants boosts to the regeneration of the burst meter, which is as important of a resource as the standard heat system.
All of the old mechanics remain, with some of them being adjusted, like the “Crush Trigger”, which can be activated instantly or charged for greater effect in breaking the guard of those who aren’t barrier blocking.
Being the latest release, it stands to reason that the character roster is the largest yet, but there are seven new characters available now (one of them is paid DLC), bringing the number up to a whopping 35 characters.
Given the very nature of Blazblue, playing one character over another can often times feel like you’re playing a completely different game.
Luckily, the extensive tutorial and challenge modes include lessons/tips which help greatly in picking up a new character.
There are also 3 different arcade mode story arcs to play through, a score attack of various difficulties, speed attack and the abyss, which has some light RPG elements where the player is tasked with increasing their stats and adding new perks as they challenge more difficult foes.
Of course, there is online multiplayer with ranked, player and arcade lobbies, which we have come to expect at this point, and the netcode itself seemed good, albeit not exceptional.
It was a mix bag of mostly flawless matches where I couldn’t notice any delay to few 3 bar matches that would feel like I was fighting underwater.
Even though the game is fully fleshed out in content both single/multiplayer wise and an absolute joy to play, Arc System Works made some questionable choices here and there that makes me question their motives.
First, one of the new characters is once again locked behind the completion of the story mode, which wouldn’t be too bad if that wasn’t a 9~ hour investment normally and about an hour long if absolutely everything is skipped.
I’m a big proponent on the idea that every character in a fighting game should be unlocked from the get-go, unless the single player campaign is designed around unlocking characters, like say Dragonball Xenoverse and Smash Bros games.
Lastly, this is the first Blazblue game that was localized that does not contain an English dub option, and given that there have been a total of six games that had English dub, to not include one now, especially when the story of the main character is coming to an end, felt cheap and hurts the overall production value of the game. This was also the case for Guilty Gear Revelator, but given there had only been one other Guilty Gear game to that point with an English dub, it felt easier to forgive the change of direction.
Still, even with those complaints, Central Fiction adds enough characters, mechanics and fine tunes its already nearly flawless gameplay into something that feels as amazing to play as it looks. It’s currently my favorite fighting game on the market, and I have no doubt that I will be throwing dozens of more hours into it in the months to come.
Fun Tidbit – My PSN is BatousaiJ – fight me, nerds.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.