Blazblue returns in its finest iteration yet.
I’ve been a fan of Blazblue ever since the release of Calamity Trigger back in 2009. It was the first true high definition 2D fighting game using sprites instead of 3D models, and I loved everything about Calamity Trigger minus the balancing (I mained Tager like an idiot) and meager character selection.
Since then, many iterations of the title have come and gone with varying success, and with the release of Chrono Phantasma, Arcsys delivers the best in the series yet.
The story in Blazblue is one that’s been unfolding over the course of three games and includes basically every anime trope known to mankind. Between psychotic killers, evil alter egos, vampires, androids, werewolves and a boobie lady, there’s a lot of personality presented here, and while it’s not going to win any writing awards, it’s still entertaining to see unfold.
The game’s story is at its best during its many humorous parts, where the game throws canon out the window for the sake of comedy, and it’s all the better for it.
The story mode plays out much like a Visual Novel, with an abundance of reading punctuated by a few choices and fights, many of which are distinguished by special conditions that wouldn’t be present in normal bouts.
It’s best savored by the fans that are already invested in the story as newcomers will find themselves lost.
Unfortunately, the completion of the rather lengthy story mode is required to unlock a character, which seems like a poor design choice. Why force players who have no interest in the story to go through that just to unlock the full roster?
This minor grievance aside, as a fighting game, the story really doesn’t really matter much, as the game play takes the front stage with style and expert precision.
While the overall feel of Blazblue remains the same, many of its underlying mechanics have been overhauled, mostly for the better. The biggest addition alongside a lot of small changes is the brand new Overdrive system.
Given each character in BB has a special ability specific to them mapped to the ‘D’ button, the overdrive is used to enhance those abilities and rob the opponent of their ability to burst out of a combo.
For example, Tsubaki is a character that relies on charges, which she gains by holding down the ‘D’ button at neutral to unlock the use of the more powerful moves in her arsenal. When she uses overdrive, her charge meter fills naturally for a short amount of time.
Jin, a character who uses ice power, gains freeze attributes to many of his normal moves, allowing for new devastating combo paths.
The overdrive can also be used to cancel moves, with good proration allowing for combo paths to reach new heights even without the use of meter.
This replaces the offensive gold burst that I’m sure many series veterans will miss, but it’s overall a much deeper and interesting system, and adds a lot of variety not only in the combos, but also in how quickly the tides of a match can turn.
The first time I had a skilled Hakumen air grab me into overdrive for the finish when I had all but won the match was an eye opening experience, and really showed the potential of the system.
Joining the ever growing roster is a whopping seven new characters, two of which are DLC. They all offered distinct play styles and a gimmick of their own, and while Kokonoe is clearly broken at the moment, there is a balance patch in the works to rectify that in the coming months.
The last big addition worthy of note is the virtual arcade lobby. Outside of ranked matches and player rooms, there are now hubs spanning in the entire world which can hold up to sixty four players per region.
The players make their little avatars and walk up to open arcade cabinets to challenge opponents. It’s a quick and easy way to find new opponents instead of waiting in a player match room hoping for someone to show, and it worked very well.
The one oddity I noticed was the fact that player match rooms no longer allow you to go into training mode while waiting, which seemed like an odd thing to take out.
It’s really a shame because that was my preferred way to practice most of the time, so I do hope that they’ll put it back in via a patch or in the next iteration.
While I may have a few grievances as to how Arcsys is handling the balancing of the characters, it’s apparent that this is the best entry in the series yet, and it remains my personal go-to choice for a 2D fighting gaming.
Fun Tidbit: They got rid of my favorite color on my main. Jerks.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.