With so many fighting games floating around last year it was extremely easy to miss one here and there. Arc System Works, best known for their beloved Guilty Gear franchise, delivered one such game last year in the form of BlazBlue. I can probably count on my fingers the number of people I knew that owned this game, which is sad as it also happened to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I had with a fighter in a long time. Arguments aside about its balance, Aksys Games have brought forth another chance to experience this eccentric fighter with the PSP version. This outing is a carbon copy of last year’s console experience, which for anyone who played it knows, is a true accomplishment.
For anyone who has played Guilty Gear, or the original BlazBlue will know what to expect here. Arc System Works creates some truly deep mechanics wrapped in some of the most insane character designs and topped-off with easy-to-pick-up mechanics. What that boils down to is a game that is fun to play regardless if your skill level. Translating that to the PSP was no small task, especially considering the fact that the original game is still considered one of the most fluid and gorgeous 2D fighters ever created.
Trimming down the game to a portable console does come with its setbacks. First and foremost are the controls. Anyone used to playing games with a giant arcade stick will likely find their fingers cramping up quickly as they attempt to blast out some of the more complex combos, especially if you own a PSPGo. Fighting games can work on a handheld system, but when games offer split-second timing and flawless transitions between button movements, the PSP is definitely not the most accurate. This is another prime example of a game simply being ported over to the handheld instead of being designed for one. This will likely only effect people who are serious about combos and learning the depth of the combat system, and without a true online mode that might be a moot point.
Speaking of multi-player these types of games shine when played with other players. BlazBlue Portable does support the local ad-hoc feature for playing with friends, but if you don’t know anyone with the game you are simply out of luck. There is no traditional online mode thus eliminating half of the appeal of the series altogether. To compensate the developers have added a new mode called Legion where you select a collection of combatants and play out a series of battles against the AI across the levels. This is really a glorified arcade mode where you can switch between multiple characters without having to go back to the menu screen, but this is also the kind of modes a game like this needs on a portable system.
With all of that aside if you can get past its setbacks, BlazBlue Portable is one fine piece of software. The complexity of the battle system and plethora of modes and unlockables really beef up the experience. For instance the characters within the game are some of the most obscure and appealing for a game in some time. The traditional badass Ragna, the creepy vampire girl Rachel Alucard and even a vigilante named Carl Clover who uses a doll as his sister are as interesting as they sound. Combing through their convoluted storylines and hearing the obtuse dialogue is really half of the experience. The game is so jam-packed with character and style it is hard not to have a good time just messing around with it.
The visuals are what you would expect from a ported-down version of a console game. Amazingly the bite-sized version still retains a lot of the incredible animation from the console game with just a bit more pixelization, but that is to be expected. The backgrounds are truly impressive as they sport some creative animations and really make each stage feel different from the rest. The one area this game does not skimp out on is presentation and whether you like it or not, you can’t help but respect it.
BlazBlue Portable is truly a remarkable title that fans of the original will appreciate. If you like fighting games and have already experienced Arc’s latest this version is certainly not going to deliver a brand new experience; in fact it may frustrate you due to technical limitations. However, if you love fighting games and don’t mind playing them on a portable console with cramped controls you will be hard pressed to find a better experience out there. BlazBlue may define obscurity, but it also proves that 2D fighters can still be the cream of the crop.
Review copy provided by publisher.