Versus fighters seem to come in few flavors now a days. Most have adopted into a 3-D landscape, yet few have been able to achieve the success of Soul Calibur in that regard. Others have gone 3-D in graphics but 2-D in playing field, similar to Street Fighter IV. Thankfully, Arc System Works, the developers behind great games like “Guilty Gear, “ have added a new member into the genre, known as “BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger.”
“Blazblue” is one of the rare 2-D fighting games to into full H-D graphics and not become redundant or poor in it’s quality, as other, more fabled franchises such as “King of Fighters” have attempted, and failed to do. Featuring crisp animation oozing with style and showcasing some adequate substance, “Blazblue” is not a genre- reviver, but it definitely keeps 2-D fighting games alive and well against their 3-D counterparts.
One of the reasons is thanks to a well developed fighting system. Emulated off of “Guilty Gear” in many respects, the fast paced action thanks to hard hitting combos and unique special attacks lead to great strategies when using one of the twelve fighters featured in the game. And surprisingly, all of the fighters are remarkably balanced. Take for example, the character Iron Tager. He is the typical “hulk” character, slow but powerful. He also has moves that magnetize opponents to him, which can be used to not only draw enemies close, but to keep them close so he can pummel them to the dust. Conversely, Taokakka, the small, absent-minded feline like character, is fast and furious, offering high flying combos and great duck maneuvers that allow her to get under, or over, characters special moves if done correctly.
Each fighter also has a storyline to follow in the story mode. Again, thanks to a well done presentation, it actually adds to the experience then it does in terms of retracting it, but it still suffers from the pitfalls of poor story writing. The story is fleshed out, but to view it, you need to know when to win and lose with your characters, leading to a ton of backtracking and trial and error with all 12 fighters and more than likely too much frustration for the players.
Now some have said that the story mode in Blazblue is miles ahead of games like Soul Calibur and Mortal Kombat, and this is definitely true. But on that point, it still pales in comparison to other games in general. It may be a benchmark for how to conduct stories in the genre, but not a measure of a good story overall.
Thankfully, the controls are fluid and intuitive, and pulling off special moves is relatively easy, especially when using a 360 controller. Still, a joystick is likely needed to become a master in this game, because frankly, it will be difficult to pull off moves in succession without one. It also doesn’t help the fact that the gameplay is tough, sometimes almost uncompromising, when fighting opponents both human and A.I. This is definitely a game for fighting fans.
The multiplayer, of course, is the strongest point of the game. Fighting online leads to special license system, similar to “Street Fighter IV” and “Soul Calibur” in where it tracks win/loss records, levels you up, and accesses you to fighting tougher opponents online. Like “Guilty Gear” and other Arc system games, the key is combos and manipulation, and for newcomers, this will be a difficult wall to pass.
The games style though, is definitely commendable. Distinguishly Japanese in it’s anime art form, the mix between sci-fi and steam punk in the art design is impressive and a breath of fresh air in many respects. A lot of elements of this are seen in the backgrounds, but even the characters themselves reflect the BlazBlue world in many respects. Plus the design choices for each fighter is just as impressive. All twelve combatants stand out in some form, and while many can compare Ragna and Jin to Sol and Ky from Guilty Gear, each stands alone thanks to balanced move sets and awesome hand drawn graphical style.
The game also features hallmarks from guilty Gear as well. Quirky voice over’s done by excellent voice actors, amazing special effects, and hard driven, kick as rock anthems intermixed with Japanese techno and gothic organ’s in the soundtrack. It is memorable and unforgettable at the same time, but also nothing new if you are familiar with Arc system games.
“BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger” is the definition of a niche title. It is flashy to some in terms of the 2-D, a turn off to others who prefer 3-D. Its’ control scheme is tight and well thought out, or difficult to comprehend. Its characters movesets are balanced and reflect different play styles, or it offers no wiggle room to experiment. Such are the hallmarks of versus fighters, but make no mistake, those who are looking for a challenging and engaging battle, should look out for “BlazBlue.”
Final Score- B+