BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger review
Loud and obnoxious - and that's why we love it
Oh boy, was I impatient or what? Blazblue was released last year in Japan and North America, and we had to wait a good 10 months before Australia and Europe got their copies. I thought that we got our copies only maybe a few days later then them, but I guess with some games, they take their sweet time to get them shipped overseas. Either way, this is a fantastic fighting game. Now, I know that it'd look dated in the eyes of the industry due to sprite based graphics and 2D movement, but the effects of all of the special moves, the amount of button combinations through the roof, the voice acting in the story mode and online modes will tell you otherwise.
The story of Blazblue revolves around a wanted criminal known as the 'Grim Reaper', Ragna the Bloodedge, and the overbearing Novus Orbis Librarium establishment that Ragna seeks to topple. Throw in some Library officials, vigilantes after Ragna's bounty, and a few shady figures and you have the gist of the story. Every character has their own story mode which plays out through the fights themselves and lengthy cutscenes that are fairly static, with pictures of the characters speaking to each other. Several times during each character's story, you have the option to decide what path to take. These decisions lead to different opponents and story paths and may ultimately determine which of the character's several endings you receive. The overall plot is extremely convoluted and can be difficult to understand. Completing every character's story mode unlocks the supposed true ending. This answers several questions, but you'll still likely be scratching your head at some parts unless you happen to be a very smart and comprehensive gamer. A gripe some of you may have is the anime styled humor that's uttered by a certain character. For those who don't know, anime styled humor is often... well, very corny to say the least.
But lets be honest - Blazblue has a fantastic cast of fully realized characters that are either compelling or entertaining in their own way. The fact that Blazblue is a fighting game that actually has a decent story to begin with is worthy of praise, but the fact that it manages to go even further beyond that is certainly admirable. While the story mode still does pale in comparison to something more fully realized like an RPG, the folks at ARC System Works really deserve credit here for giving players a reason to get behind a particular character aside from 'His/her moves are good.' I'm starting to get a bit of a Soul Calibur 3 vibe from this storyline, since it was pretty detailed.
There are a few modes to choose from - arcade, story, versus, score attack and network (or as we call it, online). Each of the modes are self explanatory, and knowing you people, you'll either be in story mode going through each of the interesting storylines - and there's a fair amount of replay value to be had, as there are alternate pathways and multiple endings, which is always awesome - and the online mode, where you fight against players from across the globe, though if you got a friend with another controller, versus will see some light, and if you're not quite ready for online, hey, arcade and score attack are calling for your name! I guarantee that a decent amount of Aussies and Europeans (see: the people who didn't import this game out of sheer impatience) will be slugging it out in the arcade and story modes before even thinking of online play, unless they're experienced players.
Redefines capping one's ass.
Blazblue is definitely a tricky fighting game to get the hang of. There are three basic movies, varying in speed and power. There are Drive attacks, which are basic special attacks, each unique to each character. A combination of these attacks allow for combos and special attacks that can put the hurt on any opponent. As you hit the opponents, you'll fill up a gauge known as the heat gauge, and when you fill up the heat gauge enough, you can activate distortion drives, which are your usual flashy special moves, though the main difference is that these moves are very flashy. Landing the hit will hit the opponent for massive damage, and honestly, who doesn't like looking at flashy moves?
Blocking is definitely a bit more heavily explored than... say, Soul Calibur. There's the simple, regular, everyday block that... well, blocks, though don't go relying on it, because those can be broken. So why not resort to the second block - the barrier! Holding A and B brings up a barrier, but holding this too long drains your barrier gauge, and you don't want that to empty, or else, you'll be taking more damage. The final kind of block is the instant block, which has strict timing, but quicker blocking animation, allowing you to get some hits in after executing the block.
Believe it or not, those are simple moves. Now let's go for the more advanced techniques - for example, rapid cancels! At the cost of 50% of the maximum heat gauge, you can cancel an opponent's combo, and give them a taste of their own medicine. You can also strike the opponent while they're in the middle of a combo to counter them. The final advanced technique is the barrier burst, which is a bit of an equalizer and a desperation move. At the cost of no longer being able to use your barrier and taking more damage than normal, you can send your opponents flying to the side, or break their guard.
Yeah, this is a complicated fighter indeed. If you've played through Guilty Gear, you'll probably have a better idea of how things run then if you.. well, didn't. The best way to put it, is that it's a very combo driven fighting game, meaning you'll string together attacks in order to crush all who stand in your way. As tricky as it is to get the hang of at first, it's also very fun to play through. Oh sure, you'll lose because you don't get it, but you'll still have a blast just figuring out every nook and cranny when it comes to each of the fighters until you find one that fits your play style, and don't worry, there are only 12 fighters to choose from. 12 VERY different fighters, and those differences come from the special attacks. Trust me on this bit - you ought to get the hang of that character you want to use, because you'll be torn to shreds online otherwise, and hey, if you want to scope out the competition, join a server and spectate! So simple! You'll pick up on some choice strategies watching people fight each other, and employ them into your strategy. There's so much to this game, that it's hard to refuse this game. The only reason you won't have fun is because you don't like fighting games - simple as that. 95% of fighting game fans I've spoken with, both casual and hardcore, love this game; that definitely says something.
Typical special attack.
I have to hand it down to the artists - they definitely know how to make loud, bombastic attacks never seem overbearing. It's all colorful, vibrant, and larger than life, with big 2D sprites placed onto 3D backgrounds. You can tell that there was a lot of attention paid to detail in this department, as every animation is smooth, and everything, from the backgrounds to the special attacks, are vastly detailed. It's a feast for the eyes.. literally, it's like a rich and abundant meal on your TV!
The soundtrack is also pretty good. A bit of a mix of metal, techno, and orchestral music.. that probably didn't sound too good, but trust me when I say that it all manages to make for an energetic soundtrack. Not so much the operatic tracks as the metal and techno ones, but all the songs make for some nice fighting tunes. Each level has their own separate tune, while the online, versus and training modes allow you to pick your poison. On top of all of this, the voice acting is excellent, never taking away from the experience. It really gets you into the story... Yes, there's an option to switch between Japanese and English vocals, but there's no excuse to change to Japanese, English speakers/players.
Overall, an 8.5/10. It's an excellent fighting game that every enthusiast should get their hands on. Lots of replay value in the story mode and contains the best online mode you'll see in a fighting game, as well as a short and sweet roster of characters to try out. Gripes? The story is definitely too complicated to grasp the meaning of, and the screen ends up feeling cluttered at times. It's also probably a good idea if you aren't a hater of anime, because this game leans a bit more onto the anime side of things... not a whole lot, but it's prevalent throughout... I hope it doesn't rule out too many people. Might help if you're not a Guilty Gear fanboy, because you'll probably dislike this game, as this is "inferior", or at least, according to them. Other than that, I certainly recommend this game to people, especially fighting game fans.
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