Deep, Beautiful, Fun
I'm not one to play fighters. Typically, I find that fighting games involve a very hardcore fanbase in which I cannot for the life of me hope to become a part of. People know the move sets to every character in every fighter I've ever wanted to play to a T and quite frankly that's very off-putting (not to mention I get owned in the blink of an eye). When I first heard of BlazBlue, I personally didn't think of getting it. Another fancy 2D fighter? Alright. But I kept hearing more and more about it, how it was the first game in the series, how it looked in high-def, how deep the fighting system was, so on and so forth. Needless to say my interest was piqued. Looking through some videos, I thought the fighting would be slow and sluggish. I honestly thought the main draw of the game would be it's high resolution sprites. Well, I was wrong.
BlazBlue hit all the sweet spots I was hoping to get from the first fighting game I've purchased in years. Beautiful animations, amazingly detailed and big sprites that move fast, tons of combos you can do, deep fighting system, unique characters, and excellent balance. Let's get into some details.
BlazBlue was developed by Aksys Games, more popularly known as the developers of Guilty Gear. Knowing this, any fan of Guilty Gear can rest assured that BlazBlue has the same care and consideration put into it. Each character has their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses that vary vastly and provide ample room to continually improve your skills. While this adds quite a bit of replayability, the characters are so different to the point that it already makes the sttep learning curve even longer. Sometimes, it feels as though you're being forced to stick to one character and get extremely good at him or her as opposed to trying to learn all the characters well.
That aside, though, BlazBlue offers the gamer a plethora of cool looking attacks and specials that will please the eye. Like any good fighter, the more devastating the attack, the harder it is to pull of in combat. In single player, specials (called Distortions or Astral Heats in-game) can be activated as simply as moving the right analog stick in one of four directions. However, if you want to play with the big boys and participate in online matches or tournaments, this feature is disabled and you'll have to actually input button combinations. After playing using the control stick for a while, it was slightly daunting to try and attempt the huge combos mid-battle, but if done right, it's far more rewarding than pointing your stick in a random direction.
The game can be played in several different ways. The first of which is story mode, where you can play as the various characters, learn their background, and play through the story. Each character alters how the story plays out so one character's ending may not be the same as another's.
Another game mode is your basic arcade campaign. Pick a character, defeat your foes, get to the end, pretty basic stuff. There is a bit of story injected into it, though, so don't go skipping the cutscenes.
Then there is a versus mode, where you can play one on one matches against a computer or a friend. I've been spending most of my time on here because it's devilishly fun to play with a friend of similar skill. You could also take versus online and play with random players across the country. To be honest, this should be the last thing you do since you will more than likely not fare very well. Make sure you're confident in your skills and don't have to rely on the right stick to pull off your special attacks. My advice is get the achievement/trophy for playing online for the first time and give it a good week or two before you come back.
As you play, you'll unlock things in the Gallery section. Here, you can see different stills from the game, character art, some videos, and listen to some in-game music. I found trying to unlock these give the game another boost in replayability and entertainment.
BlazBlue, unlike many fighting games, actually has a coherent story to go along with it taking place in your typical post-apocalyptic anime fantasy world. Some might say the story isn't very well done, but it serves to move the game along and I, for one, appreciate the attempt to actually put some kind of plot in a fighting game. The story plays out through the eyes of different characters and it's possible to alter the course of how another character goes through their journey. Each character has a separate campaign that consists of about seven battles, most following a similar pattern.
Being paranoid about spoiling anything, I won't say anymore. The story is by no means a Bioshock or Final Fantasy, but if you go in with low expectations you just might be pleasantly surprised.
If you're reading this, you've more than likely seen some videos (or even screenshots) of BlazBlue. Needless to say the game looks absolutely amazing, especially in high definition, and such is to be expected from the makers of Guilty Gear. The characters are all individually hand-drawn and quirky in their own way in which you can almost tell how they work in combat just by looking at them. In battle, they move brilliantly and quickly almost as if they were three dimensional. The cutscenes feature big character stills that are drawn beautifully and if you like anime you will definitely appreciate the time that went into drawing them. The backgrounds are, however, in 3D mixed with 2D. They aren't as stunning as the fighters on the foreground, but serve their purpose just as well.
Just to be clear, the only time you'll ever see slowdown is if there's lag in an online game. Otherwise, the game engine hold up fantastically and never hinders gameplay.
This is most likely the game's weakest point. While the soundtrack is great, there are only a few that really stand-out as excellent. The intro music is a typical J-rock/J-pop that you'd expect from anime, which isn't bad by any means, but it's nothing that'll stay in your head for a while. Regarding the English voice talent, well, it's decent, but their pronunciation of some Japanese words, like Ikaruga, is sometimes awkward and makes you wonder whether the localization team just got lazy. This problem can easily be fixed by simply switching the voices to English. Everything is subtitled so you won't have trouble understanding what they're saying if you passed the first grade.
BlazBlue was a surprise for me. I had been looking for a good fighting game but Soul Caliber and Street Fighter were just way too hardcore for me to ever try to catch up on. As a casual fighting fan, getting a new, good fighter is a dream come true, especially if you don't want to buy a Wii simply for Smash Bros. Knowing how fresh the game is helps me want to get better at it and maybe even compete. BlazBlue has all the elements of a fighter that's set to last for years; engaging combat, balanced and cool characters, and online multiplayer. This solid first entry into the BlazBlue franchise will hopefully send a message to Aksys that the fans will definitely want more and I'm almost positive they will deliver. To be honest, the game reminds me of my childhood days of playing Marvel vs Capcom 2 and the original Soul Caliber for the Dreamcast and I can definitely say it's one of my favorite fighting games of all time.