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BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger Review

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While there's certainly substance to Arc's 2D fighter, you have to dig through so many layers of loud music and flashy visuals that the whole experience becomes a bit exhausting.


The story mode wants you to play through a series of poorly written tales for each character. 
If we could post some kind of chart that would track my interest level in BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, it would start out pretty high. Going in as someone who played a fair amount of Arc System Works' Battle Fantasia and at least enjoyed the early games in the Guilty Gear line, I was definitely interested in seeing what they could do in another new, non-Guilty-Gear sort of game. Upon actually playing it, I was pretty disappointed by a lot of the character design and basics of how it played. Over time, I figured out what's what with the various systems of BlazBlue, but it felt like the more I learned about how to play the game well, the less I enjoyed it. While there's nothing broken about the gameplay in BlazBlue, the fighting genre's recently revitalized and re-popularized state gives players plenty of recent options to choose from. So it's pretty tough for me to imagine anyone willingly choosing BlazBlue given the other games that are out there.

BlazBlue has been described as a spiritual successor to Arc's Guilty Gear series, and it shows. The game makes use of large, well-animated fighters and colorful backgrounds. It also seems to constantly pump screaming guitar rock out of the speakers at every possible moment. It even plays fast and loose with the English language, referring to rounds as "rebels" for reasons I'll probably never quite understand. While the games certainly aren't identical, it definitely feels like a game made for fans of Guilty Gear to play when they aren't playing Guilty Gear.

Not that Guilty Gear or BlazBlue are so esoteric that they're unrecognizable to outsiders. BlazBlue's most interesting element is that one of the game's four buttons--the drive button--does something entirely different depending on which character you play. For more standard characters like Ragna or Jin, they have drive-based attacks that have extra effects, such as the ability to steal life from an opponent or freeze a foe solid for a few seconds. But then there's Rachel, who can control the wind by pressing drive along with a direction, momentarily impacting projectiles and jumps for both players. Or Carl, a young boy who rolls around with a robot doll named Nirvana. When you hold drive while using Carl, you get direct control of Nirvana. This makes all of the characters feel pretty different, though it had the side effect of making me want to stick to one or two characters, rather than experiment with the entire roster. I'm sure Rachel's wind control is good for something, but I was left with zero desire to find out what.

In combat you can double jump, cancel out of just about anything, and generally freak out and bounce around the screen. 
The rest of the game's systems are a bit easier to wrap your mind around. You've got a super meter that fills as you fight, allowing you to execute super attacks ("distortion drives") or, in the final round of a fight against an opponent with low health, you can attempt an astral heat, which instantly kills your foe with a flashy attack. The catch is that most of the players start out with their AHs locked, forcing you to complete arcade mode with each character to unlock all of the moves.

In addition to that standard arcade mode, there's also a standard training mode and a story mode that takes you through a ton of incredibly tedious dialogue about a story that I found to be absolutely indecipherable. Apparently there's some robot girl who has the face of some other girl? And she wants to merge with Ragna by killing him because he has some kind of beast inside of him? That's as close as I can get to describing what's happening here. Obviously, having a quality story isn't a necessity for a fighting game, but when you're devoting an entire separate mode to making your way through more dialogue than fights... with each character... you'd be right to expect something that resembles coherence. While it's certainly possible that it all makes sense when you clear every character's story, the nonsense you'd have to subject yourself to in order to see that moment is substantial and frightening.

The high point of BlazBlue is the way that its online is set up. In ranked matches, you see cards for each player as you're connecting that show off a win/loss record, player level, and the two characters that player chooses the most. In unranked games, up to six players can connect and rotate through fights as the other players spectate. However, you can't join an unranked match once a fight is happening, so finding rooms that are already running yet still joinable can be something of a pain unless you're coordinating with friends. In unranked games, you can alter the way players rotate in and out of a battle, disable the Easy-Operation-style controls that allow you to perform specials and supers using only the right analog stick, allow or disallow pumped-up "unlimited" versions of some characters, and so on. But the best part is that most of the online fights I've gotten into have been very smooth.

In addition to the game's aggressive soundtrack, there's a lot to BlazBlue's audio. Or, at least, it's very noisy. The characters are constantly shouting as you perform moves--moreso than in most other fighting games. There's also an announcer voice that calls out every counter by saying "counter." Considering that you can counter almost anything in this game, it seems like the announcer is calling out counters every couple of seconds. All of the audio just becomes exhausting over time. Graphically, the game certainly has its technical chops, but it's at least as busy as the audio. The art style is probably a matter of taste, though. I found a lot of the character designs to be uninteresting. Sure, they animate well, but other than Iron Tager attempting to use a teensy cell phone in his win pose, I didn't really find a lot of charm with the way it all looks.

BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is probably a game best suited for people who have been playing fighting games for a long time, but even then, its style seems to be deliberately divisive. It's certainly worth trying out if you're a fan of the genre, but it's entirely possible that you'll find the whole thing to be a big, loud mess. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
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Posted by BenderUnit22

Disappointing that Jeff felt the need to review it, it was clear from the beginning that this game was not for him at all.

Edited by C2C

I think this is the type of game where you either really like it from the get go, or it just won't click for you.  It didn't click with me so I share most of the sentiments of this review.

Posted by musdy

Didn't expect anything more.

Posted by Hailinel

I disagree with Jeff.  Personally, in the limited amount of time that I've played it, I've found the game a much more engrossing, rewarding experience than the big fish of the year in Street Fighter IV.  Superior online features, a deeper storyline, more diverse characters, more varied combat mechanics, and a more interesting audio-visual style all add up to what may become my fighting game of the year once I've had time to dig even deeper into it.

Edited by Cyst

Called it.

::EDIT: Another thing I wanted to mention. If a game isn't for you, it isn't for you. I mean, Street Fighter IV got 5 stars, but I know several people that think its too tech for them. This is very similar. It seems to me that there was only one real fighting game fan at the office, so they let him review it, even though he knew full well he wasn't going to give this game a favorable review.

That's just wrong. If you don't like a game, don't review it. There are plenty of BlazBlue fans that will.

Posted by CanuckEh

Nah, pretty damn good review actually. If anything, I think the game's biggest failing is that it doesn't make itself inviting enough to non-fans. It just throws a bunch of complex characters at the player and leaves him or her to figure out how to do anything with them.

Posted by VonSohn

"While the game's certainly aren't identical"

Edited by watertails

Grammatical error at the end of the second paragraph.
"While the game's certainly aren't identical"

Jeff, you used to be cool. That being said, I agreed with just about everything in the review. BlazBlue is mad incomprehensible to nubs.


Edit: Ninja'D

Posted by MagusMaleficus

Bottom line: Jeff doesn't have a high enough attention span for Japanese insanity like Blazblue. Don't sweat it Jeff. Japanese insanity isn't for everyone. Personally, I'm all for a little Japanese insanity, provided it comes in video game form.

Posted by Ouroboros

The games amazing, please read readers reviews potential buyers and dont take Jeffs review to heart.

Posted by Fiveoutafive

I agree with the review, especially after seeing the quick look, that I should stick with my copy of KoF xi :)

Posted by Cyst
@Ouroboros said:
" The games amazing, please read readers reviews potential buyers and dont take Jeffs review to heart. "

Quoted for truth.
Posted by FrEeZe

I wonder who on Giant Bomb has the highest fondness for crazy fighting games like the Marvel VS games and Blazblue

Posted by zhinse

Its funny to see all you people so darn mad. i like the game personally and i have much respect for Jeffs word on it. For the most part i agree with jeff. There's a lot of bullshit in the game. The menu's are overly busy to the point of straining my eyes and the music comes off as rather bland (though i like rachel's and taokaka's theme for being less guitary) even though i am a fan of rock. It just has a lot of elements of the stuff i dont like about anime anymore. I used to be very into this culture, but a lot of it has made me sick to my stomach. 

that said. i love the game. 

Posted by hide

As others have said, I don't see why he even reviewed this. Or why I commented.. 

Posted by Delta_Ass
@Cyst said:
" Called it.::EDIT: Another thing I wanted to mention. If a game isn't for you, it isn't for you. I mean, Street Fighter IV got 5 stars, but I know several people that think its too tech for them. This is very similar. It seems to me that there was only one real fighting game fan at the office, so they let him review it, even though he knew full well he wasn't going to give this game a favorable review. That's just wrong. If you don't like a game, don't review it. There are plenty of BlazBlue fans that will. "
So only fans of a game should review that game? Only fans of BlazBlue should review Blazblue?

Do you know how insane you sound right now? Do you?
Posted by Jeffsekai

I dont know why you reviwed this, you clearly dont like it, because its bad..you just don't understand it same with Soul caliber 4 ...both of them are better than 3\5 but o well. KOF 12 will certainly get a 5/5 now...I feel as tho I cant trust this site for fighting games o well.

Posted by CanuckEh
@Delta_Ass said:
" @Cyst said:
" Called it.::EDIT: Another thing I wanted to mention. If a game isn't for you, it isn't for you. I mean, Street Fighter IV got 5 stars, but I know several people that think its too tech for them. This is very similar. It seems to me that there was only one real fighting game fan at the office, so they let him review it, even though he knew full well he wasn't going to give this game a favorable review. That's just wrong. If you don't like a game, don't review it. There are plenty of BlazBlue fans that will. "
So only fans of a game should review that game? Only fans of BlazBlue should review Blazblue?Do you know how insane you sound right now? Do you? "
Thank you.
Posted by thecleric

So he shouldn't review it if he didn't like it? I don't understand, no one had an issue when he reviewed Conduit, which he clearly didn't like, but the fanboys come out the woodworks for their moe game.

Posted by Izick

Interesting and honest review

Posted by neoepoch
@Delta_Ass said:
" So only fans of a game should review that game? Only fans of BlazBlue should review Blazblue?Do you know how insane you sound right now? Do you? "
He sounds very insane. If fans only reviewed games, all reviews would be 10s, 5 stars, whatever. You need a wide range of reviews and audiences to see how the game feels to different people, because it everyone has different tastes and these reviews show if you match up with this person's taste or another.
Posted by ImperiousRix

Hmmm, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe got five stars and this gets three?
Double hmmmm...

Posted by Cyst
@Delta_Ass @neoepoch: No, you misunderstand me.

If I don't like anime, I'm not going to knock it because I don't understand some of the things it does. There are plenty of people that do, so why complain about a certain aspect of the design.

This man did nothing to recognize some of the more intricate things in this game, like the great voice acting and the insane amount of unlockables that fans of the genre would enjoy. He did notice the online, which is great.

What I'm trying to say is this. If you don't understand why a game is made the way it is, take the time to find out, don't knock it just because you don't get it.
Posted by Agent_Lost

No real surprise here. The game is just not for everyone.

Posted by C2C
@Jeffsekai said:
" I dont know why you reviwed this, you clearly dont like it, because its bad..you just don't understand it same with Soul caliber 4 ...both of them are better than 3\5 but o well. KOF 12 will certainly get a 5/5 now...I feel as tho I cant trust this site for fighting games o well. "

@Delta_Ass said:
So only fans of a game should review that game? Only fans of BlazBlue should review Blazblue?Do you know how insane you sound right now? Do you? "

Posted by mythus

blazblue, like guilty gear, is a competitive game with a high learning curve.  sfiv's broken online engine, maybe even incomplete when compared to the fighters this year, also suffered from balancing issue, while appealing in its simplicity.   blazblue, on the other hand, has a balanced roster  w/ an incredible variety of fighting style for each one. yet, as noted before, it is difficult to introduce.  People who loved guilty gear and it's crazy speed engine will come to blazblue while introducing anime lovers to the over the top roster of characters.   Jeff may not like Blazblue, but it's his opinion just as it was when MK vs DC was reviewed.

Posted by Ineedaname
@MagusMaleficus said:
" Bottom line: Jeff doesn't have a high enough attention span for Japanese insanity like Blazblue. Don't sweat it Jeff. Japanese insanity isn't for everyone. Personally, I'm all for a little Japanese insanity, provided it comes in video game form. "
He has a Japanese Xbox, I won't tell you what for though.

However if he's assigned the game, or purchases it to review, what's the point in him passing it to someone who likes the game to give it 5/5 =/ You should all by now know the type of games the people running this site like, based on that and if you like many of the same games as Jeff maybe you'll agree.
It's a review by one person =|
Posted by addictedtopinescent

This is one of the first times I completly disagree with Jeff on a review, I love blazblue. The art style, crazy action, fun and diverse characters and a pretty well balanced system, 

Posted by neoepoch
@Cyst said:
" @Delta_Ass @neoepoch: No, you misunderstand me.If I don't like anime, I'm not going to knock it because I don't understand some of the things it does. There are plenty of people that do, so why complain about a certain aspect of the design.This man did nothing to recognize some of the more intricate things in this game, like the great voice acting and the insane amount of unlockables that fans of the genre would enjoy. He did notice the online, which is great.What I'm trying to say is this. If you don't understand why a game is made the way it is, take the time to find out, don't knock it just because you don't get it. "
I'm pretty sure he did mention a bit about the VO in that everyone shouts everything, which maybe that is not enough for you, but for me I get the picture. Maybe they speak fine and well in the cutscenes, but having good VO doesn't make up for the fact that the story is nonsens (not that story matters in fighting games much anyway) so that is pretty much a non issue. And that you have to UNLOCK special moves, is ridiculous and a huge pain in the ass.

In short, dude has been playing the game for weeks and still hasn't found anything intersting to him that would make it a gem that stands out in a sea of fighting games. It may stand out to you, but not to him and it is a damn opinion. And people go to reviews for opinions about games and buying advice, you are a damn fool if you go to just one person for a review, which is why there are many sites out there and reader reviews.
Posted by Cyst

So what I'm getting from you guys is this:

If a virtual chess game was released, with a slew of other games, and a reviewer that clearly loves Checkers way more because of how much more simpler it is, then they should be allowed to review a game that is very much in the same vein as Virtual Chess, even though, before going into the review, they knew they would hate it?

That's a waste of time, and it does nothing for actual fans of said genre, that don't know the reviewer hates their type of game anyway.

Posted by Nasar7
@BenderUnit22 said:
" Disappointing that Jeff felt the need to review it, it was clear from the beginning that this game was not for him at all. "

Posted by stinky

Jeff was too kind. i do not know what drugs other people are taking to enjoy something as half baked as this kitchen sink game.

Posted by BenderUnit22

Well, for one thing, Jeff hates anime so the entire aesthetic of the game is already lost for him. He also dismissed the game early in the quick look for not having a "Ryu". Well, if you want a Ryu, go play Street Fighter. I agree that BlazBlue is a tough game to learn especially because there aren't a lot of good training options and all the characters play very differently. But it's also nice to see a rich palette of characters where not everyone is a Japanese karate dude or the American version of him or the gender swap version of him or the pathetic idiot version in pink suit of him or the evil demon version of him or the old man version of him.  It's also a superficial complaint. If you don't know anything about Street Fighter and get 4, how the fuck would you know how to throw a fireball other than, you know, learning it just like you would as you get BlazBlue and learn how to play a character.

In the end, it is just Jeff's nature of reviewing games and it's why I like his attitude towards gaming. He loves games with a passion and he hates games with a passion and I don't always agree with him. In cases where a game just isn't for him though, I'd hope he could detect it and don't feel the need to review it. I mean, I couldn't see him giving Arma 2 a good score, because he himself says it's not the type of game he could enjoy.

Posted by DJmizuhara

I can't believe how NOBODY is talking about the VERY cool PSP remote play feature, WHY? It's awesome...and it has VERY little lag you can even play online against other players via PSP remote play. Remote play seems to be a feature people seem to quickly forget, which is sad because it's AWESOME. 

Posted by Lies

Controversy in 3...2... nope, it's already here.

May as well sit back and enjoy the fireworks.

Posted by Leadcat
@Agent_Lost said:
" No real surprise here. The game is just not for everyone. "
I think this sums it up. The game might be good at what it does, but a LOT of people are going to find it horribly inaccesible.

Oh well, cue people crying over it.


Posted by Hyuzen

"So it's pretty tough for me to imagine anyone willingly choosing BlazBlue given the other games that are out there."

I have never seriously played a fighting game before, but everytime i see BlazBlue i get more and more interested, and i still have no drive to go play SF4.

But i will say its stupid to say he shouldn't review this game if he doesn't like it.

Posted by ZombiePie

But what if I have similar tastes like Jeff? If the only reviews I see are glowing and positive but I'm not represented in the pool of video game journalists reviewing a game I could be misled. Different facets of gamers need to be represented for the reviews for games otherwise it would just be one large circle jerk. The fact that Jeff didn't like BlazBlu and the fact that I have similar tastes to Jeff means that I also wouldn't like BlazBlu, and that's a hell of a lot more helpful then a plot summary review that you get at a lot of video game websites.

Moderator
Posted by mythus
@BenderUnit22 said:
" Well, for one thing, Jeff hates anime so the entire aesthetic of the game is already lost for him. "
not quite true.  if that was the case, the endurance run would be over.  as stated before, even though i love this game and prefer it besides all other fighters this year, it's an opinion.  his opinion is as you see.  i don't think we have much to discuss on how superb the game is with a high metacritic score of 91, yet we must adhere to opinions.  if we force him to review this game upon our opinions; we would be no better than gamespot w/ kane and lynch.
Posted by Fiveoutafive

I swear if I hear "Don't review a game you don't like" I will do something terrible like watch Postal. Get real people you make me want to hate the internet.

Posted by EndrzGame

It's just his opinion people, don't sweat it. IMO, BlazBlue is the best fighting game to come out so far in this generation. I've always loved ARC System Works games, and knew that I would love this one.
Now, when Jeff gives KOF XII a 5/5 I won't be butt-hurt because I think KOF is shit and will always be shit. But that's MY opinion.

Posted by Sword5

Jeff nailed this game in his closing statement. However, I personally felt that this game had more personality than Street Fighter IV.

BlazBlue also gets bonus points in my book for not gimping its design to force people into buying a $40 or $135 controller.

Posted by BenderUnit22
@mythus: Let me quote Jeff on this one: "Anime is for jerks." That's a strong statement.

Giant Bomb doesn't review Madden either, because none of them feel like the game speaks to them at all.
Posted by Osphere

For those of you just looking at the star count: of course that's always going to be debatable, it's a clunky, standard rating system. 

That's why you should read the actual review before you condemn anyone.

Posted by Symphony
@BenderUnit22:  They don't like sports games, and//or football games as a whole (well cept for Blitz from what I hear). However, fighting games is an entirely different matter and Jeff's reviewed plenty of em. Had he NOT reviewed BlazBlue, there probably would have been a lot of sulking and nerdrage and cries of "omg favoritism! why'd you rate these ones but not BlazBlue?"

And the whole "Anime is for jerks" quote.. really, is that your best argument? I'm a huge anime fan and I certainly didn't take it seriously. Did it affect you personallyor are you only bringing it up as a weak argument?
Posted by Ping5000

I've gone through 5 bags of popcorn.

Posted by BenderUnit22
@Symphony: I wouldn't have thought this at all. I think that's why Quick Looks are great. They provide a look at the game without the need to justify any sentiment on a game.
Posted by Fallen189

Looks trashy.

Posted by Chocobo_Blitzer

Well, I've been kind of interested in Blazblue recently, and though I wasn't expecting a review from Jeff, I can't say it was very helpful. This whole thing could probably be summed up as "shit be crazy" and the quick look had already done that.

Alright, so apparently it has a high learning curve. That's useful information. But is it worth the time/effort investment? Jeff seemed kind of disinterested in the answer to that. Which seems kind of important to know in a fighting game. Vaguely going "it's probably cool with fighting game fans" isn't real helpful.

The reviewers seem kind of split on this one though, I may have to spend money to settle this curiosity.

Posted by CrescendOtaku

Even though I love this game, I actually agree with every point Jeff mentioned. Sometimes with two high speed characters flying around the screen, the game can be insanely chaotic and hard to keep track of. Its really refreshing to read a review that mentions the points that may turn off some people.

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