Giant Bomb Review

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BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger Review

3
  • PS3
  • X360

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. 
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. 
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+