I wonder why the Guilty Gear series was never as popular as some of the other fighting games. It was incredibly stylish and deep, and it even had a complex storyline that casual fans of fighting games would go nuts over. Maybe it was just because of its relative obscurity in the United States? Was it perhaps just too complex? It could have been the timing, too, as let’s be honest: the iron is hot with Capcom back at it.
I guess it doesn’t matter now; Arc System Works, the developers of the series, no longer hold the rights to make new games in that series, so they started fresh with BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger. I think that, based on its availability, it’s simpler (but similar) gameplay, and excellent timing, BlazBlue is really going to make waves.
The core gameplay of BlazBlue is pretty standard: you and your opponent choose from twelve different characters, and then proceed to beat the crap out of each other for one ’round’ (a round ends when you or your opponent can’t get up anymore). A match is won by winning two out of three rounds, but it’s possible to change it to 3/5, 4/7, et cetera.
What makes BlazBlue different from, say, Street Fighter, is that the game’s pace is just outrageously fast and complex. Virtually every character can dash across the screen, double jump, and air dash. All characters can even chain normal attacks together, as well as perform long-winded juggles and air combos. So, the fights can really come to look like something out of a wacky action sequence from an anime.
There are only four attack buttons in BlazBlue, but this is supplemented in two ways: the first being that each attack button has an alternate attack that can be executed by holding the joystick towards the opponent. The second, more brilliant feature is the “Drive” button, or as I call it, the “do awesome stuff” button.
Each character’s drive does something completely different. For example, one character uses attacks that will freeze opponents in a block of ice, while another character can control the wind. One character uses attacks which, if they connect against his opponent, gives them magnetic properties. Afterward, all of his special moves pull his opponent towards him! These two factors will likely make those who ran from Guilty Gear‘s complexity feel more at home.
There honestly isn’t too much to complain about concerning the core gameplay. The only things I can think of are that high level play will still require you to be a combo-ing superman…and, the Burst attacks. Burst attacks are a once-a-round way to get out of any bad situation (you can use a Burst attack even while being hit). But, the problem is, after you use it, you take twice the amount of damage you usually do, making it pretty pointless to use at any time except for when you’re about to lose the round.
There are a pretty decent amount of gameplay modes. There’s your standard Arcade mode, which just pits your chosen character against the rest of the cast, a very detailed Training Mode, a Score Attack mode in which you try to beat high scores (of course), and a Story Mode.
The Story Mode is pretty complex, with characters having multiple paths based on whether or not they win or lose their storyline battles. Some characters even have third paths with obscure requirements, like winning a certain amount of fights with a super move. Overall, this isn’t my personal cup of tea, because it’s a lot of talking and the fights are only one round; but, if this sort of thing is your cup of tea, there’s a ton of fun to be had. Beating the arcade and story modes will unlock cool art, developer interviews, and even a few hilariously overpowered versions of existing characters.
Lastly, there is of course, online play. To be honest, I had incredibly low expectations after Street Fighter IV‘s dismal online play, but BlazBlue‘s netcode was surprisingly good. When looking for a match, an opponent’s relative connection to yours is indicated by a cell-phone bar icon that goes from zero to four bars. Unfortunately, weaker connections will introduce input delay, but even at the weakest connection, the input delay is not too terrible. Hardcore players would be advised to try and keep it at three bars and above, though – it’s good, but hardly undetectable to a grizzled vet.
BlazBlue keeps track of your online play with a level system; you get experience points for winning matches, and extra experience for winning matches without losing rounds, winning rounds without getting hit, landing the first attack of the match, and so on. The game also keeps track of your total wins and win ratio for Ranked and Quarter matches. This is pretty cool, and I like how the system doesn’t necessarily penalize you for losing a match.
The only other criticism I have for BlazBlue’s online play (except the input lag, which should always be optional), is the match-finding system in ranked matches. Instead of creating a room, you can search for matches, and while you’re searching for matches, other people can challenge you as well. I really liked this at first, but after ascertaining that I didn’t want to play games where the connection was lower than three bars, it began to get annoying.
You see, most people don’t seem to mind playing low connection games, so they’ll challenge you in spite of this. If you decline the match, there’s nothing stopping them from just challenging you again, and so they can keep it up as long as they like, making it very difficult for you to find a match that you want to join. There’s no way to ignore match requests in ranked, so if you run into someone annoying…good luck.
Still, despite a few hiccups in online play, there’s no denying that the core gameplay of BlazBlue is solid. It’s not as difficult to get into as Guilty Gear was, but the stylish, fast-paced gameplay is still intact. If you never got into Guilty Gear, either because it was too hard, or because you had never heard of it, now is the time to play BlazBlue. This game is more than fit to pick up where Guilty Gear left off, and it’s never been easier to pick and play. So, if you’re a fan of 2D Fighters, what are you waiting for?
Presentation The game’s look is very cool and stylish, but sometimes, it’s really hard to tell what’s going on until you’ve spent some quality time with each character.
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Blazblue is easy to learn, but difficult to master, and contains a good overall game balance: which is all you need at it’s core. Ranked lobbies, however, need to be reworked.
The heavy metal of Guilty Gear is mixed in with a variety of other epic rock. I guess I would prefer something more melodic, but the tracks are sure to get you in the mood.
It’s hard to imagine giving a fighter anything lower than a 10, but those who aren’t interested in the competitive play could lose interest after completing the story mode.
I suppose it might not be for everyone, but BlazBlue goes a long way in taking the complexities of Guilty Gear and making them more fun and accessible. You’d be crazy to pass this one up.