Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Review: BlazBlue- Calamity Trigger

I put BlazBlue, available for the 360 and PS3 right meow, at the top of my list for games to get in July and, after pouring mucho hours into this meaty fighting title, I've gotta say, I'm a genius.

BlazBlue (Pronounced Blaze Blue) is a Japanese-style 2D fighter. The Japanese part explains the odd spelling of the name. It also explains the anime inspired roster of characters as well as the convoluted story that makes nearly no sense at first. By the end of the game, you kind of have an idea of what is maybe going on...Sort of...Kind of.

But none of that should dissuade you from playing this title. Besides, who players a fighting game for the story anyway?

What we have here are twelve characters with as many arenas to fight in. In a day and age where it seems like every fighting roster is stretching into the twentys and thirtys, a slim 12-man selection might seem like a ripoff at first. Believe me when I say this is the most diverse cast of characters I have ever seen and, without a doubt, the most balanced. There are no carbon copies here. Everyone, from the nimble cat-girl Taokaka to the hulking Iron Tager and strategic Rachel Alucard, has something unique to offer. No two characters play alike and all require different strategies to master.

The artwork in BlazBlue is eye melting and the music is fantastic. Coming from the guys who brought us all the Guilty Gear games, I would expect nothing less. Easily the most visually and aurally pleasing fighter I've ever played and one of the best reasons to own an HD television.

When it comes to modes, you've got a full set ranging from training (with a ridiculous amount of tweaks to practice literally any situation you can imagine), a points rush mode, arcade mode, versus mode, story mode (complete with loads of text and nifty artwork), a replay theater for saved matches, and, of course, online (which allows ranked and unranked matches and the added bonus of six-man rooms wherein two players compete while the others watch and wait their turn, just like you would play in a room full of friends in front of a single TV).

But what really matters in a fighting game is the fighting, and this is where BlazBlue delivers the knockout punch. Combat is kept to a simple four button method, not including taunt, with light, medium and heavy attacks, as well as a "drive" button. The drive maneuvers, putting it very lightly, are basically noob friendly triggers that provide pretty effects to make even beginners feel like they're doing something awesome. Combo moves can even be pre-set on the right analog stick, making it possible for pick-up-and-play folks to execute combos without having to memorize complex button inputs.

At its core, the fighting seems simple. But once you spend a little time with BlazBlue, the complexity really starts to shine through. With multiple blocks, counters and breaks, character-specific gauges and drive abilities, and a "heat gauge" that has to be built up to activate the bigger combos, as well as super "distortion" and "astral" finishes, BlazBlue becomes the deepest fighter to date.

The highest praise I can give BlazBlue is that it reminds me of Super Street Fighter II and the original Mortal Kombat. Not so much in content in that it has once again made the fighting genre feel new to me. For button mashers and those who prefer to really sink their teeth into a complex fighting system, BlazBlue has a lot to offer.

Prepare for sore thumbs. This fighting game will keep you coming back for more.

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