|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Arc System Work||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Aksys Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jun. 30, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
It's pretty fair to say that BlazBlue is a title that flew directly under the radar this year. With almost no pre-release buildup or trickle-fed announcements, this blip on the radar seems at first to be just another arcade-style fighter imported from Japan. However, once you boot up BlazBlue, you find out that it is a lot more than just another fighting game. This 2D fighter pretty much has the total package when it comes to what you would expect from a fighter: deep combat system, beautiful graphics, and comprehensive online modes. And, in addition to all these great facets, BlazBlue even has something extra: a comprehensive story!
The world of BlazBlue is set in the future, after a group of six warriors prevented the world from ending. These warriors came from another world, using a special type of magic to stop the world's demise. These warriors freely shared their knowledge of the magic arts with the world, but the knowledge was confined to a special Novus Orbis Librarium, and it became only accessible to elite members of society. This created a huge imbalance of power, and those who were able to access the magic texts contained in the Librarium turned into would-be dictators, wielding incredible power. After several failed uprisings, it seems that all hope has been lost for the citizens of this world, until a singular warrior, known as Mr. Grim Reaper destroys part of the Librarium and uses a previously unknown power known as BlazBlue to restore order to the world.
One of the coolest parts about the story (other than the simple fact that it exists in a fighting game) is that each character's story has multiple endings, and you'll have to make different choices in the game in order to experience all of the possible resolutions to each character's story. Luckily, the game lets you know which paths you have followed to experience each ending, and you can view a percentage of how much of each story you have experienced. Even after beating one story twice, I was only able to get to 65% of one character's story, so there is plenty for the single-player fighter to experience here.
The robust single-player experience certainly was a welcome surprise, and will certainly delight fighting fans everywhere. However, the real selling point of this title has to be its combat system. Describing it as deep is almost laughable, as the amount of combos, special attacks, and magic moves that each character can perform is staggering. Like old-school arcade titles, there are four main simple attacks: weak, medium, strong, and drive attack. The drive attack is your character's signature simple move, but like the other single-button attacks, it can be built upon with some fantastic results.
The combo system in the game is ridiculously deep, and every time I played with a certain character, I was able to discover a new and interesting combo. Simply staring up the game and experimenting in the training mode can provide some serious entertainment, and there is just so much to discover in this title that you can easily lose hours just discovering the intricacies of just one of the game's characters. In addition to regular combos, special attacks, and distortion drives (which are unique combos that build on each character's drive ability), you can also execute Astral Heat attacks, which are like BlazBlue's version of fatalities.
These special attacks can only be performed in the last round of battle and only when your opponent's HP is below 20%. As long as you know the proper button mashes, you will be treated to a cinematic attack that will blow you away. Of course, the Astral Heat attacks do come with a little bit of a catch; you will not be able to access them in the beginning and will need to unlock them as you progress through the game's other modes.
In addition to the Story mode, BlazBlue has several other modes. You've got the fairly typical versus mode, training mode, and even a score attack mode which challenges you to meet or exceed certain scores against pre-determined characters. However, the standout mode in addition to the story mode has to be the game's online mode. Dubbed Network Mode, the online component to BlazBlue is deceptively simple. Once you have successfully connected to the BlazBlue network, you can choose quick match, which allows you to jump right in to a match (either ranked or unranked). However, if you choose the second option, custom match, you will be treated to a whole host of special features that create what other fighters this generation have not been able to: a real arcade experience.