|System: PS Vita|
|Pub: NIS America|
|Release: April 23, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 544p|
by Robert VerBruggen
Black Rock Shooter’s origins begin with an artist's sketch of an attractive young woman with a large metal cannon for an arm. Since then it's grown into a major franchise in Japan, with everything from an eight-episode anime series to an assortment of video games. The most popular of these video games is the 2011 action/RPG Black Rock Shooter: The Game. Black Rock Shooter finally arrived in the US Tuesday as a PSP/Vita download.
The Story of BRS leaves something to be desired. The high-school caliber story stars a sexy Mega Man who awakens from her slumber to fight off the apocalypse. The localization team for the U.S. version of the game didn’t redub the dialog, so you’ll be stuck reading subtitles if you want to follow the plot. Because of the subtitles, the large number of cutscenes in the game make following along with the story a chore. At least it’s short; BRS clocks in at a solid fifteen hours.
The game is still fun to play despite the tedious story-telling thanks to a highly innovative combat system. The combat mixes a third-person shooter feel with classic RPG game mechanics. When not in battle, the standard third-person gameplay lets you move in any direction you want. It also lets you jump over gaps and climb up obstacles. But as soon as you come into contact with an enemy, the whole experience changes. The distinct combat events play like a Final Fantasy game.
The gameplay in battle limits you to a narrow set of moves. You can aim your gun, dodge, and block. You can’t walk freely in three-dimensional space or take cover. The auto-aim here is so generous that it feels like you’re selecting a target rather than actually aiming. As a result, BRS plays more like Chrono Trigger than Gears of War.
Black Rock Shooter also tests your sense of timing. Each enemy attack is a risk-reward scenario: if you dodge at just the right moment, you won't take damage; if you block, you'll take a little damage; and if you try to dodge and miss, you can take a lot of damage at once, especially with bosses. The controls are nice and responsive, making the player own every failure.
There are a variety of other interesting features, too. Shooting and dodging cause your character to heat up, for example. Not only will she eventually overheat, at which point she'll be rendered inert and vulnerable for a few seconds, but heating up also makes her do less damage. You have to give her a second to cool down periodically so she stays effective.
As you gain levels and meet various objectives, you learn skills that you can use during battle. These skills include special attacks, stat boosts, and even the ability to recharge your health. A cooldown timer prevents player abuse. Up to four of these skills can be equipped at a time.