Same Blinding Frustration… Now in Fun Size!
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger was the only new fighting IP last year to make a splash in a sea of high-profile sequels like Street Fighter IV and Tekken 6. Although this title had no history behind it, a killer pixel-based art style and extremely challenging battle system made BlazBlue a standout fighter. Although BlazBlue 2 is still a while off, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger Portable has been released to satiate fans in the interim. Much of the content in BlazBlue Portable is the same as the console version, but there are some new features that super-fans will definitely appreciate.
If you have never played BlazBlue before, one thing you don’t have to worry about is feeling slighted by the portable version’s Story Mode. The story in the original was multi-faceted and was different for each character. Though connections between the characters seem slim at first, by going through the different character backgrounds, an epic story will be revealed that involves a magical world on the brink of social destruction. The only hope is a mysterious man known only as “Mr. Grim Reaper”. However, this mystery man has some personal demons that threaten to prevent him from becoming the hero the world needs. Add a secret militaristic group, an over-enthusiastic hero wannabe, and a race of underground cat people (seriously) and you have a widely varied story that spans 20-30 hours (each character’s story mode is about 3-5 hours in length). Adding to this epic feel is the ability for each character to follow different paths and experience multiple endings. Fighting games have, unfortunately, earned a reputation for being rather lightweight in terms of story, but BlazBlue definitely bucks this trend and creates a story that will make you want to keep playing.
However, in order to fully appreciate the story in BlazBlue Portable, you’ll have to master the battle system, and that is easier said than done. The original BlazBlue shipped with a tutorial DVD filled with strategies and tips for success. There is a reason for that. Although the words “impossible” and “ridiculous” may come to mind when you first pick this title up, stick with it! The battle system includes endless combos that you can chain many times over to create new attacks. BlazBlue uses a very specific combo track (known as a Distortion Drive) to create powerful top-tier moves that, if performed successfully, will culminate in an Astral Heat attack, which is BlazBlue’s version of fatalities.
Once you master the battle system and play each character’s story to 100%, there is still much more to explore in BlazBlue Portable. Like the console version, there are versus and network modes that allow you to play against human and computer opponents. The only major change in the portable version is that the network mode does not have an online feature and only allows you to play locally using the PSP’s ad-hoc feature. The loss of the online mode is regrettable, especially since the online functionality on the console version was quite robust.
The lack of an online mode is very disappointing, but don’t feel too bad. To make up for it, BlazBlue Portable has two new modes: Shop and Legion. The Shop Mode is of particular value for those who have played the first game, as it allows you to purchase “ultimate” versions of the characters in the game, which were not available in the original. In addition to the ultimate characters, you can also purchase concept art and illustrations.
Legion is actually a playable mode and works a lot like the story mode in Dissidia: Final Fantasy. You begin with one character, and a large board with shapes on it. Each shape represents a “territory,” which contains one or more enemies to be defeated. Once you defeat enemies inhabiting a given square, you can add them to your roster and use them in subsequent battles if your main character should fall. The only catch is that if one of your team members falls during battle, they won’t be able to fight again until you reach a “healing” space on the playing board. The Legion Mode isn’t as exciting as the Story Mode, but it does provide quite a challenge for experienced players, and it has three different play boards.
Aside from the amazing battle system, the other feature that the original BlazBlue became known for was its marvelous graphics. While other fighters use 3D visuals, the original BlazBlue followed in the footsteps of the King of Fighters series and kept with a 2D style that featured hand-drawn pixel-based art. Although the visuals are not replicated in as much detail on the PSP version, the pixel-based art is still solid, and the animations are fluid throughout. The animated cutscenes are also reproduced faithfully on the PSP. The only real issue with the visuals is with the menu design. Some of the menus have text that is too small to read on the PSP screen. However, this is a minor complaint and doesn’t detract from the overall visual scheme.
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger Portable is a solid port that is on-par with its console predecessor. Although the visuals have been downsized and the online mode is missing, the new content added to the portable version more than makes up for these few shortcomings. If you are looking for a great fighter on the PSP, BlazBlue Portable is definitely worth checking out. If you have already played BlazBlue on the bigger consoles, the portable version is still worth it for the extra content. But no matter what, make sure you are prepared for the challenge! BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger Portable may be on a smaller screen, but the difficulty level has not decreased!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
Pixel-based graphics look great on the PSP, though much of the detail from the console version is missing. Occasional lag occurs. 4.0 Control
Controls are very precise and require a lot of precision. Directional controls also feature lag at times. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Background music is enjoyable and both English and Japanese voiceovers are available. 3.7 Play Value
The loss of the online mode is regrettable, but the new Legion and Shop modes make up for the loss and add some extra hours to the gameplay time and customization options. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.