IGN Review of BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is something of a dream game for me.
Being a devoted follower of developer ARC System Works -- the folks behind the Guilty Gear series -- I was ecstatic when I first found out that BlazBlue was on the way. The oddly-named 2D fighter would serve as the (dare I say it) spiritual successor of the Guilty Gear franchise and preserve the developer's legacy for creating wildly imaginative, fast-paced fighting games with nice visuals. Although I was sad to hear that Guilty Gear might eventually bow out to the BlazBlue name, I was eager to get a fresh start. And now that BlazBlue is finally here, I couldn't be more pleased with the final product.
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is one of the most polished, fun fighting games I've ever had the pleasure of playing. Although the game will have a much more limited appeal than mainstream powerhouses like Street Fighter and Tekken, this gem of a fighter really needs to be played by anyone even remotely interested in fighting games. There's almost nothing about this game that rubs me the wrong way and ARC System Works has thought of every little detail a fighting game fan could want.
BlazBlue has it all: awesome characters, stunning backgrounds, sweet music, tons of unlockables and -- most importantly -- enjoyable fighting. Like the 2D fighters before it, BlazBlue pits two characters against each other in a battle that takes place on a 2D plane. Anyone even partially familiar with Guilty Gear will feel right at home when playing BlazBlue, as the game not only borrows heavily from Guilty Gear's aesthetics but also feels very much like the "evolution" of the Guilty Gear franchise. While certain fighting games (such as Street Fighter and Soulcalibur) emphasize ground combat and more pointed, precise inputs, BlazBlue places tremendous stress on fast action and dashing, as well as plenty of aerial combat. Unless you're controlling a slow character (I'm looking at you, Tager), be prepared to play this game at a dizzying pace.
One of the things I love most about BlazBlue is how straight-forward the basic fighting engine is. Yes, there is depth to be found and the advanced techniques can be intimidating, but at its core, BlazBlue only has four buttons to learn. Attacks A, B, C and D. The "D" stands for "Drive," which is a special, character-specific attack that is -- essentially -- the "easy way to look cool." Attacks A, B and C are just normal attacks of increasing strength. Besides these simple attacks, you use the D-pad (or an arcade stick) to move around, duck, jump, and block. That's all there is to it.
Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg in BB Land. BlazBlue also features a host of advanced techniques that ARC System Works fans should have come to expect. By pressing back on the D-pad and holding A and B (The attacks, not the 360 buttons!), your character will put up a Barrier, which is a more effective way of protecting your fighter. You can also hit A, B and C together during a move to Rapid Cancel, which stops the animation of your current attack and allows your fighter to execute another move immediately. This sort of technique drains your Heat gauge though, which is the BlazBlue equivalent of a Power/Super/Tension gauge. Besides cancels, the Heat gauge also governs your Distortion Drives (super attacks) and Astral Finishers (a flashy instant kill), to name a few. As you can see, there's plenty to learn in BlazBlue, but that's what experimenting in the Training mode is for.
If this looks like it's too much to handle, it's really not. BlazBlue is actually very beginner friendly, as basic combos can be executed just by hitting A, B and C in order. The Drive attack is a great way to perform a special move without any effort, and blocking soon becomes second nature. These are all one-button-press techniques, so I suspect that even beginners will have something to enjoy when they first start. Even when players do move on to bigger, better special moves, all the directional inputs are familiar: circle from down to forward on the D-pad, circle from back to forward on the D-pad, etc.
These responsive mechanics are complemented by a veritable sea of other gameplay elements that make BlazBlue such a fun experience. No fighting game is complete without a great cast of characters and once again the designers at ARC System Works have given us a memorable roster. Yes, these characters borrow heavily from their Guilty Gear predecessors, but they've been given a life of their own thanks to their very distinct personalities and their unique Drive attacks.
Positioned as the poster children of the BlazBlue universe, Ragna, Jin and Noel are arguably the game's star characters. The strangely adversarial relationship between Ragna and Jin echoes the classic tension between Guilty Gear's Sol and Ky. This time, however, the roles have been seriously reversed, as I'd say that Ragna (the successor to Sol) is the hero and Jin is the "villain." I love these characters and how fun they are. From the distinguished vampire girl Rachel to the over-excited ninja Bang, there's just too much personality for one disc.
The unique designs of the characters also affect how they function in the ring. These fighters all play differently and the majority of them have unique mechanics that must be learned outside of the universal mechanics. For example, Carl can control his marionette, Nirvana, while also fighting his opponent. Also, Rachel has a separate gauge that dictates how many times she can control the wind blowing through the ring. These abilities are usually tied to the Drive attacks, but coaxing the player into learning unique mechanics for each character adds tremendous depth to the play experience.
Supporting these characters is a well presented story (for a fighting game). Although things are quite confusing at first, playing through the game with different characters begins to reveal the plot of BlazBlue piece by piece. This is definitely a Japanese-style story, but it plays right into all my anime sensibilities and I think any anime fan will feel quite comfortable with it. If you're not big into anime/JRPG narratives, things will definitely feel bizarre, but I think the imaginative characters and beautiful art will keep you interested.
The overall structure of BlazBlue as a game is great. There's a Story mode, where each character has 3 branching pathways to follow, an Arcade mode, a Score Attack mode, Training mode, a Replay Theater, an extensive gallery for unlockables and -- of course -- multiplayer options. Every mode works really well and the attention to detail is apparent in nearly every facet of the game's design. Whether you're perusing the options menu to adjust HUD positioning, window transparency, message speed and countless other tweaks, or you're just admiring the drool-inducing emblems that represent each character in high-style, you can tell that ARC System Works went all out when developing this game.
One particular element of BlazBlue that prospective buyers might be curious about is the network play. Local multiplayer is a given, but how does a game like this work online? Although I haven't been able to see how BlazBlue performs when all the fighting game junkies have clogged the servers, all my play tests of BlazBlue's online component have been positive. There's usually some lag at the beginning of the match but things seem to catch up soon after.
This online functionality is made even sweeter when you realize that you can save match replays and watch them in the Replay Theater I mentioned above. Replays can be viewed at normal speed, sped up, or frame-by-frame, which is a great option for the hardest of the hardcore that want to study a troubling loss (or startling victory). The only problem with these replays is that you can't rewind them once you start -- you have to boot them up again. A minor complaint, but a complaint nonetheless.
The only other real issue I can call out in regards to BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is the game's limited appeal. Although I personally think everyone should give this game a go, I know that the zany character designs and speedy combat might not suit everyone's tastes. For me, I was right at home the moment I landed on the main menu. For others, they might see the giant, disproportionate Tager and question the game's (lack of) logic.
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