Friday 7 May 2010

Game Review: BlazBlue Calamity Trigger (PS3, Xbox 360)

To follow up on my Super Street Fighter 4 piece, I'd thought I'd combo straight into a second beat 'em up review. Arc System Work's Blaz Blue is the spiritual successor to Guilty Gear, another alliterative free-form fighter from the Japanese studio. If you are at all familiar with Guilty Gear, you will know what to expect from Arc's newest and hardest to pronounce 2D brawler, but are there enough new elements here to keep things interesting?

If you are a newcomer to any of Arc's fighting games, they are in essence similar to the sprite-based 2D beat 'em ups of yesteryear, but boast much larger and well animated characters, along with detailed 3D backgrounds. Like Guilty Gear, Blaz Blue features a complex combat system that rewards the quick-fingered among us with incredibly complicated and flashy combos, while still allowing the inexperienced player to enjoy the simpler aspects of the game.

Each fighter has three attacks of varying strength: weak, medium and strong (referred to in-game as A, B and C attacks), as well as a separate button for throw attacks. A fourth, unique Drive attack (assigned as D) is available to each fighter, and varies wildly from character to character. For example, Arakune's Drive attack summons a cloud projectile which 'curses' his enemies in various ways, while Rachel Alucard's Drive effects the direction of the wind on the playing field, allowing for higher jumps and faster projectiles, just to name a few.

On top of that, each individual attack (A,B,C and D) can be modified by holding a direction while executing it, and of course each character has a selection of special moves. This leads to players having plenty of options on how to attack, as well as how to approach their enemy.
Defensive players are given just as many options, with instant blocks, counters, barrier bursts and evasive air- and back-dashes. Many casual gamers may find this wealth of options a little overwhelming, but combo-enthusiasts will love the variety that each character brings. By making each fighter play so differently than the last, even the relatively small roster supplies hours upon hours of play time.

Blaz Blue's presentation is certainly impressive. From the beautifully animated sprites, to the wonderfully detailed backgrounds, the screen bursts with colour and character. Speaking of character, the game's principle players are as wacky as they get. From Carl Clover, the steam-punk magician to Arakune the no-faced blob of insects, to Bang Shishigami, the Naruto-esque ninja who wields an over-sized nail, each character is as different in design as they are in play style. Arc System has also put a lot of effort into weaving these characters together into a cohesive storyline, as Blaz Blue features one of the most in-depth story modes I have seen in a fighting game.

While I wouldn't necessarily recommend Blaz Blue to anyone who is only vaguely interested in beat 'em ups, I'd definitely say it is an outstanding game. Fans of Guilty Gear and technical beat 'em ups in general (such as Virtua Fighter) will find plenty to sink their teeth into, and the outlandish character design and wacky presentation is sure to win over plenty of new comers as well. And for anyone who was wondering, it's actually pronounced Blay-Bloo.


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