Sunday, June 22, 2014

BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger - Review


In 2008 the developers behind the well known fighting game "Guilty Gear" decided to try their hand at something new. Building off of the systems and gameplay elements set by their previous fighting games, they set out to build a brand new fighter for the 7th generation. Featuring a brand new cast of characters, a new original story, BlazBlue was the result of all their hard work. After remaining an arcade exclusive for a year, BlazBlue did make its way to the console market in 2009, but this time it had much more content than the original release. Along with the arcade mode, the console release included a full story, new gameplay modes, and online play, making it one of the largest fighting games to be released on a 7th generation console at the time. But, how does BlazBlue stand up to the other fighters out there? Was it solid enough to compete with Street Fighter 4, and King of Fighters XII? Also, what about for those who don't typically enjoy fighters; is this a game still worth checking out? Well, as always, lets find out.

The Story:

Unlike a lot of fighters, BlazBlue features a full story mode. In fact, the game is actually half visual novel, and half fighter. When the game first starts up you are greeted with a very confusing cutscene. There are scientists running some sort of test, things go wrong, there's an explosion, and a girl is left standing there in the aftermath. The game doesn't go out of its way to explain what just happened, and once the main game gets started, things aren't much better. From the get go, you are given the option to play almost every character's story mode, but the main focus is in fact on a character named "Ragna the Bloodedge." Although every character is important to the story, with almost all of them being connected to each other in one way or another, Ragna is still considered to be the lead.


BlazBlue's story picks up around one hundred years after a creature known as the "Black Beast" ravaged the world, and left it in a state of ruin. While the surface of the planet is covered in a substance known as "seither," humans now live in cities built around mountains where the air is still clean; although, these cities are still not without problems. Based at each is a office belonging to the military power Novus Orbis Librarium (or NOL/Library for short). The Library governs the world, but they aren't exactly the most liked group out there. While the average person may look up to them for protection, others seek to completely destroy the group completely. After breaking into countless branches and destroying what is known as a "cauldron", Ragna the Bloodedge gains the title of "Grim Reaper" and a massive bounty is put on his head with many wanting him just for his strange power from the "Azure." While his motives are unclear at first (just as unclear as what this "cauldron" thing is), the mysteries surrounding him do come to light as the story progresses.

As mentioned above, BlazBlue is half visual novel, and its story plays out just as one might expect. You have still backgrounds, text that explain the actions of the characters, dialogue choices, and branching paths for you to go down. While you play each character's story, you will also be pulled into fights from time to time, and the outcomes of them will also change the path the character's story will take. Each each individual character's storyline (including each of their story paths) are pretty short, each story is still connected. While it may be confusing at first, every single timeline in BlazBlue actually happens, and sometimes such timelines actually change the story. For example, in one timeline key characters are actually sent into the past, and this event is what caused other major events leading up to the game's story; while another character in the main timeline was actually pulled out of another. At first things do seem like a cluttered mess, but the more characters you play as, and the more story paths you see, the more you start to understand and connect events.


Another confusing aspect of BlazBlue's story is its terminology. From the get go they'll be throwing around terms such as "the boundary," "the Azure," "cauldron," "Ars Magus," as well as "Nox Nyctores." At first the game's story doesn't bother to explain much about these terms, but there is a side story mode to help clear up such confusions. In this mode you see character's in a chibi style as they discuss the world in funny ways. It is a non canon story section, but it does help first time players. Although, to put it simple, the boundary is a dimension where all timelines cross, the Azure is a power that connects to said boundary, Ars Magus is a form of magic which was created using technology, and Nox Nyctores are weapons which allow humans to use Ars Magus. Not sure why the game itself has to make that so confusing.

On another note, the story mode is also filled with plenty of humor. While the game does have its dark moments, it also doesn't take itself too seriously, and has fun with the current situation. Characters like the strange cat-like Tao will go out of their way to make Ragna's life hell, others get themselves caught up in stupid situations as well. While some of it may be your standard Japanese craziness anime or manga fans have come to expect, it doesn't change the fact that you'll still be laughing.

The Gameplay:

BlazBlue is what one might call a standard 2D fighter. Matches are 1 versus 1, you can move left and right and jump, different attacks are assigned to the controller's face buttons, you can blow, you can grab and throw, you can bring up a shield which negates all damage while blocking, you can dash and take a step back by double tapping left or right, you can taunt, holding down and pressing up will cause you to super jump, and you always face your opponent. It uses all of your basic 2D fighting game systems, and it can be as simple or complex as you'd like. While casual players or non fighting game fans may simply mash buttons in hopes of winning, BlazBlue actually makes use of quite a few complex systems which can be extremely easy to learn, but also take a lot of time to master.


Unlike a lot of fighting games out there, BlazBlue is actually pretty easy to learn; at least the basics are. The game has 12 unique characters, each with their own fighting style, but they make use of the same basic systems. Learning the game actually comes down to you first finding a character with a play style you like, and then taking it from there. Each character has an "A" move (weak attack), "B" move (medium attack), "C" move (strong attack), and a "D" move (drive attack, aka, special attack), and these can be used in different ways to create combos.

Just like a lot of fighters now days, BlazBlue makes use of cancels to create combos, and it does so in a simple easy to learn way. B attacks will cancel A attacks, C attacks will chancel B attacks, and D attacks will cancel C attacks. In other words, using A, B, C, D in that order will create a full four hit (or more) combo. By holding down, left, or right on the controller stick you can use different A, B, C, or D attacks, or by jumping you can use the aerial versions of them. On top of that, by sliding the controller stick in some basic motions and pressing one of the attacks will also allow you to use specials. While each character has their own selection of special moves, there aren't many per character, and most characters do reuse the same motions. From holding down to slighting to the right, to pressing right, down, and then sliding to the right, no matter who you play as you'll find yourself doing the same motions, but sometimes with some slight differences. Either way the inputs are also simple and easy to learn, but learning how to use them effectively can take some time. Also specials do use up some of your "Heat Meter," which does take time to build up (which can be done so by receiving and dealing damage, or simply waiting after your HP falls below a set percent).


Other abilities you have at your disposal include the "barrier burst," which destroys your shield in order to send your enemy flying (very useful for escaping a combo), and the ability to "rapid cancel" any attack so you can immediately follow it up with another combo. While the latter is more of an advanced technique, it is something that just takes practice if you want to learn how to use it well.

As already mentioned, BlazBlue is one of the few 2D fighters which fighting game newcomers can pick up and play pretty quickly, but if you put the time and effort into it, the game does become extremely deep. Since each character is unique, mastering just a single character can take weeks, if not months. Each time you go up against a new opponent, you never know what to expect; especially when playing online. Every single fight is almost like a puzzle, where you must try and figure out the best way to fight each character with your character, and you also must try to learn how to combat your enemy's fighting style as well. Everyone will play each character slightly different, and that's where a lot of the fun comes from. You constantly have to change your strategies to fit the situation, and it all comes down to how quickly you can plan your moves, and react to whatever it is your opponent throws at you.


On the plus side, the game features a heavily customizable training mode (which can be played with two players if you wish), there is a score attack mode for you to really put your skills to the test, and you can also set the difficulty for the story, arcade, and standard versus modes. If you want to just breeze through the story mode and not have to worry about fighting, you can set the game to beginner and easily destroy everything in your way, or if you want to practice and slowly get better, you can head on over to versus mode, select your opponent, and slowly increase the difficulty as you get better at fighting said opponent. There are also non ranked online options to practice in if you wish, and you can also create private rooms to play with your friends. Overall there's a lot for you to do here, and a lot of ways you can learn to play the game.

PSP Release:

The original BlazBlue was also released on the PSP, with a few changes. Besides a graphical downgrade, the opening theme song was replaced, and there is no online play. Although these features were removed, a brand new game mode was added in called "Legion Mode" where you fight against a series of characters to try to "control" a map. Other than that, it is in fact the same game, just with all of the console DLC (which includes color changes, ultimate versions of the characters, and a few other extras).

The Good and the Bad:

BlazBlue is a very solid fighting game, and a nice way to start the series. While it only has 12 characters, each one is different enough for it to not really matter. The game's 2D sprites look amazing, the battle arenas are nice, the music is memorable, the English and Japanese voice work is top notch, the story mode is filled with comedy that is sure to give you a good laugh, and the gameplay is solid. For a first entry in the series, it is great. While some people may prefer the larger cast in Street Fighter 4, BlazBlue was a game that was able to stand on its own, and has since evolved into a massive franchise spanning a large number of games, novels, a few manga series, and even an anime. It's only real issues come from the confusing story, and the fact that in today's world it is outdated. With the release of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend (which retells Calamity Trigger's story mode in a way that you can actually understand it), there's not much of a reason to come back to this one.


If you're interested in the original BlazBlue, then feel free to pick it up. It is an easy game for both fighting game newcomers and vets alike, and it is packed full of content. With a story mode which will easily last you over 30 hours, and plenty of extra modes to keep you busy, this is a game well worth its original $60 price tag. It is well worth a solid 8/10. Although, we still recommend you pick up Continuum Shift Extend instead.

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