For many years, Arc System Works quietly earned a fan following with the flashy 2D fighting action and totally over-the-top characters of the Guilty Gear series. The studio has started anew with BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, a new game with new characters and an evolved fighting system that adds to Guilty Gear's basics. Unfortunately, there are only 12 playable characters in this one--a smaller number than most conventional fighters. Still, they're all very different from each other--and as you might expect from Arc System Works, a few of the characters are completely insane. While you may have trouble wrapping your head around the game's crazy cast and its many different gameplay nuances, which have such esoteric names as "drive attacks" and "guard libra," you'll find plenty to do with the many different offline play modes--plus robust online play that works great. BlazBlue may not be the easiest fighting game to get into, but it still has a lot to offer.6214778NoneWatch the blistering action of BlazBlue in motion.
Like the Guilty Gear games, BlazBlue is a fast-paced 2D fighting game with multiple attack buttons--three are for standard attacks of varying strength and the fourth is the drive attack, which produces an entirely different effect for each character. The character Jin's drive attack freezes his enemy solid; Ragna's steals his enemy's health with each strike. Every character also plays in a totally unique fashion, though there are callbacks to Guilty Gear's roster. The game's protagonist, the spiky-haired, sword-wielding bad boy Ragna takes cues from the spiky-haired, sword-wielding bad boy Sol Badguy. There's also a "big strong grappler who can't run" character in Iron Tager, who is similar to Guilty Gear's Potemkin. Then again, BlazBlue also features a grinning hooded catgirl with gigantic paws; an evil vampire child who hurls exploding, whoopee-cushion-shaped bats; and a masked blob that oozes its way into battle.
It's clear that the developer specifically intended for the characters to look totally different, as well as play differently, from each other. While this definitely makes the game seem new and makes each character seem distinctive, this uniqueness makes it harder for your skills to transfer from character to character, especially if your frame of reference is more-conventional fighters like Street Fighter or The King of Fighters.
However, if you're a Guilty Gear fan, or just a fan of sci-fi anime cartoons that have really strange characters, BlazBlue will feel like coming home. In fact, much of the fighting system is clearly based on an improved, faster version of Guilty Gear. Like in that series, BlazBlue lets you chain together multiple standard attacks, start juggle attacks that propel your opponents up in the air, and dash forward or backward both on the ground and in the air (with the exception of the aforementioned Iron Tager). There's a decent variety of strategies that work among the different characters--some have fairly strong defensive games, but more often than not, being able to mount a strong offense will serve you well. Fortunately, the game supports a strong offensive game with the standard chain combos (strings of normal attacks, or revolver action as they're known here), as well as extensive air juggling and a defensive blocking meter (known as guard libra, in this case), which determines how long you can block incoming attacks before your defense simply fails.
This game has some weird characters. Some really weird characters.
Thankfully, there are also many defensive counter options based on enhanced versions of previous Guilty Gear mechanics, such as the ability to use a well-timed defense to reduce the amount of time your character stays in blocking animation (known as instant guard); an active defense system (known as barrier); and a defensive counterattack setup that lets you turn the tide of battle (known as barrier burst). BlazBlue moves fast--sometimes dizzyingly fast--but if you can keep up, you'll find a good balance between offensive and defensive tools in your arsenal and tight, responsive controls.