In the west where ultra realistic graphics, engaging storylines and guns and explosions are considered the quintessential ingredients for success in the vast majority of today’s video games its no surprise that many a game that doesn’t sport these features often receive a lukewarm reception at retail level or is snubbed by the masses altogether. Enter stage right BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger; a two dimensional beat ‘em up brought to us by the talented Japanese team of developers behind the Guilty Gear series, Arc System Works. The fact alone that BlazBlue is a 2D video game will have many a hardened Modern Warfare fan reeling in disgust and while the it may have garnered some success amongst hardcore fighting fans and seen favourable reviews across the board both here and in Japan, it never really struck a cord outside of its native homeland.
From the intricately detailed, pseudo-3D fighting arenas, the lavishly designed selection of fighters, right down to the spectacular visual effects there is absolutely no doubt that BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is a beautiful game to behold. Character animations are slick and fluid, backgrounds throb and pulsate with a life of their own and should you manage to pull out of the bag your chosen fighters ‘Distortion’ finishing move the screen explodes in a brilliant flash of colour and sound. Combined with a solid fighting mechanic, all these elements wonderfully capture all the hallmarks associated with Japanese Anime to deliver a fighting game of sheer excellence.
As with many games in the genre, BlazBlue’s combat is a simple case of randomly pressing buttons to unleash a combination of light, medium and heavy attacks as well as a handful of super combos and on easier settings adopting a button mashing approach will see you through the most part of the various modes on offer. However, crank up the difficulty level and-like many 2D beat ‘em ups-you’ll soon discover that to achieve results and get the best out of the game will require you to dig just that little deeper and discover all the nuances that separate BlazBlue from many of it’s peers. Like Capcom’s and SNK-Playmore’s fighting games, Arc Systems Works’ title has an incredible amount of hidden depth and character to the combat and should you take the fight online its having an intricate understanding of these characteristics, (from barrier breaks, counter strikes, distortion drives etc), that will see you win the day-or at least stop you from getting repeatedly battered by other players.
While many of these features can be found in most 2D fighting games the more you play BlazBlue the more of its hidden depth and how to combine all these techniques will come to light and in time you’ll be experimenting with a myriad of different ways to defeat your opponents; whether online or offline.
Additional to the arcade, survival, training and online modes the console versions has an exclusive “Story Mode”. Sadly, while not terrible as the excellent combat does hold it together, this is the games weakest element. The tale is of little interest and even for an Anime it’s very convoluted and of little sense. The main body of the tale is presented in a selection of [albeit beautifully drawn] uneventful stills with reams of text that you have to repeat several times in order to 100% complete each of the ten available characters personal stories. To add to frustration, on losing a bout of combat instead of just hitting a continue button to resume your progress one is forced back to the main story selection screen where you then have to re-load the story and forward skip each scene until the moment of combat. How Arc System Works got this element of the game so wrong when everything else is so right is anyone’s guess. The only bonus to be had from completing each story mode is the sheer amount of un-lockable goodies to be had which consists of original art work, animations, music and other additional content.