A fresh and fun fighter
The fighting game genre has to be the hardest genre to start a new IP in. Hardcore fighting game fans are usually loyal to their favorite franchise or developer and rarely give newcomers a shot. It’s also incredibly hard to keep a fighting game balanced, fun, and offer something new that Street Fighter or Tekken hasn’t done already.
It seems BlazBlu and AkSys Games have done just that.
BlazBlue is the spiritual successor to AkSys Games previous fighter, Guilty Gear. With Sega having taking the reins of the franchise, steering it into the RTS genre(?), AkSys has taken the core ideas of Guilty Gear, infused them into BlazBlue, and then transformed it into something completely new and fresh for fighting game fans. If you’re familiar with Guilty Gear, BlazBlue will feel similar to you.
The forefront of BlazBlue is it’s story. Many fighting games have generic or convuluted stories behind them that serve as solely as a reason to have the combatants fight each other. BlazBlue takes a different route though. The Story Mode is lavishly detailed with still cutscenes, showcasing some amazing art, that move the story along at a simple pace to follow. At certain points in the story, you will have to make a decision on how to progress. Depending on your decisions, and even your match outcome, your ending and story will change for your character. In order to gain 100% completion in each story, you’ll have to play it a few times. This may seem tedious, but the story is truly different each playthough if you are making different decisions. It keeps things fresh and never bogs down with repitition.
It helps that the fighters themselves also keep the story fresh. AkSys has always been a master at character design (the criminally underplayed BattleFantasia proves this), and each of the 12 fighters are all interesting. They interact with each other, acknowledge their pasts, and even interact with the player. Taokaka will press her face up against the screen, Jin and Ragna will clash before a match, and Bang will have his own personal theme song play in the middle of matches. This type of character interaction fleshes out the fiction well and really makes these 2D characters feel like 3D personalities.
It’s hard to believe, but BlazBlue’s 2D art and graphical effects make BlazBlue one of the best looking 2D games out. The character sprites never show jagged edges or corners.  Their special attacks and moves are beautifully animated and everything runs silky smooth. The backgrounds are a pseudo 3D/2D hybrid and look gorgeous. Characters will jump around in the background, while structures are rendered in 3D and add visual flair to the experience. AkSys did a wonderful job making this world and it’s characters stand out.
The fighting system is also a highly tuned and balanced monster. The game utilizes a four button system for its attacks. You have a light, medium, and fierce attack, as well as a special Drive attack. The Drive attack is unique to each character. Litchi can drive her staff into the ground and direct it around the arena, Ragna’s takes life and adds it to your HP, and Jin can freeze opponents. The four button system keeps things simple, while adding third party systems to add depth like rolling, barrier block, and rapid cancels. The fighting system promotes fast and frantic gameplay, while also rewarding more strategic players. You can easily mash buttons to play and do cool moves making the game accessible to new players, but there is a wealth of systems and combos waiting the experienced player and it never feels so overwhelming or too hardcore.
AkSys could’ve stopped there, but they packed in a treasure trove of features. In addition to Story Mode, you have Score Attack, Arcade, Training, Replay Theatre, and Online. While Score Attack, Arcade, and Training are genre givens, Replay Theatre and Online are the real meat of the package. You can save any replay of a fight you just finished. Liked something cool you did or want to rub your victory in your friend’s face? Replay Theatre lets you do that. You can even access the online leaderboards and download any players last fight. You can finally see how all the top players really fight.
The Online Mode has one of the best net codes I have seen in a fighting game. While Capcom’s GGPO is a great code, BlazBlue out does it in every way. I have yet to experience any lag or slowdown in any of the matches I played. I even had my girlfriend downloading music from iTunes while I was playing and no lag was present. It’s great the online is this good because BlazBlue creates an online identity for you the moment you log on. The game generates a D-Code, a fighting identity, that records all of your stats. It will show your main character, your sub, wins, losses and even you DNF rate. It’s cool to have this level of stat tracking in online and wish there was some way to trade your card with others for bragging rights or collections sake.
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is an amazing fighting game. I’ve been playing fighting games since I first picked up a SNES controller to fight my brother in Street Fighter 2 and BlazBlue is the most refreshing take on the genre thus far. It’s a true next gen fighter, taking advantage of the hardware and network capabilites that the consoles provide, while offering a fighting system that will please even the snobbiest of hadouken throwers.  If you consider yourself a fan of the genre in anyway, you need to own BlazBlue.
Score: A+
Limited Edition: The first print run of the game came in a Limited Edition for the standard price of $59.99. The package includes the game, a two disc soundtrack and a blu-ray disc feature tutorial and character strategy videos. They’re perfect for learning the fighting system while offering in-depth strategy for your favorite character. If you can find a copy of the Limited, grab it while you can.
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