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No, this isn’t the most mind-boggling team up of all time. This is an example entry for this month’s Bitmob Writing Challenge – This or That. The prompt is to pick two games of the same genre and explain why you prefer one over the other. For more ideas, check out this submissions list, as well as Brendon Morz’s article on Dante’s Inferno and God of War 3.
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger and Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom – Ultimate All-Stars. Both are fighting games that focus on fast game play and screen-covering special attacks. Both games have characters taken from or inspired by Japanese animation. Both share similar mechanics and design philosophy, and as a bonus my friends are willing to play both games.
So why do I like TVC, but not BlazBlue?
Who to Play?
Having a character you like to play as has a huge effect on the effort you put into learning a game. In TVC I use Casshan, an android with a robot dog and powerful combos. It’s satisfying to wade through an offense, finish my opponent off in two combos, and soak in a victory as Casshan pets his dog on screen. He isn’t the most dramatic design ever, but I like his efficiency and it took me a week to settle on using him.
On BlazBlue I’m still searching for a “main.” Originally I played as Litchi Faye-Ling, who switches between fighting with a staff and using martial arts, but I had trouble getting used to the two stances. Back then I thought my forte was using technical characters that were hard-to-learn, but I never got to a level that would actually impress people.
I then tried the masked swordsman Haku-men. Haku-men uses the same game plan as Casshan, which is to get in close and destroy. However, Haku-men has the mobility of a shopping cart: He can move if he wants to with his air dash, but it’s usually very risky. Haku-man is also a pure close-range fighter, while Casshan’s dog and drill kicks give him at least some options at a distance.
Currently I’m on main character Ragna The Bloodedge, who has more mobility than Haku-men at the expense of weaker damage and health. I was really impressed by a Ragna player who won a tournament I watched online, but by then my interest in the game was almost zero.
Both TVC and BlazBlue encourage aggressive play, one more subtly than the other. In TVC every character has one or two really damaging combos, and you can use your partner’s assist attack to continue combos or pressure the opponent. While this encourages offense, there are also characters like Saki who can use her beam cannon and grenades to create strong defensives.
BlazBlue's characters have the same qualities as TVC, but the game itself is obsessed with punishing people for defense. Players get a damage penalty just for not attacking enough, and there’s also a tug-of-war guard meter that punishes you for blocking too much. Fighting is hard enough without worrying if you’re playing the way the game wants you to.
The Tide of Battle
When I play BlazBlue I feel like I have a difficult time escaping pressure, at times even feeling like I’m frozen. One of my friends plays Rachel, who uses lightning rods, electric frogs, and wind to control the stage. At first I thought the experience was just because Rachel is considered the best in the game, but I also felt frozen against other characters too.
It was then I noticed that the “flow” of a BlazBlue match is very bipolar. If Rachel has the advantage, than Ragna has a hell of a time escaping. However, once Ragna has the advantage it’s Rachel who can’t escape. There are some ways around this, like a special block that pushes opponents back, but as long as you aren’t too reckless you can keep people on their heels.
Contrast this with Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom. All characters can use a technique called Advancing Guard any time to force the opponent away, and in general TVC’s advance techniques are more readily available than BlazBlue’s.
Also because TVC is a Vs. game a character’s weaknesses can be covered with the right partner. Casshan has problems reaching opponents, but that can be helped with a projectile assist from his partner. I can also switch characters if I need to, changing the dynamic of the match. There is more ebb and flow in a TVC match.
Try, Try Again
Of course some things have to be taken into account. BlazBlue is the first entry in a new series, while the US version of Tatsunoko benefited from balance tweaks and the removal of infinite combos. And since I wasn't crazy about BlazBlue to begin with, I was less likely to search for advice when I got stuck. BlazBlue's sequel, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, changed a lot of the original’s mechanics, and I’m always willing to try again.