BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger Review
A crisply animated treat for fighting fans and gamers causally interested in the genre
Some video game genres do certain things quite well, but are found lacking in other areas. The fighting game genre can deliver action that requires strategy, good timing and reflexes while using a fighting system that offers depth and complexity. The replay value of the game becomes very high as the player will discover new moves and strategies as they learn to utilize different characters or play different types of opponents. The Fighting game genre also excels when it comes to multiplayer game play. By its very nature, it encourages players to seek out others to test their skills; fighting against computer controlled opponents can quickly grow stale. A good fighting game will have all of these characteristics; however the genre usually lacks depth when it comes to an engaging storyline. BlazBlue by Aksys Games seems to be on a mission to rectify this little set back, while also keeping the genre's staple features intact.
The story takes place in the 13th Hierarchical City of Kagutsuchi. The human race was on the verge of extinction after an attack from the Black Beast. The Beast was defeated at the hands of six magic wielding heroes. After the battle, an organization called the NOL began to govern the world with the use of magic. This caused distress amongst the citizens and a civil war erupted. The NOL won and reclaimed its rule, however their policies became more tyrannical. The game starts after the civil war in the year 2199. The story is told from the point of view of all of the games characters, which is customary in a fighting game. In the Arcade mode the story is only moved forward in snippets of dialogue before and after certain battles, however the game also contains a Story Mode where the plot is much more fleshed out. In Story Mode each character is treated with an introduction that explains their background, and the events leading up to their role in the game. After the introduction the plot unfolds in several dialogue sequences.
While they are not fully animated, they are very well illustrated. Each sequence consists of the artwork of a character on each side of the screen and a dialogue box in the middle. The backgrounds change depending on where the scene is taking place. The text is either character dialogue or expository information, which is well written. The words read like a novel and have no trouble drawing you into the story. These types of sequences will appeal mostly to people who like to read fiction. There's a fight in between each sequence, and the result of the battle will determine the next scene you will view. Most interestingly, the player will be prompted with some choices during select scenes. Each choice represents a path in which the story can branch off. Each character has at least two endings that can be discovered. While story mode does a good job at fleshing out the story, more than a lot of other fighting games have, the in-between battles only last for one round. The action seems to end before it begins, and the player is launched into another story sequence. Luckily, Story Mode is only one way to play the game. For those wanting to experience what BlazBlue's fighting system has to offer, Arcade mode is there for them.
Arcade mode is where the game's fighting engine is best showcased. The mode consists of ten battles including the end boss, which is standard for any fighting game. There are four main attack buttons, labeled A, B, C, and D. D acts as a special move (called a Drive), while the other three are standard attacks of varying strengths; A being weaker while C being a stronger attack. Special moves are performed by executing motions on the joystick followed by an attack button. Many of the special move inputs will seem very familiar to Street Fighter fans as they are essentially the same, only with a few exceptions. Aside from special moves, the characters can also perform super combos that consume a portion of the Heat Gauge. The Heat Gauge serves the same function as the Super Combo gauge in other fighting games and increases in percentiles whenever the character inflicts or takes damage. There are also two ways to block attacks: regular blocking and barrier blocking.
Both methods of blocking have their drawbacks. Right below both of the fighter's health meters is the Guard Libra gauge. If a character blocks too many times the gauge is pushed to their side of the screen, the guard will be broken and they will be left open to attack. Pressing A and B together will activate the Barrier Blocking and when used it depletes the barrier bar. If depleted, the character is not only left open to attack they take 150% damage. Ouch. There are some more advanced techniques that involve the use of counters and cancels that will stop the opponent dead in their tracks.
It can be seen that BlazBlue has a lot of options when it comes to standard fighting; however there are some characters require a more unique strategy to achieve victory. Rachel Alucard ('Dracula' spelled backwards, if you didn't already know) is the head of the Alucard family of vampires. She is a bored little vampire girl, and that seems to be the only reason for her participation in the game's story. It is later revealed in the Story Mode that she has some vested interest in the fates of one of the other game's characters, but that is only touched upon briefly. The most entertaining part of her is when she insults every other character she meets. Her quips alone are worth a play through of her story. Aside from that, her play style is very different from what I'm used to and that's what intrigued me the most. Instead of fighting directly, her strengths rely on changing the stage to her favor and she has few innovative options on how to accomplish that.
Rachel can set up 3 lighting rods in different areas in the stage and summon lighting to all of them at once. She also has a couple of pets, the first one being George XIII. George is a little frog that innocently hops toward the opponent and delivers a shock when near. The other pet is an imp that can be moved around the area by using her special technique, Slipheed. This move summons wind that not only gives flight to her little imp friend but can also move Rachel around the map; this is great if you need a quick escape. Although she was difficult to use at first, I fell in love with her style and eventually played with her exclusively. This is not to say that the other characters on the roster are not unique as well; Rachel just became my favorite and I believe many other people will find her interesting.
The game also has a score attack mode which, one could guess from the name, allows the player to try to get their score as high as possible. More importantly, there is an online mode where you can pit your skills against another human opponent in six player lobbies or in ranked matches. This has become standard for fighting games ever since it was first implemented in Street Fighter IV in 2008. As stated before, fighting the computer can become boring.
As someone who grew up playing Street Fighter, I thought that getting used to BlazBlue would have taken a lot more time than it did. Overall, the controls are fluid and the animation is smooth and enjoyable to look at. The menus and the transitions between matches are very well animated and go well with the Anime style of the game. Another thing I must compliment is the music. From the main menu screen to the character's theme songs, the soundtrack is nothing short of epic. The composer for BlazBlue is the same individual responsible for the soundtrack of the very popular Guilty Gear franchise, which is also developed by Aksys Games.
Despite the expanded story mode, BlazBlue is still a fighting game that caters to the demographic. Some players may give this game a play through or two with a couple of different characters and move on. For fighting game fans, this title offers a lot to explore in terms of more advanced techniques, strategies and combos. This is also a good starting point for those who are interested in playing the sequel. Give this game a shot and it may very well put you on the path to becoming a fan of the genre, or it may also give you a look at how a fighting game's story line can jump from the back-burner into one of the game's most important aspects. It seems that this trend may continue as the new installment of Mortal Kombat also tries to make the plot just as important as the action.