By Steve Baltimore / May 3rd, 2013
|Title: Black Rock Shooter: The Game
Publisher: NIS America
Release: April 23rd, 2013
Genre: Action RPG
Rating: ESRB: T
The long-awaited Black Rock Shooter for PSP has finally made its way onto PSN. I had personally been looking forward to playing this title for a long time. Having seen the Black Rock Shooter anime and OVA, I was very interested to see what they would do with a game based off this character. It is not necessary to have any knowledge of the anime since the story takes place in an alternate universe from the anime, where the Earth has been invaded by aliens. There are only twelve living humans on the entire planet left. Their last hope is the battle android, The Black Rock Shooter. Can she turn the tide of this war and save the human race from extinction?
Though this story is vastly different from those found in the anime, I found it to be quite enjoyable. It really is one emotional ride after another and made me kind of tear up a few times. The writing and translation are both fantastic; they really make the story seem alive. At the beginning of the game, the Black Rock Shooter is awakened by the remaining humans. As she awakens, she does not really know how to communicate with them. She doesn’t understand human emotions or even know who is friend or foe. The characters have a real human quality to them. It really feels as if you’re left in a desolate world, struggling to survive. The story’s main focus is on the remaining humans, and the The Black Rock Shooter’s journey provides a surprising amount of depth and emotion that will stick with you long after the credits roll.
Black Rock Shooter looks pretty good for a PSP title. I played the game on both the PSP and Vita consoles just to make note of any differences there may be. The upscaling on the Vita, as I have mentioned before, is just wonderful. It really does make the PSP titles look much better, but the game still looks great on the PSP. You will notice the textures on the buildings and such are reused quite often within the stages. Even with this, the stages are well represented from the crumbling cities of Earth to the barren snowfields you will do battle on. The character models are nicely done as well, though I will say more attention was paid to making the Black Rock Shooter and boss characters look better than some of the less notable NPCs.
The soundtrack to this game is one of the best I have heard in quite some time. From the intense battle themes to the more somber themes that fit the story’s more emotional sections, it has something for everyone. The music fits the story sections so well it really brings out the feeling that you really are fighting for your very survival against hopeless odds. Most of the dialogue in the game is voiced, but only in Japanese; there is no English dub for this one. The acting is well done, nothing feels out of place, and you can sense the right tone with the spoken dialogue.
The game is divided up into stages with 5 missions and a free hunt on each stage. There are a set of challenges to unlock on each stage, which vary between completing the mission or killing various numbers of enemies, among other things. Upon completing these you are rewarded with various skills, costumes, weapons, and other goodies. The free hunts unlock after completing the 5 story missions on each stage. By completing these, you unlock various art and videos found in the game’s gallery section. This is a nice touch as some of the concept art is pretty awesome by itself.
You walk around the various locales found within the game in a third-person view. You can move the camera around with the L and R buttons on the top of the PSP or if you are playing on a Vita, you can map this to the right analog stick. Enemies are visible on the map. Touching an enemy results in a battle, but there are no back attacks, so no need to worry if you get hit from behind. Exploring the maps, you will find your standard save points and treasure chests laying around in various places. There are spots marked on the map with circles, which are action points. Approaching one of these and pressing the X button makes her jump to a higher area or trigger some other sort of action.
At first glance, the combat in Black Rock Shooter looks like a third-person shooter with RPG elements tacked on to it. I thought this myself, at first glance of this title, and I was completely wrong. It’s much more like an RPG with a completely active battle system than it is anything else. You aim at enemies using the left nub or the d-pad on PSP; don’t worry, it will lock you onto enemies once you get close to them. Pressing the square button will burst fire the Black Rock Shooter’s cannon. A heat gauge increases as you fire bursts out of your cannon; it goes up about 10% per burst. Dodging will also raise your heat gauge, although, defending won’t raise it. Being idle makes the gauge decrease. If it reaches 100%, you will overheat and have to cool down before you can fire, dodge, or defend, which makes you a sitting duck, so you need to plan accordingly between attacking and dodging.
There are various skills that can be obtained throughout the course of the game. You can equip up to 4 of these at a time. They are mapped to the face buttons on the PSP or Vita. Once equipped, you hold down the R trigger during battle and press the corresponding face button to use the skill you want. Battles don’t stop when opening this menu, so it’s important to remember where you have each skill mapped. These skills have various offensive and defensive effects that don’t add to the heat gauge. They can be used over and over during battle, but be warned each has a cool down period before it can be used again.
You are given item drops at the end of most battles. These include healing items that you can access during battle by pressing the L trigger and choosing the item you want. The battle stops when you open the item menu, so you can scroll down and find the item you need without worry. You can only carry up to 5 of each healing item, so you will want to use each item sparingly.
Stage 2 presents you with a section of game play that has Black Rock Shooter riding a motorcycle. This does serve to break up the game play and bring something new into the mix. This section plays like a simple mini game, where you press left and right on the nub or d-pad to dodge enemies. If you are really close to an enemy you dodge, she will kill it with her sword. Killing 5 in a row within a certain amount of time will grant you a special move to clear out the enemies in a line for a few seconds. The controls and such for this section of the game work very well, but I felt this was a bit too difficult at times, especially for the challenges where you have to complete all three of these stages without taking a single hit.
Motorcycle sections aside, Black Rock Shooter has a lot to love. From it’s fast, deep combat system to the very emotional story, I felt I got so much more out of this than I expected. While you can complete the main storyline in about 15 hours, it will take you about 10 more to unlock all of the extras this one has to offer. For it’s price tag of $19.99, if you are a fan of the anime or a fan of action RPGs in general, you will definitely wanna check this one out.
Game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
Action RPGBlack Rock ShooterNISAPSPVita