By William Haderlie / November 22nd, 2016
As usual with fighting games, I did a bit of the Tutorial Mode first to try out the new systems and the new characters. I liked the new characters, but the old graphics engine (especially compared to the beautiful Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator-) and the few new additions to the fighting engine left me a little lukewarm. They changed the style of Crush Trigger and some of the aspects of move proration, but those are more for advanced fighting game players. A little more apparent is the addition of Active Mode and Exceed Accel. Active Mode was a much-needed addition to this game and I frankly wish they had added it clear back in BlazBlue Calamity Trigger. Active Mode engages up to once per round depending on your actions, and certain actions can automatically activate it such as using Overdrive, but mostly it is activated when you perform a large enough series of attacks on your opponent. This makes it a counter to the Negative Status already present in every game in the series, and it works almost exactly opposite giving you a 10% general damage increase. It also gives you double damage on your Exceed Accel attacks, which is a new Overdrive specific special attack that can be comboed into or used as a single hit. However, as soon as you use Exceed Accel it will end your Overdrive, no matter how much time you have left. Sorry if I’m using too many terms that readers may not be used to here, but they are part of the previous games in the series and part of the tutorial if you need. If they will affect your purchasing decision, I would suggest looking over at the fabulous Dustloop Wiki for more information on the game systems.
I liked the game after the tutorial, but I was not completely sold. The next place I went was the Story Mode, so I could get an idea of what happened before and during the events of the game. I got a lot more than I planned on when selecting that nondescript menu selection. For better or worse, I’m going to have a difficult time enjoying other fighting games that phone in the Story Mode from now on, because they are going to inevitably be compared to this game. I still love what they did with the Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator- story mode, basically making it a computer rendered anime series. That was earlier this year, and it set a new standard for what I was expecting in my fighting game stories. Initially I was a bit down on this Story Mode, and that lasted for about 30 minutes. That is not a significantly long time for it to last because this Story Mode is actually an entire 10-12 hour visual novel. In fact, it’s such a significant part of this game that I almost added that genre onto my review classification.
One of the best things I can say about the visual novel here is that it finally brings together the different stories in this universe, and it finally fills in all the gaps throughout the entire series. They don’t simply hint at events or hint at relationships, and they don’t just say no one knows what happened during the Great War, or where the Black Beast comes from. Everything is finally answered. All the Observers and Gods are named and defined. All the characters are finally given their full due and the entire history of this world is laid out before you. They also give you the option to have all the events which happened in the previous BlazBlue games filled in for you. So if you don’t remember those events, or you are new to the series, they do not present a large barrier of entry to get the full enjoyment out of the story, and they don’t couch all the history in the Library.
After you have been filled in on the past, other than a few secrets yet to be revealed during the process of playing the Story Mode, you will be treated to a really well-written story. It’s not just a really well-written one for a fighting game, which would be a rather backhanded compliment. This story holds up to any other visual novel story you could imagine. It’s very well written, it’s very emotional, and it has a lot of character development and surprises. Previous to this game the story modes in the PS Vita versions of the games, released much later than the PlayStation 3 versions, always were the best in the series. This time they got it right in the initial release, which I can’t give them enough props for doing. It got really old wanting to double dip with the price and also deal with the handheld controls to get the best story out of my BlazBlue. Much like the handheld versions of the games (although this one is far more massive than any of those releases) each of the Story Mode chapters can have one or several sub sections which will tell you what other characters were doing during that time. Many of those sub stories are comedic, and there is an entire comedy reel added towards the end of Story Mode. They are very worth going back to after you finish your first run through the main route. They are all selectable from the Story Mode menu above, so it’s even easier to access them than a typical visual novel. Here though you actually get to play out the fights, usually only one round but occasionally a full best 2-of-3 match.
I could keep going on about the Story Mode, and I am half tempted to do an entire separate review just to cover this specific mode in the game because it’s genuinely a full visual novel, but I have a few last thoughts on it to complete the review. The first thing you should know is that this story basically closes out the entire BlazBlue series. All the threats were addressed, all the threads were tied off, all the relationships were exposed, and it ended in a place that genuinely fixes the world. If they continue on this series they would have to go in an entirely new direction. I think that this is probably the end of the fighting games. There are a lot of bittersweet emotions to seeing the end of a long franchise, but it was also really wonderful to finally see all the closure that you would want. Especially when it comes to Ragna, unlike many other fighting games, this series has definitively been his story. Unless you’ve been shipping his imouto waifus (which I can definitely get on board with) you will be very happy to finally see my favorite potential ship come to fruition… Rachel (Rabbit). They weren’t the only relationship that was finally addressed, and it was great to see some romance in my fighting games. This is exactly what I would have wanted from a fighting game Story Mode, and so even if I was critical going in, I was a convert to this game well before the end.
That covers the new characters and the first two modes of this subtly massive fighting game. In Part 2 of the review I’ll cover the other modes and put a score on this game. But as you can already glean from my glowing review thus far, this game only needs to stick the landing in order to get a really high score.
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