REVIEW: BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

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BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle | Cover art
Title BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle
Developer Arc System Works
Publisher Arc System Works, PQube (EU)
Release Date May 31, 2018 (Japan), June 5, 2018 (NA), June 22, 2018 (EU)
Genre 2D Fighting Game
Platform PS4, Nintendo Switch, Steam
Age Rating ESRB – Teen
Official Website

The anticipation for BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle has been a roller coaster ride. Initially announced at EVO 2017, it drew lots of excitement as a crossover of fighting game series BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena and Under Night In-Birth and Rooster Teeth’s animated webseries RWBY. Arc System Works kept the hype alive by gradually revealing new characters for the game each month, but everything was thrown into doubt when they announced that the game would have 40 characters in total, but with a catch: half would be in the base game, with the other 20 (including RWBY’s Blake and Yang) available as DLC down the line after release. This was met with incredible negative reception – I even wrote an editorial on the subject shortly after the announcement – even after they revealed that Blake and Yang would be free. Although Arc System Works managed to assuage some people’s worries by revealing pricing details later on, those who had originally been looking forward to the game had been split roughly into two camps: those who were still excited for the game regardless, and those who abandoned it entirely because of the split roster. However, it’s time to see how everything ended up.

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle | Ruby Astral Heat

Behold! The most boring Astral Heat in the game.

When I was playing, since I got a pre-release code, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle had only the base 20 character roster playable, although Blake and the first DLC pack of Platinum, Kanji and Orie appear to be day 1 DLC. From BlazBlue we’ve got Ragna the Bloodedge, Jin Kisaragi, Noel Vermillion, Rachel Alucard, Hazama, Azrael, Iron Tager, Nu-13, Makoto Nanaya, and Es. From Persona 4 Arena came Yu Narukami, Yosuke Hanamura, Chie Satonaka, and Yukiko Amagi. Representing Under Night In-Birth comes Hyde, Linne, Waldstein and Gordeau, and from RWBY all we have so far is Ruby Rose and Weiss Schnee. Additionally, throughout the story mode you also fight against future DLC characters Platinum the Trinity, Jubei, Hakumen, Kanji Tatsumi, Aigis (spelled Aegis in-game), Naoto Shirogane, Orie, Carmine, Vatista, and Blake Belladonna. Unfortunately this somewhat proves that at least those 10 DLC characters are on-disc; however, if I’m being honest, I’d be a lot more upset about that if the game weren’t so much fun.

The system in BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is something very much its own, with controls and inputs simplified compared to the series comprising it. It has five buttons: A and B for light and heavy attacks, C for Clash Assault, P for Partner Skills, and D to swap characters. With C used for a universal overhead that can’t really be used in combos, A and B are effectively the only normal attack buttons used, aside from sometimes using crouching C for a sweep or jumping C. This sounds much worse than it actually is; I, along with several people I know, was concerned that the lack of buttons and relatively few command normal and special attacks would make the game too shallow. However, although it’s definitely simpler than any of its parent series, the system is surprisingly open-ended, with assist skills leading to heavy combo potential even with more limited movesets.

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle | Resonance Finish

The Resonance, Distortion and Astral Finish screens are all suitably flashy.

There’s a handful of unusual mechanics within the partner system, such as switching to controlling an active assist and calling the assist effectively having no cost if you aren’t attacking at the time. You can also press D+P while your assist is out to initiate a Cross Combo, effectively allowing you to control both your characters at once within a short time limit. It’s a strange mechanic, one that I still don’t know how to properly use, especially when the Cross Gauge used for Cross Combo is also used to Cross Burst (D+P while blocking or being hit) and break your opponent’s combo or pressure, as well as calling assists during pressure or combos. However you choose to use your Cross Gauge, partner skills are an important part of BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle’s neutral game, since calling them effectively has a very short cooldown and no cost if you aren’t attacking at the time. The game also promotes liberal assist use since it improves your Resonance Blaze which you get access to when your partner is down.

There’s a decent selection of universal defensive tools at your disposal as well. The aforementioned Cross Burst consumes your entire Cross Gauge, and functions as a Burst from other Arc System Works games while also switching your characters. Every character also has a Reversal Action usable with A+D, similar to Persona 4 Arena’s Furious Actions, a fully invulnerable but very unsafe move used to capitalize on gaps in your opponent’s pressure. Pressing A+D while blocking is a Reject Guard, a push-block mechanic that pushes your opponent back about ¾ of the screen to get them off you. Good defensive options are important in this game, considering if your opponent has both their characters alive it’s not difficult to take out a character from full health in two combos due to the game’s generally high damage and straightforward combos.

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle | Main menu entrance

This is the entrance, where you start when you open the game. You can open the main menu from here to access different modes.

There’s a few other oddities about some of the BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle‘s systems. Characters will run forward slightly before attempting a grab when you use a basic throw, depending on how far away the opponent is. Running is done by simply holding forward, where the character will start running after a short delay, as opposed to double-pressing forward like in most games, and most characters don’t have a forward dash. This takes a lot of adjusting to if you’re used to playing other games, since if you try to dash like in other games all you do is delay your run.

The result is a game that doesn’t feel like any of the series it claims to derive from. It’s incredibly fast-paced, especially with the automatic running and free assists. Pressure can go on a long time, and combos with both characters can do massive amounts of damage with relative ease, making the game’s array of defensive options important to use properly. Ultimately the game is total insanity, but in the best possible ways, with its fast pace, large attacks, and high damage.

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle | Es Ruby Results screen

Watching the character interactions is one of my favourite parts of this game.

More crossing fates on the next page ->

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. He's a fighting game player, with a focus on BlazBlue and Under Night In-Birth games. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Persona 5, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.


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