It's a 2D beat 'em up, released on the backfoot of the genre's re-emergence, and it feels fresh.
With a 12-character strong roster, each with their own unique fighting style, BlazBlue feels like a more focused release than something like Tekken or Soul Calibur. The game plays on a 2.5D plain, with characters represented by smoothly animated sprites, and backdrops rendered in full 3D.
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger includes arcade, story and score-attack modes for the single-player, with online and local multiplayer rounding out the experience.
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is an over-the-top game. From the moment a fight starts with the ultra self-aware dialogue "The Wheel Of Fate Is Turning" right through to the round announcements being declared as "Rebels". This is a bizarre game for the sake of being bizarre. As such, the gameplay is about as messy as it possibly can be. But we mean messy in a good way. Within moments of a fight starting, the screen will be littered with sparks, explosions, flashing lights and dashing characters. BlazBlue reminds us a little of the Marvel vs. Capcom games - in that the action is fast and a bit ridiculous. The emphasis also tends to be on juggling the opponent. What's key with BlazBlue is that it's relatively accessible. Essentially, making quarter-circle movements and mashing the buttons will give you a pleasing response. But just because the gameplay and moves are particularly accessible doesn't mean the game is without it's depth. A quick jump online against an experienced player will teach you that. What BlazBlue does right though, is make the experience immediately pleasing for newcomers, whilst maintaining a level of depth for those who want to learn every intricacy.
BlazBlue's so self-aware it hurts. The game's likely to be the most ridiculously uneven game to hit the Playstation 3 this year. But the loony presentation is largely what sets it apart from its contemporaries.
BlazBlue looks great. From an artistic stance, the design reminds us of a cross between a Tim Burton movie, classic Disney, and traditional Japanese anime. That is to say the character and level designs are strange but inviting. The game's also fantastically well animated, with the sprites moving in a delightfully smooth manner that's emphasised by the game's speed.
Finally, a traditional beat 'em up game that gets much of its online multiplayer spot on. Where to start? The netcode. BlazBlue: Calamity Triggers netcode is magic. We're yet to experience a laggy game. Sure, the pre-match banter can sometimes stutter, but, often like magic, by the time the match starts the game is somehow able to stabilise the connection and provide a solid experience. Which is absolutely essential for game's in this genre. Post fight, the game's persistent ranking system is also rather pleasing. There's no penalty for losing a match (as is the case of many games in this genre), but instead just rewards for those you win. Ranking information is stored on a little profile card, which tells opponents about your favourite character, win-loss ratio, and leaderboard ranking. Multiplayer can be enjoyed in one-on-one ranked matches, or in player lobbies. Player lobbies allow you to be a spectator aswell as a participator in larger environments, with a range of rotation options available to the host. In all, BlazBlue's multiplayer is the highlight of the package. It's brilliantly presented and optimised, with all the features you'd expect available from the get-go.
Before you start complaining - we agree, Story has virtually no baring on the overall experience of a 2D beat 'em up. But BlazBlue's Story Mode is a prominent feature of the game and thus has to be judged as part of the package. The fact is, the reams of dialogue here complimented by static images are just not interesting. They're hard to follow, and hard to skip through. If there's any one element where BlazBlue's lunacy gets the better of it, it's when Arc Systems decided they could make a story out of giant talking cats and black-blobs.
Despite being quite accessible, BlazBlue can also be off-putting. The use of non-standard terminology and controls mean that BlazBlue could do with some kind of a tutorial. Granted, there's a DVD included with the Limited Edition, but those without access to said content will be left perusing online FAQs to understand the meaning of a "Distortion Drive" finish.
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger might be a little ostentatious in its delivery, but it's hard to deny the game's inherent charms. From the beautifully animated character sprites, to the flashy fighting mechanics - BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is a throw-back arcade beat 'em up that feels fresher than it does nostalgic.