Thursday, 26 September 2013

Black Rock Shooter: The Game

Gamespot Score: n/a

My Score: 7.8

(+) Pros: - Bleak world and setting, - Innovative on rails shooter esque RPG gameplay, -Tons of visual flair during battles, - Great environmental variety and fun boss fights, - Apostles are very interesting villains, - Customization item and skill sets, - Tons of challenges and post game content.

(-) Cons: - Needs more mini-games to switch up the pace of the game, - Not a lot of interesting MAIN characters, and Nana is annoying, - Little enemy variety.

Gameplay time: About 10 hours, 20 including post game content

I was looking forward to this game, I'm quite sure many were. Upon the decline of the release of PSP games, there were 2 games that I were looking forward to more than anyone else, this game, and "Final Fantasy Type-0". So NISA said they would bring this over in English, so I waited, waited, and I waited some more. About 2 years later, when my interest for the game died down, English screenshots were posted, and the game was coming out in a few months time. I already forgotten about the game at this point, but I still went to play it. Honestly, it didn't live up to the hype. But is it a bad game? Absolutely not, in fact, its quite like nothing I've ever played. It sure is a unique experience, that's for sure.

So, its humanity's last hour. The human race is in the danger of being extinct. Out of the entire world, there are only 12 humans left, and they are being cornered into a tight spot. The alien invasion has wiped out all resistance, and it was only a matter of time until the final 12 met their end. However, they had one hope, and it all rested on the shoulders of a single girl, the "secret weapon" that they had been saving up. In the depths of despair, the final humans were being surrounded by aliens, and they managed to wake up this girl,the "Sleeping Beauty". The "Princess". The "Secret Weapon". She was The Black Rock Shooter, and she awoke in stunning fashion to fight off the alien invasion, to preserve what's left and help the human race take their revenge on the aliens.

A weapon isn't exactly the smartest of things.

There's one thing that puts me on full tilt the moment I start the game, the state of the game world. I'm a fan of post apocalyptic settings, especially with something like "12 humans left", it makes my heart race, especially when a couple of them die immediately when the game starts (its not a spoiler, it happens right at the very first cut-scene...). The helplessness of the humans when they are assaulted by a ton of aliens, and then, the heroine shows up, bursting out from a trailer and making quick work of all enemies. It sets up for nice situations such as this, and the state of the humans only sets as a reminder to how grave the entire situation is.

You play as The Black Rock Shooter of course (I'll just call her BRS), as the final weapon of humanity, you destroy all the aliens. However, she doesn't appear to be really smart, and she's what you'd expect, a weapon. As the human weapons are almost useless and ineffective against the alien invaders, you have what it takes to fight back and eventually save whatever's left of humanity. It's a nice catch, but we can't really go too in depth without talking about how you're going to shoot up the aliens.

A shooter with RPG mechanics? Yes please.

The entire game runs like a regular RPG. You run around maps, looking for treasure chests and spoils, with enemy units roaming around. Touching these enemies will transfer you into a battle, where you will fight a group of enemies. Defeating all enemies will end the battle, netting you EXP and items. After that you'll be brought back to the field, with the enemy unit defeated. Save points heal your HP on the field...sounds an awful lot like an RPG, but the battles themselves function a lot like an on rails shooter. BRS is mostly stationary in the battlefield, and enemies will either approach you from afar, or shoot at you from a distance, or both.

You have a pre-auto aimed cursor that automatically locks on the enemies, which you can shoot at them with the cost of energy, dealing damage. You can also use skills on the locked on enemies for bigger damage. Skills have no cost as well, but have cooldowns depending on the power of the skill. For enemy attacks, you can either block them or dodge them. Blocking costs nothing, and dodging costs energy. Using too much energy will reflect on the overheat meter below your health bar, and if you dodge or attack too much without cooling down, you'll enter overheat, where you will be unable to take action until the bar cools down back to 0%.

Step up your game.

As the overheat bar fills, your regular attacks are less effective, so its important to manage the expenditure of your energy. Of course, you can use items to immediately get you out of overheat status, though items can also heal you in a pinch. Some skills allow for defensive play as well, not all are for attacking. There are skills that increase your ATK, DEF, or sometimes regenerate your health over time. Managing cooldowns, items and your energy can be a daunting task in a battle against a huge group of enemies, or just against an overwhelming boss. 

Battles are full of visual flair, not only from the BRS herself, but enemies too. The bolts BRS shoots out explode upon impact to the enemy, with flashy colors everywhere. Dodges cause a swift gust of wind, and some abilities cause her to blow up huge portions of the screen with mighty pillars of blue flame. Enemies are no different, they shoot beams, missiles, and much more that explode when they connect. If you like explosions and cool skills, there's a lot to look at.

Watch out for that boss!

Throughout the game you'll be traversing many different areas, ranging from cities, forests, frozen areas and alien mother ships. The change of environment is nice, and how you traverse these areas are different. Map layouts differ from one another depending on the map, and terrain changes from time to time. Boss fights are also a fantastic change of pace. The apostles are cool guys, they provide great challenge compared to regular enemies, and its always exciting to see the next apostle, to discover what kind of person they are or see what kind of unique fighting style they will bring.

Speaking of the apostles, they are some of the most interesting villains around. How they interact with one another is just so delightful to watch, and with each of them having different takes on humanity, it sure brightens up the mood when the world is in such peril. Its always a thrill to see how they'll treat BRS when they meet her, as most of them have pretty cool intro cut scenes to describe their personality. 

Besides that there's tons of challenges for each area, like defeating a certain amount of enemies, not taking damage, etc etc. Most of these are done post game, but some can be done during the regular playthrough. The unlockables are sweet, you'll get stuff like weapons, new outfits, new skills or even an extra ending during post game challenges. You can customize BRS, with these clothing and skills, each giving different stats or effects. Since you can only equip up to 4 skills, you can really ponder how bringing the perfect item set to fight, whether it be against regular enemies or bosses.

Needs more mini games like this one.

There'll be a part of the game where you're given a bike for some awesomeness. It's a mini-game, its pointless, but its fun. The game really needed more parts like this, like maybe a mini-game segment per area, that couldn't hurt. These really switched up the pace, and the lack of more of these made the game a little dragged out at times. The main characters of the game aren't very interesting as well. The soldiers are pretty much stereotypes, BRS is like a machine, and Nana is annoying as all hell. The apostles are way more interesting than any of the main cast. Finally, the enemy variety is lacking. There are full of color pallet swaps, but the actual variety is a little saddening.

BRS is a good game when everything is said and done. Its something new, but all things considered, it isn't revolutionary enough to make a dent in the gaming industry. Its a fun play for JRPG fans (its more of an RPG than a shooter game), and there's tons of challenges to keep those hardcore players going. There's a swimsuit, school uniform and bunny suit outfit  for you otakus to dress up your BRS, but that's that. If you've been waiting for this for a long time to get localized, now's the time.

Happy gaming!