Friday, 30 June 2017

Blazblue: Central Fiction

Gamespot Score: N/A

My Score: 8.5

(+) Pros: - Largest character roster yet, new characters are all great additions, - Plenty of modes to bleed you dry for a single player experience, - Deepest and longest story mode yet, most characters in the roster have 3 arcade mode endings, - New Exceed Accel and Active Flow mechanics make the game much more fast paced and aggressive, - Extensive tutorial mode and individual character challenges help you get good at the game quick, - Great online modes similar to that of "Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator", - The OST.

(-) Cons: - Still re-uses the same HD sprites from old games (still look great, but they've been using these sprites for f**king 8 years now), - The story mode is long and comprehensive, but at this point, VN story-telling is getting outpaced by other fighting games.

Gameplay Time: N/A

Here it is. The final installment of "Blazblue", and easily the most anticipated expansion of the franchise. We've seriously come a very, very long way from the meager 12 characters we've had since "Calamity Trigger" back in 2008/2009 (man I feel old as f**k). Just look at the roster now, it makes many other fighting games look tiny (ahem, SF5) in comparison. Still, it IS technically the same game that it has always been, just polished and updated to a godlike state over the past years. After so many releases, we've come to expect more from "Arc System Works", and in more ways than one, they've delivered beautifully. "Blazblue: Central Fiction", as the final installment of the franchise (for now at least), is easily the most content rich and fun fighter when compared to other "Blazblue" games, making it stand tall in today's standards, competing nicely against many modern fighting games. Though its age is starting to show, "Blazblue: Central Fiction" still shows that its got some fight left in it, and is willing to go out guns blazing with its final game. 

Following the adventures of Ragna The Bloodedge from the previous game, "Central Fiction" is a sequel to "Chrono Phantasma". For some reason, every single character in the BB universe gets sucked into an alternate reality known as the Embryo, which is actually a world created by Nine The Phantom after she was revealed at the end of the CP story. Everyone in the Embryo has had their memories altered, and the relationships that they forged over the past 3 games were mostly null and void. Only a few individuals possessed the power to retain their memories within the Embryo, but Ragna was not one of them. He awakes in a forest nearby Kagutsuchi, with no memory of anything whatsoever, and begins his journey to crush the library anew once again...

*Sniff* Oh how the Blazblue roster has grown
since it started so long ago...

As a fighting game, there's one very important thing to look at when you jump into "BB:CF". That's right, the roster. For a long time coming now, the roster for "Blazblue" has been growing with every new expansion, and now with its final installment, "Central Fiction" has a grand total of 35 characters (2 DLC). As with most of the games in the franchise, "Central Fiction"'s characters play quite differently from one another, but don't expect the insane variety that you did from earlier games, as with this many characters, there would bound to be characters who play somewhat similarly to one another. Newcomer characters are all pretty fun to use and feel incredibly unique, especially boss characters like Nine (who fights by combining spells) or Saya (who has a flight mode that's incredibly fun to play around with).  For the most part though, the newer additions to the roster are very easy to pick up and have fun with, except maybe Saya, who has quite an amount of technical depth.

A fighting game with the most amount of fighters total up to nothing if the game doesn't have the content to support it. Luckily, "Central Fiction" takes notes from its previous franchise installments, providing us with plenty of single player content to sink our teeth into. Not counting the story mode and regular arcades, we have the insane Grim Of The Abyss, Score Attack and Speed Star modes, which allow us to test the limits of our characters and just let loose to have fun. There's also the glossary that brings you up to speed with previous BB story and terms in case you are unfamiliar with the game's extremely confusing and convoluted lore. Of course, there' also the great gallery mode that lets you listen to BB tunes while looking at artwork and game CG, while also allowing you purchase alternate colors for your characters. In terms of unlockables, this game has plenty, PLENTY to keep you occupied for a long time.

Story mode is the same old deal.

Now let's talk the meat of the game for most of the casual audience: the story mode. "BB:CF"'s story is easily the longest out of all the games in the franchise. Despite streamlining it to a point where its very easy to unlock all the side stories and see all the gag reels, the amount of content here is ridiculous. However, most of it is the same deal as with previous games, mostly still images with moving mouths and blinking eyes while reading and listening to tons and tons dialogue. Sure, this game is without an English dub at launch (while I usually use the japanese dub, it REALLY sucks to see it absent, I already miss Patrick Seitz and Cristina Vee as Ragna and Noel), but the Japanese dub is great and the story can be fun. If you read fast, you can probably get through the entire thing in about 15-20 hours, which is a F**K load of text and dialogue, even for a VN. Of course, there are fights scattered in between, but those last only seconds compared to how much reading you have to do.

The way Nine fights is pretty flashy, to say the least.

Alright, let's get down to the mechanics of the game. If you're still unfamiliar with "Blazblue", its a simple 2D fighting game that borrows lots of mechanics from other fighting games from Arc System Works. Complete with push blocks, barrier usage, air dashing and roman cancels, "Blazblue" is a very flashy fighting game that's quite easy to learn, but very hard to master. While most of the roster is fairly simple, some characters are extremely complex and are very difficult to use. As for changes in "Central Fiction"...things are certainly a lot more aggressive this time around. Gone are the days of saving double bursts for the final match to have 2 "get out of jail free" cards. Instead of bursting, Overdrives are now highly recommended for how rewarding they are, especially with the new Exceed Accel and Active Flow mechanics.

Exceed Accel is a brand new distortion drive attack that can only be used in Overdrive mode. Simply pressing all 4 attack buttons in Overdrive mode will activate it, and holding all 4 attack buttons while in default mode will have your character immediately enter Overdrive mode and use their Exceed Accel. Exceed Accel immediately ends your character's Overdrive mode, but the simplicity and its sudden burst damage can really make or break a match. Then there's Active Flow, a hidden counter that builds up as your character moves around towards your opponent or when your character attacks your opponent. When maxed out, your Overdrive mode lasts longer and your Exceed Accel does significantly more damage. This allows for a more aggressive playing field between both players, which makes for faster, tighter and more intense fights.

Yes, get that Azrael!

Of course, many of these things can be very intimidating to a new player, which is why not just "Central Fiction", but most of the "Blazblue" games have a very intensive tutorial to teach you the ropes. The tutorial teaches you the very basics from landing basic attacks, your button inputs and teaching you the fundamentals of chaining your moves with one another. Everything from wave dashing, roman cancels, rapid cancels, advance name it, the game throws it at you and makes sure you do it well. Then beyond that, the game throws you tons of individual character challenges, teaching you everything you need to know about that character, from basic combos to advanced combos that require the most precise of muscle memory.

Most characters have three arcade mode endings.

Once you've learnt the basics its time to take your skills elsewhere. The game's arcade mode has tons of replayability. Not only do you have 35 characters to go crazy on, most characters have 3 arcade mode endings, split into different acts, each taking place at a different time of the "BB:CF" story mode. There is A WHOLE LOT of story here to lose yourself in, on top of the regular story mode that the game already packs. Of course, there are also the other modes mentioned above to lose yourself in....or you can take your chances online. The game re-uses the lobby system similar to the one in "BBCP" and to some extent, "Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator". Its a really cool way to interact with players as you run around with your little avatar and challenge other players to matches in a variety of ways, ranging from solo 1v1 matches to team battles and tournament formats. Netcode seems to be stable enough, but then again, a lot depends on your connection.

And of course, it won't be a "Blazblue" review without mentioning our lord and savior Daisuke Ishiwatari. Once again, Daisuke kills it with the OST. While a lot of the work is re-used from "BBCP", the new songs in "BBCF" are absolutely wonderful and are some of my favorites in the entire franchise. The new material is really good, and it goes without saying that songs from Daisuke are probably some of my favorites in all of fighting games.

Run around and look like an idiot in the lobbies.

And here we go with the game's few problems, they're quite obvious actually. For one, the game looks really dated at this point. While the 2D sprites were absolutely beautiful when they first introduced it back then....its been nearly 8 years since they've used it, and compared to many other fighters out there, "Blazblue"'s 2D sprites really can't compare to the amazing graphics from other fighters like "Tekken", "MK" or even Arc System Work's other fighter, "GG Xrd". The story mode as well, its a lot of reading and very little interaction. We're staring at stills most of the time, which is getting a little stale at this point. Once again, other fighting game stories do it a lot better, once again, taking a nod at "GG Xrd", which pretty much has us watch a badass anime movie.

At the end of the day, "BBCF" closes out the "Blazblue" franchise nicely. This is the last "Blazblue" game we're going to be getting in awhile, and while its not confirmed that the franchise is finished for sure, this is what we're going to have to be satisfied with for a long time, and I can safely say that its a nice sendoff to an otherwise great fighting game franchise. Arc System Works have a lot of weight to carry, especially with updating "GG Xrd" and working on that new "Dragonball" fighting game that looks sick as hell. I only hope that when "Blazblue" does eventually make a return, it'll be with the 3D engine for much sicker experience.

Happy Gaming!