BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger Review

By Justin Fassino - Posted Jul 02, 2009

BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is the newest 2D fighting game from Arc System Works, creators of the Guilty Gear series, and a developer with a penchant for anime stylings, beautifully detailed sprite design, and fast-paced action all accented by the rocking sound of metal. The game has been in arcades for some time now, but the 360 and PS3 versions mark the first time BlazBlue is playable on consoles.

The Pros
  • Gorgeous 2D graphics and animation
  • Extensive online options
  • Unique Drive Attack system
The Cons
  • God-awful story
  • Not very accessible
  • Screen covered in gauges

A spiky-haired rebellious character whose primary colors are red and white clashes with his rival, a blond-haired noble dressed in blue that shoots elemental swords. No this isn’t the next Guilty Gear game… or is it? BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is the newest 2D fighting game from Arc System Works, creators of the Guilty Gear series, and a developer with a penchant for anime stylings, beautifully detailed sprite design, and fast-paced action all accented by the rocking sound of metal. The game has been in arcades for some time now, but the 360 and PS3 versions mark the first time BlazBlue is playable on consoles.

Murakumo Activated...

BlazBlueAs a fighting game, it hits all the right buttons: the action is furious, with combos stringing well into the double digits. The character design has that unique Arc System Works flare, from the morphing demon Arakune to the Hellboy-ish Iron Tager. In fact, one of the strengths of BlazBlue is the differentiation between characters; the roster runs the gamut from sword-wielding anime hero to vampire princesses to ninjas. If that sounds awesome, believe me, it is. Each character has its own particular special ability during combat that is activated by hitting the drive button. Rachel Alucard, for example, can control the wind, allowing her to close the distance on her opponent very quickly so she can put her electricity powers to good use. Jin Kisaragi freezes people in place with his ice sword while Carl Clover, a vigilante who dresses like a magician and uses his anthropomorphic doll as his weapon, is in fact two characters on screen at once. Each character feels distinct in their abilities and strategies, and its clear that knowing each character’s fighting style is the key to defeating them as much as playing a solid game.

Unfortunately, this extreme spectrum also hurts the gameplay a little bit; never do the combatants in any given fight feel like they’re playing under the same rule set. In more conventional fighting games, every character is limited to the same super gauge as far as how it fills up and when they can use their powerful abilities. In BlazBlue, some characters don’t even have normal super gauges. It’s hard to fault the entire game for being unbalanced as the over-the-top nature of the gameplay is a hallmark to Arc System Works design, but with such different abilities and situational powers on each character, there’s definitely a sense of asymmetry. Clearly, being a jack of all trades in BlazBlue is a very tough thing to accomplish. More realistically, players will want to choose someone that fits their play style and then master their moves.

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Hands Where I Can See Them


BlazBlue FightsOn the very literal bright side, the visuals in the game are second to none among 2D games. Lush, vibrant, gorgeous; these are all words to describe the sprites and their animations. The team at ARC is clearly made up of artists and it seeps out of every pixel. Stage backgrounds are equally impressive, blurring the line between 2D drawings and fully-rendered 3D very well. A notable example would be Rachel Alucard’s Transylvanian-styled castle that looms over the fighting plane. As players mix it up, the rose petals covering the floor of the stage begin to swish and fly in the wind. Sometimes they’re red, sometimes they’re grey, but they’re always an amazing effect.

As is expected in fighting games in the modern era, there are a number of modes. In addition to the standard training and arcade modes, there’s an art gallery where players can unlock art and cutscenes. This console version also sports a story mode where choosing a character launches into their piece of the BlazBlue world with still images and voiced dialogue as they battle their rivals. Does the story make any sense? No. Is the voice acting any good? Outside of Iron Tager, not very. In fact, the story of BlazBlue is the worst part of the entire game. It’s generic anime garbage of the highest level, full of angsty grunting and overly dramatic monologue nonsense. Overly complex and poorly told, it is a classic example of shoehorning too much plot into a genre that doesn’t need it, which has the dual effect of making story mode intolerable. Unless you’re a die-hard anime fan, skip it.

Be Gentle... It's My First Time.

BlazBlueAside from all of that, there is an online play mode with a bevy of options. Players can create a room of up to six people to compete against one another while the players sitting out can watch the match in progress (take note here Street Fighter IV). Players can set the rotation order for who stays and leaves after every match, the round time, number of rounds, whether or not super moves are allowed, and beyond. It is exhaustively extensive and ARC deserves serious kudos for their attention to features.

The net code here is pretty solid. It’s not approaching Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix-levels of smoothness, but it’s definitely close. Be it ranked or player matches, playing online feels like playing with someone right next to you. During the rare times when the action on screen slows down due to latency, it does cause some pretty severe input lag, but thankfully the number of times this happened was few and far between. In the modern age of gaming, solid online multiplayer is essential and ARC nailed it pretty good this time out.

That Was Incredible!

xp20090702_blazblue_revWhen it’s all said and done, the question remains: isn’t this just a new Guilty Gear with a different title? The answer is “yes” in almost all regards. And make no mistake: this is not a bad thing at all. Some of the gameplay has been changed up (command throws are now the norm instead of forward and hard slash) and the characters are different, but if you’ve played a Guilty Gear game before, you know what to expect from BlazBlue. Novices and the most casual of fighting game fans will be turned off by the game’s incredible variety of depth and the time it will take to master any one aspect of the gameplay, but anyone who has ever liked kicking their buddy’s ass with a joystick in hand will love this very good, very solid entry into the genre. Its HD visuals will amaze, the soundtrack brings the energy, and it is worth your 60 bones.