While fighting games are nothing new to me, I am not a veteran of the BlazBlue series. I’ve dipped my toe in a couple of times and always had fun, but they seem geared more toward hardcore fighting game players and less toward the casual player like me. BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is a crossover event that many people, myself included, drooled over. Characters from the Persona Arena series, BlazBlue, Under Night In-Birth, and RWBY are all present. Arc System Works have had their hands full for a while now, with the recently released Dragon Ball FighterZ, but Cross Tag Battle has gotten an extreme amount of love from the developers.
To start, there are a handful of different modes for players to choose from. Some of the more obvious ones are the training, versus, and story modes. The less obvious are a mission mode, which is treated as a tutorial, and a survival mode.
I started with the story mode, thinking I would get some sort of explanation of controls and gameplay style. That was the incorrect choice. Instead of easing players in, BlazBlue decides to throw them into the deep end. Granted, a lot of fighters play similarly just with different intricacies for the people willing to commit the time and effort to learn, so learning the basics should be pretty easy for anyone.
However, after backing out of the story mode to actually utilize the mission mode tutorial, I discovered how boring it actually was. Arc System Works had tutorials built into the story mode of Dragon Ball FighterZ six months ago, which helped me learn as I played through the story. The inclusion of a mission mode tutorial that wasn’t even fun to learn made me jump back into story mode with a learn-as-you-go mentality.
This feels counterintuitive. With a crossover event the size of this one, it feels like anyone who picks this up as part of the “fandom” of one of the other series is at a serious disadvantage. There will without a doubt be people who are fans of Persona or RWBY who pick this up and feel handicapped, particularly players who haven’t been following the BlazBlue series but are here for the crossover characters instead.
There are 20 characters included in the roster at launch, with several characters as planned DLC. The roster on display is heavily favored toward BlazBlue, as it should be considering this is focused on Arc System Works’ property. Ten BlazBlue characters, four Persona 4 characters, four Under Night characters, and two RWBY characters are all available at launch. The best part about the roster is that with Arc System Works pedigree of fighters, each one feels absolutely unique and different than the others.
Like Dragon Ball FighterZ in January, BlazBlue features an auto combo system which is something that we have seen in a lot of fighters lately. The auto combo has a cost on gameplay depth though, and players that are here to learn combos and obliterate opponents are hung out to dry. Luckily, where the combo system is lacking, the assist system makes up for it. In Cross Tag Battle, each team is made up of two characters, and each character has a few assist actions to use in battle. These assists are extremely easy to use during combos, and because of the versatility of the different types of assists, makes continuing combos easy even with a knockback or knockdown.
The assist system is really what drives Cross Tag Battle and what kept me coming back for more. In addition to EX meters, there is also an assist meter. The assist meter fills up throughout the course of battle, and if players get stuck in a long combo they can’t get out of, they can expend all of the meter to exercise a Cross Burst that interrupts enemy attacks and swaps out for your partner character. It’s a risk-reward system, though, because utilizing a Cross Burst means you can’t use character assists for a short time.
Visually, BlazBlue is stunning. The character models, environments, and flashy abilities all make for frenetic fights that I couldn’t get enough of. There were a few times where I would get lost in the chaos of the screen and I didn’t know what was happening, but Arc System Works has done a great job making everything have the right amount of visual flair. Traversal and attacks feel weighty with the responsive controls, and the tactical nature of the assist and Cross Burst systems really make every move feel important.
Much like FighterZ, (and Xrd Revelator, from what I’ve read) BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle features a main hub with chibi characters roaming around to speak to in order to select game modes. I personally really like this feature as it makes selecting modes and viewing galleries more fun than just navigating a menu. The biggest letdown in Cross Tag Battle was the story mode. Lots of reading complemented by (mostly) uninteresting dialogue really drag down the plot, which eventually crumbles under the weight of its own scope. The incredible battle system is unfortunately bogged down by a lot of these segments, leaving me more than anything just craving more fights.
It’ll be interesting to see whether BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle has lasting replay value. It has a lot of great characters, but with the same amount of fighters locked behind DLC, I’m wondering how long players will be able to take the constant shove of paid characters. Despite this, the online battles are furious and fun and will be where players spend most of their time once they’re used to the combat system. Even with the dialogue bogging down some of the plot, it was still wonderful seeing some of my favorite Persona characters mixed in with these other franchises, and they still have a good home with Arc System Works.