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I do enjoy my share of anime fighters. I’ve enjoyed playing intense rounds of Melty Blood Actress Again with good friends and strong players, dabbled a bit in Guilty Gear Accent Core and Accent Core Plus with moderate interest, and messed around in Chaos Code as an after-thought impulse. Despite this, there has been one series that I have always despised.
It’s not that I haven’t tried to give the Blazblue series a fair shot; I have played and competed in tournament for every single update and version of Blazblue since Calamity Trigger. There was always something off in each particular version; some aspect of the system that has always caused me to raise an irritated eyebrow or inflame my ire. Be it the cookie cutter cast of anime stereotypes, the overt self-indulgence of anime cliches and inane story line techno-babble, or the sheer aggravation caused by character imbalance, there always seemed to be something for which to be irked.
I preface the continuation of this article by stating that I am not a top player or some pillar of the community. I have played fighting games for a long time, both in competitive and casual settings, long enough to try out and learn more games than I remember playing. Ever the open mind, upon hearing about the newest edition to the series, I set aside time to learn Arcsys’ newest edition to the franchise. After many months of playing, as I had access to the Japanese copy of the game, I am left with very little confidence in the company and the series as a whole.
As a positive, the game finally doesn’t feel as though I’m swimming through a great barrier reef of tar and molasses to witness two sea slugs copulating. After four previous iterations, the game finally has the speed and frenetic energy characteristic of the genre. Avatars fly through the air and strike with decisive velocity. The combo system appears to be more coherent and somewhat more intuitive this time around, to the extent that it will take some time in training mode to do the optimum stuff. Welcome additions are that the game’s combos don’t last nearly as long, due to major system tweaks, allowing players to get back into the game quicker than previous editions. As a trade-off, players only get one burst that can be used to either extend combos or be used as one get out of jail free card, as opposed to the two in previous versions.
As I continued to play, I grew increasingly more disgusted with the game, which mounted into a increasing distaste. This is mostly due to obnoxious audio and character imbalance. Endless sound clips of the same lines over and over again with every button press is grating, especially since I cannot stand the voice acting. Let me take this moment to confess. I despise all of Blazblue’s characters, from the paedomorphic fetishist wolf-man butler Valkenhayn to the unabashedly sheepish sycophantic waifu bait Noel Vermillion, though I am willing to set aside my ill feelings on anime stereotypes in the presence of good game design. Unfortunately, this is where Blazblue once again falls on its face, at least in the eyes of this writer. It’s not so much that the game attempts too much and over-extends itself, though it does attempt to revise many aspects of its system. To be fair, the way the game handles its guard break system is simple and somewhat less obnoxious than previous ventures. This writer only wishes that they put more thought into the actual character balance, as irritating characters such as Hakumen, Valkenhayn, and Kokonoe tend to remind one of Animal Farm; all are equal, some are more equal then others.
This is not denying that in any game, some characters become a little better than others, which is par for the course. When some characters are doing almost full life combos off random hits and ignoring player momentum, it becomes an issue. When a character can fly around the screen without having to worry about fireball oriented characters, it becomes an issue. When a DLC character is released without anyone bothering to play-test it, it becomes a real problem. I will avoid a tirade against DLC, as micro-transactions appear to be the most effective way to turn a profit nowadays, but when you provide add-ons to a game that is already established, you run the risk of imbalancing a game that was already somewhat eskew already.
All and all, the newest edition of Blazblue could be a decent addition to the genre, if only a little more tweaking was allowed and the voice actors be given muzzles. I cannot stand to hear any more of these submissive border-line pornographic pain moans any longer.