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April 2019

Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: PQube
Developer: Arc System Works
Release Date: June 5, 2018 (US), June 22, 2018 (EU)


PS4 Review - 'Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle'

by Cody Medellin on July 23, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle will feature a dream-team of characters that have never before been gathered in a single 2D fighting game.

Buy Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle

It's rare to meet a fighting game fan who hasn't heard of Arc System Works. The company made a splash with its Guilty Gear series on the original PlayStation and concocted its new series Blazblue around the time of the PS3 and Xbox 360. The team developed the Personal 4 Arena fighting game duo and helped publish games like Under Night In-Birth and Arcana Heart 3: Love Max. A majority of people would know of the developer for their work on Dragon Ball FighterZ, the current king of the frantic tag battling world that is probably the most anticipated title inthe EVO fighting game tournament. For its next project, the team decided to take everything it has learned and put it into Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle, a game that's interesting in a number of ways.

As the name would imply, this is a crossover fighting game that highlights four different franchises: Blazblue, Persona 4 Arena, RWBY, and Under Night In-Birth. The Blazblue characters have more representation compared to the other franchises, but overall, there are a good number of fighters. The first issue is that the game promises a total of 40 characters, but at launch, only 20 are available. The roster for each series feels thin, but RWBY only has two characters of the main four in the base game. The other two are available via DLC for free, but the other 18, which haven't been announced yet, are coming at a later date. Arc System Works says that both the base game and the season pass are being priced lower than normal fighting games, but others will see a game with a bare-bones number of selectable fighters. It feels like the strategy used by Street Fighter V, where characters trickled in at a slow rate, leaving you with a small cast at the outset. The strategy didn't go down well for Capcom's mainstream fighting series, and the strategy is met with more backlash here.

In addition to the game's small roster, players will notice that the fighting system isn't as complicated as past offerings from the developer. Your primary attack buttons have dropped to two, and button-mashing the same one generates some decent combos. The third attack button starts a tag-team combo move — if you stand still instead of ducking or jumping. The special moves and special attacks are all here, but they're initiated with double taps or quarter-circle moves. This follows the Dragon Ball FighterZ formula, so the game is meant to ease newcomers into the genre while still letting veterans apply their skills in creating something devastating. If you want to learn about the system's intricacies, Tactics mode acts as a combination of a basic tutorial and a mission mode, where you can learn about each of the fighters. It's almost essential for those who haven't played a game in the franchises before.

One knock against the fighting is that there's been little in the way of balance between characters. You'll see it with people like Waldstein, whose long reach and large claws leave little room to escape, or Noel, whose B attack combo can close the space between fighters very quickly to deliver a double-digit combo that eats up a huge chunk of health. It isn't difficult to overpower these characters, but you'll often be surprised by how quickly they can bust out something to throw you off.

Online play has always been a strong suit for Arc System Works, and that also holds true in Cross Tag Battle. Aside from having a relatively lag-free experience, the game brings back a graphical lobby system where you have to meet up with your opponent on designated pads before a fight can begin. The chat system supports text, but you'll most likely use stickers with text to get your point across. Even after launch, there are still a good number of players online and lots of lobbies for different skill levels. You have to set up your team before venturing online, so it's difficult to experiment online; it's a trend that's been adopted by other games, and it wouldn't be so annoying if it were optional.

If you're playing offline, there isn't much for you to partake in. Training mode lets you beat up on a dummy endlessly. The standard Versus mode lets you play against another human or CPU opponent. There's also a Survival mode, where you can see how far you can take your team before wiping out. That's about it, making the package feel rather light when compared to the developer's offerings a few years ago.

The offline mode with the most focus is Episode mode, which acts as the gateway for the story. You learn that a sentient AI has succeeded in merging four different worlds and is having them fight one another to gather data on them while disguising the whole thing as a tournament. The initial episode has you going through the adventure as Ragna the Bloodedge, giving the tale a Blazblue perspective. Finish that, and you can go through the story again either as Yu from Persona 4 Arena, Ruby from RWBY, or Hyde from Under Night In-Birth.

From a story perspective, it is both dumb and funny. The game uses the tried-and-true visual novel style for its cut scenes, which would be fine if the portraits changed poses or conveyed any emotion. That isn't the case, so every scene looks like it's using one model for every situation. It also doesn't help that you'll encounter opponents that aren't selectable in the roster yet, giving rise to the idea that all of the DLC characters are here but locked away for no good reason other than to sell the season pass. On the bright side, at least the dialogue between characters can lead to some humorous scenes, and those with knowledge of the properties will appreciate the casual references.

Tying all of this together is a lobby that feels similar to the one used in Dragon Ball FighterZ, albeit smaller in size and less crowded with people. This is where you'll discover that every mode rewards you with coins that can be spent in the Kaka Kitten shop. Unlike Bandai Namco's game, you'll find that the shop lacks interesting things to buy. You can change your avatar but can't really customize it beyond that. You can buy new icons and a few other basics for your fight card that people will see online. You can also buy a new color for your in-game fighters, and that's about it. You'll generally forget about its existence.

The lobby has one section that is decorated but non-functional, and that's an area with a few stand-up arcades. It is a strange thing to have when the game doesn't have a proper arcade mode, so either one is coming soon via a patch, or the game was really rushed in time for this year's EVO tournament and someone forgot to remove it.

Fans of the developer already have expectations that the graphics would be the highlight, but the expectations are only partially met in Cross Tag Battle. The backgrounds still look wonderful, and a good number of them are ripped from the represented games. The special effects still look great, and the character animations are awesome. However, the character models can look out of place. Instead of going for cel-shaded polygons like Dragon Ball FighterZ and the Guilty Gear Xrd series, the game opts for the classic sprites that the company has used for years. That's fine if the sprites were updated, but since the game simply reuses assets from older games, you can clearly see the jagged diagonal lines and the color banding on characters during their fight intros. It gets worse in the new models for the RWBY cast, and one can only imagine how everyone else will look.

At least the quality of the audio side of the game holds up. This is especially true of the voice acting, which marks the return of a dubbed English track alongside the standard Japanese one. The acting is well done, and it is nice to hear new lines spoken when you have particular teams form up. Elsewhere, the music is great; it repurposes some theme songs for use in a fighting environment rather well. It's slightly jarring to hear lyrics being sung while a skirmish is going on, but it fits nonetheless.

Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle isn't Arc System Works' crowning achievement. The graphics could use some cleaning up, especially on the characters, and the reduction in modes for offline play will hurt those who are used to the series being rich in that area. The fighting is solid both online and offline, and it's easy enough for players of all skill levels to enjoy. It really is the DLC plan that's a big decision point for players. With no timetable about when all of the fighters will be released, the smart move for the more casual set would be to wait until everything is out first and see if the company will release a more complete version later on. Otherwise, if you can't wait, you're in for a solid fighting experience.

Score: 7.5/10

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