This year may be the year of the anime fighter.
With Dragon Ball FighterZ being wildly successful, it has opened the door for other series to get a bit more exposure. BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (referred to henceforth as BBTAG) is another fighter from Arc System Works that takes a slightly different approach to the genre. For the most part, it’s very successful at what it attempts.
What Is It?
BBTAG is a 2v2 fighting game pitting characters from various franchises against each other. Yes, it’s a crossover, but it’s a crossover that works. BlazBlue is represented, as is Under Night: In-Birth, Persona 4 Arena, and RWBY. There are 20 characters available in the base game, with 20 more to come. As of this writing, Blake Belladonna from RWBY is available for free, and one of the upcoming paid character packs is available. There is also a $20 Season Pass that will give you all of the downloadable characters for a reduced price.
This brings us to one of the big issues with the game’s business model. Half the roster is DLC. I wasn’t a fan of this when it was announced, and I am still not a fan of it now. This is made a little more insulting by the fact that those characters appear in the story mode. I had wondered how they would handle the story given the reduced roster of the base game. They simply chose to keep them in as if they’d sold you a complete game.
Why Should I Care?
Let’s start off by going over the story mode, or Episode mode as the game calls it. Here you play through a series of matches bracketed by character dialog. It’s fine for what it is, but the fact that there are four episodes that tell basically the same story from a different point of view doesn’t really make for the most satisfying single player content you could have. It’s not bad, by any means–some of the character interactions are downright hilarious. The voice acting is also quite good, so that helps this mode from becoming a drag. On the whole, though, it’s a mode that you won’t really want to replay once you’re done.
What will be sucking in your time are the matches themselves. When you get down to playing the game, you’ll quickly discover the deep yet approachable gameplay systems. With a game that requires you to play two characters at once, getting to know those characters is usually the first challenge BBTAG standardizes the move inputs across all of the characters. This means that effectively you only need to learn one set of inputs to be able to play any of the characters. What those inputs will do will vary from character to character, but a system like this helps smooth the way and get people up to speed faster.
Then there’s the Tag and Assist system. There are three types of assist in the game. A simple button press will bring your partner in to lend a hand. Once you learn what the assist types do, it’s not long until you start to use them to extend combos and do much more damage. While each character’s assists look different, they all fall into the same basic categories, so figuring out what they’ll do isn’t hard.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
The best way to enjoy BBTAG is with friends on the same couch. It’s one of those games that one can easily pick up and come to grips with, and then genuinely want to dive deeper into. When this happens with a group of people, that’s how communities and local scenes start. I fully expect BBTAG to grow with time, as there really is a great game here to support. If your friends are located in another city, state, or country, you can also play online. The online mode is surprisingly robust with matches running quite smoothly. The lobby system also reminds me a lot of Dead or Alive 4’s avatar based lobbies, which injected a bit of fun into something that could easily get way too serious. BBTAG pulls off the same trick with its online mode.
There is a lot to explore in BBTAG. It might be a bit jarring to series veterans to see this level of character standardization, but in a tag-based fighter, it does make a lot of sense. There is no Easy Operation type mode either, so the game hasn’t been dumbed down to the point of being pointless to play. Instead what the team Arc System Works have done is make a 2v2 tag fighter approachable to those who never would have considered one before. That can never be a bad thing.