BlazBlue Central Fiction has been released for PS3 and PS4 systems and marks the (alleged) end to the current story arc. We played the game on both systems.
We’ve been fans of the BlazBlue series for quite some time now, but we’ve had to wait for a brand new entry (on home consoles) ever since 2013’s release of the Chrono Phantasma. That game got an ‘extend’ version to bridge the gap, just like Continuum Shift did during the previous generation. But as is the norm for BlazBlue – each new major version isn’t a radical departure from what came before, but rather a leap forward instead of the fine-tuning that happens in the extend versions. Central Fiction is no different.
For starters, all the 28 characters that were present in Chrono Phantasma’s roster are back in Central Fiction, which adds a further seven characters as well. All are fully voiced – though only in Japanese. Localization extends to subtitles and text only, not to the voice acting. Of the seven new characters, only four are available right away. One can be unlocked by completing the game’s campaign mode, a few others are available as DLC – one of them (currently) for free. Speaking of DLC, for a 50 or 60 euro/dollar game (depending on your version of choice), it’s a little painful to see over 40 euros/dollars worth of extra content available for sale upon launch. If you’re someone who only settles for the complete experience, it’s going to cost you.
Most of the new characters are familiar faces as long as you’re a follower of the franchise, its spinoffs and similar manga series. You’ll see characters pop up with an XBlaze background, from Variable Heart as well as other BlazBlue story (side-)arcs. As a result, characters always feel like they belong on the rosters, although critics might argue that Arc System Works isn’t changing up the roster enough because of this. From my perspective, it’s a logical choice, as the BlazBlue franchise is far more story-driven than nearly all other fighters – and outrageous new characters would just mess with the franchise’s continuity.
That doesn’t mean that nothing has changed and that Central Fiction offers nothing more than a few new characters and story sequences – the core gameplay has received significant changes as well. Visually, being able to see when your Overdrive mode expires by looking at a countdown is a welcome addition. Each character can also use Exceed Accel, which triggers special moves while in Overdrive. It’s extremely powerful, but the tradeoff is that your Overdrive status will end right away. To benefit even more from Exceed Access, make sure you’ve been fighting offensively and your Active Flow meters are up as well – since they boost your effectiveness when it comes to Exceed Accel moves.
The paragraph above may sound like abracadra to those not familiar with BlazBlue, but it’s a series that has always favored those fighting offensively, penalizing you for guarding or backing away too much. Stay on the offense and you’ll get psyched up enough to ensure that future blows will deal more and more damage. It’s a dynamic that favors the bold, and that ties into the storyline as well. BlazBlue Central Fiction features dozens of hours worth of dialogue and story, eclipsing any kind of story mode that most other beat ’em ups offer. You can skip through all of it and just focus on the fighting – with is some of the best 2D fighting you’ll find – but having such elaborate story (side)arcs is definitely a plus for us. If you’re not already invested in the franchise then things quickly get overwhelming, but there’s a recap of past events available as well. Besides the elaborate story mode, there are plenty of other modes to enjoy as well – which is good news because, as much as I enjoyed it, I can’t see myself going through all the story content a second time.
What’s especially impressive is that BlazBlue Central Fiction for the PS3 doesn’t differ too much from its PS4 cousin – the 2D art style translates well to Sony’s last generation console. In fact, with other fighting franchises missing on the PS3 these days, we would go so far as to say that it’s the definite purchase for fighting fans on PS3 this year. The PS4 version just adds even more shine to an already excellent game, although we hope a possible ‘extend’ version is in the cards as well – hopefully including all that optional DLC content.