The latest Blazblue title from Arc System Works has arrived, and it’s a little different from previous entries in the franchise. Focusing on tag team battles with characters from other franchises, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle is a dream come true for those who aren’t just fond of the core series but also appreciate the other characters and story arcs. Also available on the Switch, here’s our review of the PS4 version.
On the surface, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle is a lot like other fighting games when you take a look at the included modes. There’s a tutorial/training mode where you can learn and/or practice moves and combos and there is a story-heavy “episode” mode that allows you to play through four separate stories that take place inside the game’s mashed together universe. Single battles (against AI or human opponents) are initiated through versus mode and there’s the online lobby if you want to go toe to toe with players around the world.
Obviously, one of the hooks in bringing together several popular franchises is the story mode. Divided up into four different stories, the episodes are about as long as the average TV show episode (without commercials). Containing content from the Blazblue, Under Night In-Birth, Persona 4 Arena and RWBY franchises, it’s no surprise that all four episodes are extremely story and dialogue-heavy. Since RWBY is the only franchise I wasn’t familiar with, this wasn’t an issue for me. I enjoyed Persona 4 Arena a lot on the PS3 and recently reviewed Under Night In-Birth as well – I could see the story-heavy treatment being a little much for newcomers though. The stories themselves aren’t that great though, so if you’re not into fighting games you don’t need to get this for the lore factor. They mostly follow a similar structure – setting up the mashup of universes as a theme and then fighting towards fixing things.
It’s that fighting that’s really the core element here though, and luckily Arc System Works is at their A game once again. The tag mechanic is nothing new and works just fine, but the biggest achievement is that the developers have managed to bring such a diverse cast of characters together and still come up with a game that feels balanced. Granted, most Arc System Works titles receive later revisions and expanded releases with slight balance tweaks, but I didn’t encounter any overpowered characters during my gameplay sessions. Some felt on the weaker side, but I chalked that down to my own lack of skill – the online arena will no doubt sort all that out over the next few months.
The character roster, as a logical result from the mashup that is Cross Tag Battle, has plenty of diversity. Special moves also fit the source material, even when the control scheme has been slightly tweaked to fit with the accessible Blazblue control method. The training mode is great for getting comfortable with these, and I’d recommend finding a pair or characters to use and training with those two before mixing and matching randomly – it’ll pay off, especially during online multiplayer. Offline play feels a lot more forgiving by comparison, but can be a training ground in and of itself – with the option to crank up the difficulty level if needed.
There’s a glaring negative about the roster as well though – half the roster isn’t available unless you buy the deluxe digital edition or the character collection DLC package. That sets you back another 20 dollars/euros, which brings the game to a price point that some might not want to consider. As mentioned before, Arc System Works games have almost always received re-releases with more characters and gamers have been happy to embrace them, but the balance between included and DLC-optional characters feels like it’s been upset this time. Perhaps this is an alternative to the earlier re-releases, but I can imagine people being happier buying those as an upgrade to a full game than buying a full price game they feel had essential content stripped from it.
Having said that, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle is a definite success and shows that Arc System Works can do what games like Marvel vs Capcom did before. If you enjoy the franchises that this game brings together, you’ll enjoy this game – maybe even enough to splurge on the digital deluxe version.