Did you ever think we would live in a time where we’d see the casts of Persona clashing with the stars of the RWBY anime in a crossover style tag team fighting game? No? Well, me neither, so that is perfectly fine. Here we are in 2018 and that is exactly what I have in front of me. Let’s not forget that this package also features a large chunk of the BlazBlue crew along with characters from another fighting game called Under Night In-Birth. This is a collaborative effort between four different creative studios with BlazBlue (and Dragon Ball FighterZ) developer Arc System Works leading the charge. BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, which I will refer to as CTB from here on out, reminded me of the Marvel vs Capcom series in more ways than one. This is a mashup of characters that I never knew I wanted, but I’m so glad that it exists. Now, let me go into a little more detail about what Arc System Works did right (and wrong) here.
An accessible yet deep fighter
CTB is easily the most accessible entry in the BlazBlue series to date. BlazBlue is a series that’s typically known for its more complex systems and tight windows in which to input commands. In my opinion, they aren’t typically very novice-friendly, yet CTB not only manages to pull off being a “noob friendly” fighting game but has its own complexity, or identity, hidden within its tag mechanic. When you first pick up the controller, CTB will feel similar to Dragon Ball FighterZ. There is a bit of uniformity in how each character plays due to the accessible nature of the game and the heavy focus on auto combos. Most of your attacks will be dealt out with the use of only two buttons. Either of those can be pressed up to four times for a simple, yet flashy and effective, combo that can make anyone feel like a fighting game pro. Each character also contains much more simple input commands for special moves when compared to games like Street Fighter or past BlazBlue games.
While I did find that this simplified approach does strip each character of their own identities, a bit, the way the assist system works more than makes up for this. Each character can perform three separate assists during a match. This allows you to create your own custom combos that are fully dependent on who your team consists of and when you call them into battle. This creates a ton of replayability as you begin to experiment with all the possible combinations presented by the character roster. The fact that all of the cast feels a bit familiar becomes a blessing as it’s easy to slip into a new skin and experiment to your heart’s content with each character. Even if you don’t know the particular ins and outs of a character, you will still be able to pull off all of their general moves and combos without fear of being completely out of your element. I’m normally not a fan of this simplified method, but I fully embraced it in CTB. It was executed so well in this game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another developer pull this off.
Another aspect of CTB that I really enjoyed was the overall pace of the mayhem. This is a really fast fighting game. In fact, all of the characters dash by default. You won’t have to double tap that forward button here, because everyone dashes around the battlefield like speed demons as they run and double jump in an attempt to stay one step ahead of their opponent. The action is simple and very chaotic no matter who is playing or what skill level they are. CTB’s mechanics can become deep if you’re willing to put in the time and dig, so I would never describe the game as shallow. CTB is much more about timing your blocks perfectly, learning when to tag your partner in, and experimenting with the assist system than it is about complex input commands. You have to think and think fast.
Every fighter has a weakness… or two
As much as I want to shower the game with much deserved praise, I do feel the need to point out a few gripes that I have with this most exceptional fighter. When buying the base game, you will only get 22 fighters on the roster. At launch, this number was only 20, but two characters from RWBY were later released as free DLC. Twenty-two fighters is a great number. Normally, I would say that’s enough. Being as this is a tag team style affair, I can’t help but feel the roster is a bit thin at that number. If you want the complete roster, be ready to shell out some more money for the remaining 18 fighters of the season one DLC. To further rub salt in the wound, you’ll realize that many of the DLC characters are already built into the game as you fight them during the game’s story mode. They are right there locked behind a paywall. Be aware of this. The base price is slightly cheaper than a normal release by 10 dollars. I have used all of the DLC characters and I do think that they are all worth purchasing.
Questionable DLC practices aside, I do think that the exceptionally crafted fighting mechanics deserve a recommendation to all fighting game veterans and to anyone who is a fan of any of the featured series. Don’t be afraid to try it if you’ve never tried, or aren’t particularly good at fighting games. This may be the most accessible fighter I’ve ever played. On top of its easy to learn mechanics, it has a great tutorial that you can run through before throwing down. The game won’t force it on you, but it’s easy enough to locate in the menus.
My only other grievance with this package is the lack of a few single-player modes that most fighting game fans have grown to expect to come standard with all games in the genre; such as the arcade ladder. This isn’t a huge deal, as I found survival fun and I didn’t mind fighting in countless versus matches against the CPU, but I still think the game could use a time attack and arcade mode. There is a lengthy story mode that will feel very familiar to BlazBlue and Persona Arena veterans, but it’s a one and done sort of deal. It plays out more like a visual novel and the most exciting parts are the bits of fan service and Easter eggs that are laid out for fans of all the characters. I personally lit up any time anyone from Persona or RWBY popped up.
The many lines of fully voiced dialogue are performed exceptionally well and this is the first dubbed BlazBlue game in quite some time. If you are the type of person that prefers everything is spoken in Japanese, the developers have included an awesome feature that allows you to control the language on a per character basis. The art in story mode is pretty to look at but all starts to drag in the end. You will be listening more than you will be fighting. I did enjoy it, but I can’t see myself going back to it; good thing there’s a survival mode, single match versus mode, and practice mode for the single player content outside of story mode.
A pretty game with reused assets
There is no denying that CTB is a beautiful fighting game. Especially when it is in motion. CTB is a very fast-paced fighter and the smooth performance of the game coupled with the excellent animations that are given to every single character make it quite the treat to the eyes. No matter who your team consists of, you will be treated to wonderful feats of aggression as characters zip around the screen kicking, punching, tagging, and pulling off dazzling super moves in style. The only problem I found with the visuals is the heavy reuse of older assets from Arc System Works’ past titles. The character sprites for the BlazBlue and Persona characters are years old and simply lifted from their respective games. Characters from the RWBY series are of course brand new. When you put an older sprite, such as Chie, from Persona 4 Arena, or Ragna, from BlazBlue, right next to characters like Ruby Rose and Weiss, this distinction becomes very noticeable. The reused assets have a more pixelated look to them while the RWBY characters all look extremely clean and a bit more vibrant. You can’t help but wonder how every other character could have looked if given a modern touch up. It doesn’t really amount to much though once the announcer shouts “FIGHT” and the action begins. Those thoughts will fade away as you scramble to outwit your opponent on the beautiful battlefields that make up this top-notch fighter.
So you wanna take on the world?
Are you the type who likes to take the fight to the rest of the world? Well, you will find a nice suite of online features in CTB. As is pretty standard with most Arc System Works games, you will pick a cute chibi avatar and then join everyone in your choice of ranked or casual lobbies. You can interact and challenge players from all over the globe. There are plenty of options available, ranging from single matches to tournaments and room matches for up to eight players. The connection seemed very solid during my time online. There were a few matches where lag reared its head, but I believe it was kept to an acceptable level. I tend to prefer local multiplayer over online, but CTB’s suite of features doesn’t disappoint.
If you are a fan of fighting games and any of the series that are featured in this crossover, then I urge you to give CTB a try. I think Arc System Works has crafted a fighting game that truly appeals to all sorts of players. It can be casual, hardcore, or anywhere in between. No matter your skill level or how much time you have to invest in learning the ropes, I can guarantee that you will have fun. It’s not a perfect package, but I still wouldn’t let this one pass you by.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
- Fast and fun combat
- Very accessible
- DLC is on disc; locked behind a paywall
- Missing some standard single-player modes