BlazBlue CrossTag Battle Review: A Match Made in Heaven

Is This the Most Ambitious Cross-Over Made by Arc System Works?

I’m going to go straight to the point of this introduction. Fighting Games really are one of the toughest games to review, especially when it comes to its intricacies and design choices. BlazBlue CrossTag Battle is definitely not an exception to the rule.

Describing the feeling of playing a game like this in just a few words is impossible. As if I were to give it a short description it would definitely be “Advanced Dragon Ball FighterZ”. Since it has a lot more options that focus on a more patient neutral game rather than just on offensive play.

But of course, this is basically a description for fighting game enthusiasts and it doesn’t take into account what’s in here for people who want to know what CrossTag Battle offers for the Fighting Game Community and people who just want a single player experience and not get destroyed by Online players.

The game definitely brought a lot of expectations to the table, with the heaviest promotion material being the fact that you get characters from BlazBlue: Centralfiction, Persona 4 Arena, Under Night: In-Birth and RWBY. The latter of which makes its (Rather late, if you ask me) debut in fighting games.

Now, you’re going to see a lot of comparisons between this game and Dragon Ball FighterZ. Why is that? The main reason is the fact that these games are both recent and cover the same genre (Anime fighter). I feel like comparing this game to the closest thing it has in terms of launch dates will lead to a fairer score.

Not only that but these games are both Tag Team Fighter games that also have come out in the same year. Adding to this is the fact that they are also published by the same company (Arc System Works).

Could this game be absolutely great for new players? Is this game appealing enough for the fighting game community while also being accessible enough for the players who are just mildly experienced in fighting games? Is this game’s story mode finally worth playing? Let’s find out.

An Ambitious Cross-Over with A Very Familiar Plot

Let’s start by talking about the game’s story mode which focuses on a “Tournament” where the characters from the aforementioned franchises get to clash their swords, guns, scythes and other sorts of weaponry for Keystones that would allow them to return to their worlds.

Of course, as BlazBlue tradition dictates, not everything is as it seems and It is revealed that the tournament is a ploy to gather Battle Data from the fighters to allow the Keystone to become a powerful entity that wants to basically take over the worlds from all of the main characters.

Without spoiling much this game’s story feels pretty familiar to that of Dragon Ball FighterZ. With each franchise having their own arc and, oddly enough, only BlazBlue allows for multiple endings and multi-branch choices during the course of the story.

I am quite surprised at this development, especially because it essentially makes every other story arc irrelevant and more like an afterthought than anything else. In fact, what makes this decision all the more confusing is the fact that the only character who effectively collects all 4 of the Keystones is Ruby in her story arc, however that doesn’t seem like it matters in the grand scheme of things.

This is just one of the many problems that come with BlazBlue CrossTag Battle’s story. It basically tries to justify the fact that we have characters from 4 separate universes and yet it does nothing with that.

Of course, the plot itself is as unremarkable as FighterZ but the character interactions are equally good. I can’t describe with words the number of laughs I had at the references and jokes made by the character interactions.

There’s something adorable about seeing Ruby being overly enthusiastic to the weapons used by most of the characters in the story. Especially when you see characters like Ragna and Gordeau being bewildered by it.

Also, I hope you love character portraits because this game barely has any sort of images outside of character portraits that change emotion every now and then. There are times where we do get some good CG images but it’s mostly reserved for endgame stuff rather than something happening during the story.

Overall, I think that BlazBlue CrossTag Battle’s story is serviceable but not exactly appealing for players who jump into these games for their story. The game offers great character interactions and references that will please any fan of the franchises they like, that is a given.

However, that doesn’t mean it will exactly look appealing to people who are new to the 4 series involved. Or that they will understand some of the relationships between characters like Ragna and Rachel’s if they haven’t played their games proper.

Sadly, this game’s story is basically put into the same level as Dragon Ball FighterZ. It’s unremarkable and it really brings nothing but character interactions to the table. So I don’t think that anyone besides fans of BlazBlue, Persona, Under Night: In-Birth and RWBY will enjoy this.

The Lone Wolf Can Get The Greatest Tools

I am actually surprised at the amount of content made specifically for the single player in BlazBlue CrossTag Battle. The game offers the aforementioned Story Mode alongside stuff you would usually expect in fighting games like these.

This includes a lobby where you can customize your character and look for online matches. We’ll get to those later but the structure is basically the same as FighterZ. It has a lobby where you walk around the “hub-world” with your avatar that displays your name and victory rank.

The stuff for Single Player is definitely something serviceable but at the same time, it lacks in some aspects. For instance, there’s NO Arcade Mode. The closest thing you have to that is the game’s Survival mode, but if we gave a bad rep to Street Fighter V  because of that, then this game won’t get a free pass either.

That doesn’t mean that CrossTag is as barebones as the Launch version of SFV. The game is still packed with content for the offline players. I mean, the story mode is already a good 2 hours of content for the player as is. However, there is also a lot of stuff for people who want to get into fighting games.

Besides the Local Vs. mode and Survival Mode, BlazBlue CrossTag Battle offers Tactics mode. This mode is definitely one of the main attractions for newbies at the game and especially for people who wish to learn the new mechanics that BlazBlue CrossTag Battle offers quickly.

Tactics offer players a chance to learn the game’s mechanics without sticking to the training mode way too much. Not only that, you also get to learn the character’s combos through Combo Challenges and Missions that allow players to learn how to attack at certain situations.

I will get to the mechanics’ aspect later but rest assured, the main reason why you would be going into BlazBlue CrossTag Battle is definitely the Tactics mode. The rest of the modes are nothing to write home about though, standard Survival Mode with encounters done at random and the usual Replay/Gallery mode which really serve their own purpose.

Overall, I just think that the Single Player options are mostly meant to provide the player with options to continue to become stronger in their gameplay more than anything else. You certainly don’t come here expecting anything but Story mode and that crazy asylum called “Training Mode”.

The Controls which make or break a Fighting Game

So, with new fighting games comes a huge amount of tech and crazy stuff to take into account for new and veteran players. Tactics Mode covers most of these aspects quite well. however, I will run down some of them quickly to give potential customers a good idea of what they are.

Let’s start with the “This is an Advanced Dragon Ball FighterZ” analogy. The reason why I believe this is because BlazBlue CrossTag Battle has aspects that are pretty common with its competitor. One of the common factors is the controls, which are built with Gamepad Controls in mind and a more accessible approach for new players.

As such, we see the return of Auto-Combos which are performed by pressing the A (X or Square) and B (Y or Triangle) buttons. There’s also a very similar structure in some basic combos that resemble those done in FighterZ (minus the Super Dashes, of course).

However, this is where the similarities end and the game focuses more on the Neutral Game and more Offensive and Defensive aspects. As such, we have buttons like C (B or Circle), P (RB or R2) and D (A or Cross) which all serve different functions.

P often works as assist attacks that are affected by directional inputs. As such, when you press Forward and P you will see your partner doing a different action than by just pressing the same button during the neutral stance.

Pressing D will allow players to quickly change their partners during combat. The change is almost instantaneous and it has a slight bit of recovery lag. It is simply a change button and you can change as many times as you want without worrying about cooldowns.

This game is also the first one to include an “Assist meter” which is the 2 bars on the bottom of the screen and HUD. This essentially puts a limit on the amount of assists characters can call and recharges over time.

Before taking a look at the mechanics in even more depth, I should probably tackle the stuff we have right here. The game only has 3 Frames of input lag, which makes it incredibly responsive to inputs and allows for a very smooth experience.

I should also mention that being able to change characters on the fly and using directional inputs for different kinds of Assists is a pretty good mechanic in and of itself. It makes the battles faster while also not sacrificing the major focus on the neutral game.

The Incredible Depth of the Game Mechanics

Now that we’ve got the basic stuff out of the way. I should probably pick up the point I mentioned before about how this game focuses more on the Neutral Game than any other aspect. The entire point of BlazBlue CrossTag Battle revolves around making quick decisions in terms of defense and offense and to be patient and learn to properly read your opponent.

As such, we have the defensive options, starting with the Reversal Action (Or Universal DP (Dragon Punch) in the FGC). An attack that allows you to tell your opponent to “Get off me” as you perform an invincible move during a blockstring that can’t be blocked in the air.

However, Reversal Actions have a very huge amount of recovery lag so if the opponent reads it the player might have just given them permission to do a huge combo. Players need to keep this in mind before throwing the move around.

Another defensive mechanic is what’s dubbed as “Petal Burst”. By pressing P+D while being hit in a combo you are allowed to call your partner to rescue you by knocking down the opponent. Keep in mind, however, that this attack doesn’t work in the air and leaves the Partner open to attack for a bit.

Finally, an alternative option for anti-blockstring strategies is the Reject or Pushblock. This basically pushes back the opponent if timed correctly, putting the user in an advantage if the opponent is trying to mash their way to victory.

As for Offensive options, players have a macro for Air Dashes as well as access to a fully offensive option when a teammate is knocked out called Resonance Blaze (Or Heat). Resonance Blaze is a fully offensive state where character’s Supers are enhanced and Red Health is regained.

Players can further boost the effectiveness of Heat with the Gem Levels. The more you do Assist attacks and have your partner help you make big combos, the higher the level will be, with 4 being the maximum level the Player can reach.

With Resonance Blaze at max and 9 Levels, you are also granted access to Astral Finishers, which are done by pressing Down 3 times and then B+C. Astral Finishers not only look cool but also finish the opponent off regardless of the health they have.

The balance between offensive and defensive play definitely allows players to focus on the match itself. Especially with Special moves being simplified to Quarter Circle Motions once more. This allows for a better experience that allows players to go nuts with a freeform battle system that encourages creativity in combos.

Presentation and Characters, Ready for the Cross.

The game’s presentation remains as beautiful as always. Character animations are on point and move with a degree of fluidity. This, however, brings us to the fact that the engine used for the game is the in-house BlazBlue engine, rather than the Unreal Engine.

Which leads us to the part of the review where I tackle the fact that a lot of this game’s assets are recycled from games like CentralFiction. As such, whatever technical marvels are pulled off in the game’s graphical department can be attributed to this, this also applies to the soundtrack, which uses the songs previously used in the games that came.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that everything in this game has been recycled for a new game. We have new sprites for the debuting characters from RWBY. However, this also makes the RWBY side of the roster very limited (Only 4 characters are available from RWBY.)

Now that we’re talking about the roster itself, we do have a fair representation for a lot of characters from their respective series. As such, you will see characters like Yu Narukami, Chie Satonaka, Yukiko Amagi and others from Persona 4 Arena. Ragna The Bloodedge, Rachel Alucard, Jin Kisaragi and others from BlazBlue Centralfiction. Hyde, Linne, Gordeau, Carmine, and others from Under Night: In-Birth, and Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang from RWBY.

Speaking of these characters, we should probably talk about the DLC rumors that have been popping up and the backlash Arc System Works has gotten over them. If we want to discuss this, we have to talk about the game’s price point.

The Base game costs $50 USD, unlike most AAA releases which have a price point of 60. Two of the characters in CrossTag Battle is actually Free DLC while the rest of them come in DLC packs which cost $5 USD each.

Not only that but the complete edition of the game costs $70 USD, which includes everything and the game’s season pass, which allows players to get all the characters in the roster for $20 more dollars.

This is a rather unorthodox strategy from Arc System Works. However, it is also cheaper to acquire the full roster compared to Dragon Ball FighterZ, which has a $60 USD cost and tops it with the $35 USD required for the Character pass, which only offers 8 characters compared to CrossTag’s 15.

This move surprised me but I don’t think it’s inconvenient, especially because “Complete Editions” of fighting games tend to cost a lot more. It’s the first time I see a fighting game that doesn’t overestimate the price of the DLC and gives out 2 characters as an incentive.

But that’s neither here nor there because in terms of the DLC and character worth there are a lot of subjective terms to be thrown about. But yes, a lot of the rumors were either based on misinformation and such.

Conclusion: Can’t Escape from Crossing Fate

There are a lot of good things in BlazBlue CrossTag Battle. The game definitely isn’t as aggressive as its competitor is. The game definitely focuses on the neutral game more than anything else and allows players to have good defensive options.

However, I do feel like there really aren’t that many options for the single player outside of the lackluster story mode and Survival Mode. The game could definitely have a bit more for the players and not put someone into a mental asylum that is the game’s training mode.

I also miss Jukebox mode. This will sound more like a nitpick than anything but I could use a way to listen to the soundtrack that doesn’t involve playing CPU players or YouTube.

I will keep it to the conclusion and say that the game’s netcode is definitely stable enough. It’s still a delay-based Netcode so it’s frequently laggy, especially on the PC version but it is serviceable enough.

One of the most unique features of the Netcode is the fact that it downright doesn’t allow players to connect if they have a bad connection. Although it only made my experience mostly finding rooms where I was disconnected from opponents at Battle Kiosks.

One thing must be made clear on the PC version of this game is the fact that this game is very unstable and tends to crash very frequently. Don’t worry about this, though, as there is an Improvement mod that allows players to play the game without any issue.

The improvement mod is pretty easy to install, so players don’t have to worry about nuking the game for no good reason. And it also doesn’t a huge file size so you don’t have to worry about long download times.

Overall, I think BlazBlue CrossTag Battle is a serviceable game that offers a lot of great choices for veterans and newbies alike. The price point is pretty attractive for an AAA game. And it definitely deserves its accolades where applicable.

This is definitely a Cross Over that I wouldn’t miss for the world. And I definitely look forward to whatever Arc System Works has in store for fighting gamers to keep making games accessible and fun for everyone involved.

Javier Ulises Lopez Aquino

A journalist that listens to the Community without shying from making his opinions clear. I expect to form a new standard for journalism, one article at a time.
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