Blazblue Chronophantasma, the latest update to Arc System Works much loved Blazblue fighting game franchise, has just come out in Japan on the PS3. Luckily enough, the PS3 is region free and aside from some menu futzing and an impossible to understand story mode, a fighting game is a fighting game no matter what language it is in. Unfortunately, this is the fourth time Blazblue came out to American audiences (fifth if you count the Continuum Shift 2 patch), so many Blazblue fans are asking themselves whether or not purchasing BB: CP new is actually worth it. So we picked up an import copy to see whether its new features are worth your hard earned cash.
Fighting games are more often than not judged by the quality and size of their playable roster, and Arc System Works understands this. BB:CP adds the most characters of any new Blazblue game, seven all together. Coupled with Relius from Continuum Shift EX, the three DLC characters from continuum Shift 2, Nu-12 from Continuum Shift’s console release, and Tsubaki and Hazama from Continuum Shift’s arcade release, the roster is now twice as big as it was when Blazblue first released.
Most of the new characters have incredibly unique fighting styles as well. Amane Nishiki fights with scarves and has many tools to control space at a full screen distance. Bullet is a quick moving grappler who has the ability to extend her special moves using stocked charges. Azrael has the ability to strike “weak points” on the opponent which automatically give his moves different properties. Izayoi is a character with a separate meter which fuels her almost Marvel vs. Capcom like movement and teleportation. All of these characters were available to play in the arcade version which, unfortunately, was only released in Japan.
However, there are a few console exclusive characters to talk about as well. Kagura Mutsuki utilizes a gigantic sword and a unique stance switching style. He has a number of moves that have a lot of weight to them, dealing incredible amounts of damage to anyone foolish enough to get hit by them. He relies on momentum and may find it difficult to get an opening, but when he does he easily sets up reset opportunity after reset opportunity which makes quick work of the opponent.
Yuuki Terumi, the true form of the trollish Hazama, is likely my favorite new character of BB:CP. Terumi has more super techniques which expend drive meter than special techniques. His drive allows him to sap huge amounts of his opponent's meter, constantly keeping him full. Terumi’s supers are incredibly fast and move him and the opponent around the screen easily. He can even dump extra meter into his supers in order to make them deal more damage. He also has an incredible sense of style, curb stomping his opponents, kicking them with his hands in his pockets, and laughing in his opponents’ faces.
Finally, Kokonoe, everyone’s favorite science cat, will be the first DLC character and appears to have a zoner style of fighting. She has the ability to fill the screen up with fireballs and other projectiles, making it hard for the opponent to approach her. If she manages to score a hit, she can take advantage of short damaging combos that lead into knockdowns, and then hold the opponent in place with her lingering projectiles. In addition, her fighting style is simply hilarious. She will pull out all sorts of devices from hammer space including chain guns and even a gigantic robotic replica of Tager! Arc System Works has stated that other downloadable characters will be coming in the future. We can only hope that Jubei, the cat samurai, will be one of them.
The rest of the cast has been tweaked at well. Most characters have at least one new move to screw around with, or some new properties added to their old moves. Some characters, like Nu-13, have been completely redone and play nothing like their prior incarnations. The gameplay itself feels more aggressive than previous BlazBlues did. While combos are shorter in length, it feels like they do more damage than they used to. Either that, or the life-bars are shorter. The addition of the new “overdrive” mechanic which allows you to trade your burst in for a short period of increased strength adds to this feeling. Overdrive combos easily take off half of an opponent’s life-bar or more.
One of the biggest draws of the BlazBlue series is its incredibly well done story mode. Unfortunately, though the import version does have options for English language voice acting, it doesn’t have options for English language text, which means a lot of the story is lost on anyone who isn’t a native Japanese speaker. This time around, the individual character story arcs have been done away with. Instead we have three separate chapters of the story that come together at the end. The story mode lasts as long as most other single-player games, at least 10 hours.
While playing story mode you are simply forced to play whatever character the story is focusing on. It’s a great way to get familiar with the cast, but there are some fights that are extremely frustrating. The final boss comes to mind which is one of those “never flinch” bosses like Galactus in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Though he looks graphically impressive, he invalidates all the fighting game skills you have learned up until this point, instead asking you to avoid his attacks like some sort of bullet hell shooter while spamming your most powerful normals.
BB: CP’s challenge mode has also been redone. As before, it starts by asking you to perform your character of choice’s special and super moves before moving into simple combos. However, when you get into high level challenges you are no longer asked to perform needlessly complex swag combos. Instead, it gives you open ended challenges like “do a combo that does 7000 damage or more.” These are far more useful for teaching newbies the ropes as they ask you to put your knowledge to practical use. Combo demonstrations also now beep with the correct combo timing. This eliminates the trial and error of guessing the right timing and helps newbies learn BnBs far quicker.
Aside from these few alterations, you are mostly going to find the same stuff you found in previous Blazblue titles. You’ll have the same versus options, the same classic arcade mode, even the same training mode. Arc System Works has said that Chronophantasma has awesome new netcode, but in the import version this couldn’t really be tested. There are a few new stages which are very graphically impressive and as always ASW’s hard rock soundtracks are a blast to listen to. There’s also a new boss battle mode which is great for anyone who wants to prove that they can triumph over overpowered A.I., but aside from that, there isn’t much new to talk about that is easily accessible in the import version.
So, judging by the import version, is BlazBlue Chronophantasma worth your money? That’s actually hard to say. It certainly helped to rekindle my love of the BlazBlue franchise. It’s the most balanced version yet with the biggest roster we have seen so far. The new characters are fun, the upcoming downloadable characters look awesome, and you can easily sink hours into versus mode. If you were to consider Chronophantasma in a vacuum then the answer would easily be “yes.” Yes, Chronophantasma is totally worth your money. Heck, it’s probably even worth importing before it comes out in 2014, just to be ahead of the game. However, there are bound to be people out there who just don’t want to buy this game a fourth time and it doesn’t help that Arc System Works’ Guilty Gear Xrd is also planned for a 2014 release. Still, I urge these skeptics to give Chronophantasma a chance. If there was ever a time to buy BlazBlue again, it’s now.
This review was based off an import copy of Blazblue Chronophantasma for the PS3.