BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle – PS4

There’s a first time for everything and here we are! The first Early Bird review! These are classic style reviews where the code has been provided before launch (in this case the game is launching Friday 22nd June – TODAY when this is posted!) so read on and see if its worth your money and time! Don’t be worried about collusion I don’t work for any publisher or developer unless the public sector decides they are drastically shifting their plans in future…

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The gangs all here!

On paper this games concept still baffles me. Take a 2D fighter that’s had four instances now and is now finished, a popular spin-off fighter that started successful and then due to controversy vanished, an obscure indie fighter that few people seem to remember and an anime series that’s still going strong but with a very unique CGI style then mush them all up into an anime 2D fighter title. As bizarre as the logic sounds it works, in a way this game reminds me of Super Smash Bros in that you have iconic characters duking it out but in a specific game engine and setup. I’ve already covered the Open Beta for Cross Tag and went into some detail of how the game functions (check that out here) and given the last few weeks of us in EU/UK having to wait we’ve had to occupy ourselves in various ways without playing the game (again I had you covered here). Now it’s finally here! Seems you really can’t escape from crossing fate.

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Nothing says Victory like taking off your jacket!

First thing to realise and give you a heads up on is that it didn’t carry across your beta progress so if you played that to death be prepared to go through Tactics mode again and grind for your avatar and colours (not that it isn’t fun in itself as you’ll see). Not a lot has changed in functionality since the Open Beta, you start the game in an offline lobby which is still a really good way to start the mentality for online play. The change to using these lobbies for offline play instead of left alone in online is a great change for the better but menus are still easily accessible. It’s just so much nicer to see and use.

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Don’t forget to badger Mr. Tartar for free P$

Cross Tag is absolutely chock full of content, you’ve a story mode, tactics, survival, Vs, training, online casual, ranked and a lot more to find. The main draw for this game is similar to Call of Duty/Battlefield, you’ll find some players just skip the offline content for multiplayer only and others focus on single player and less on multiplayer. This game caters nicely for both. You do unlock the in-game currency through both actions but I found I’d already unlocked a new avatar and all alternate colours before I’d even got my first match online (I did spend a long time having a blast in Tactics mode nailing the combos mind).

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Those alternate colours are totally worth every P$

The combat is just as good as the beta and there will be multiple YouTube videos breaking down the balances and nuances but for the me BlazBlue characters combat feels like a streamlined version of Centralfiction. Persona characters do feel a little sped up and switched around to fit the new engine and it’s systems. Under Night characters do feel a little overpowered at the moment but once you start to get to grips with screen filling characters that can be punished at close range, that’s not such a problem. RWBY characters do feel like they could have easily been added to BlazBlue as DLC characters at any point but this isn’t a bad thing. The result is a VS series fighter with all the bells and whistles playing together in brilliant harmony. It does promote a more aggressive play-style but this was just my experience and we’ll see what the Pros make of this when the games played at EVO later this year.

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Super satisfying (that’s me dead on the floor and yes it was still a blast)

Unfortunately the episode/story mode doesn’t allow screen shots or recording (which is always annoying especially as I got some awesome combos) but despite this rocky start I found myself going back multiple times until I’d 100% the game and saw the credits. If you’re looking for a decent 2D fighter story mode this is as good as it’s going to get. It’s broken down into Prologue, BlazBlue, Persona, Under and RWBY episodes. Prologue definitely ramps up the interest in the story by a million miles as soon as you get a taste of whats in story and how it’s written you’ll likely want to dive in. In previous ARC titles I’ve tended to gloss over story aspects as the text heavy still image system with voice tends to get a little thin after a while (it tends to be hard to worry about their plight after hours of text) but Cross Tag smashes this previous disappointment and is simply brilliant. Make no mistake the story is told through still images, voice and text but the dialogue options for BlazBlue and the quality of the writing is so good it makes it worth going through.

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The voice actors for this are some of the best, they’ve really given it something special

It only gets better and more manic as it progresses and this is most apparent in the first story of BlazBlue, with Ragna struggling to get to grips with the world he’s been thrown into. Ragna has clearly been setup as the Ryu of the game with easy combos and systems to get your head around and it makes sense for the BlazBlue episode to focus on him primarily. The artwork is a little questionable with characters like Chie from Persona stuck in a kick pose during all dialogue and Makoto looking just ridiculous but for the most part its spot on. Future DLC characters are in the story mode both as talking roles but also in fights and you’ll bump into Blake (from RWBY) as well as Orie (from Under) to name a few. It’s a little disappointing you can’t have a quick go with DLC characters that pop up in the story as they typically are either fighting against you, or in Naoto’s case; they show up and then go to fight the common enemy, it implies you’ll have them as a tag partner but then the game sticks you with main characters Yosuke and Yu. All of the episodes follow an arcade like set route with the AI ramping up in difficulty as you progress.

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You can Save and go back via Autosave or the option at the top

Avoiding spoilers; BlazBlue’s story is a very mixed bag. It does start to fall into bad habits of Ragna can save the world from a lot of cliché issues but it saves itself with a unique mix of funny and serious moments. Its helped along by being focused on the relationships and Ragna learning and naturally reacting to what each other reality he’s been thrown in with is.  This episode has multiple endings which actual works nicely with the dialogue choices until you realise it’s the only episode that has them. Still it seems Ragna can never escape ‘that’ wanted poster and there are little nods to the series that are welcome throughout. If you do play through the story mode it’s worth completing each episode and then returning to BlazBlue to get the ‘final’ ending and the story completion % does sort of signpost this but not very directly.

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Yep it does get a fair bit manic but watching the reply frame by frame helps

Persona4’s story is very Persona4 even more so than Arena. The gang all group up very early and because the story has to progress they find occasional odd reasons for fighting (because Kanji loves soft things being one of the best ones) This carries along as the gang trying to solve the puzzle of whats happening to them with lots and lots of talking, yet it fits as if a spin-off story to Persona4 without feeling too heavy. Little subtleties like Yukiko tripping over herself to welcome Yu back from leaving but not being sure if it counts in the phantom field lifts the dialogue brilliantly. Everything’s not quite ok at the end and you start to get a hint there is a ‘special’ ending by this point. Still that being said that damn Ruby and Noel interaction is so fricking cute. Good thing this was the point in the game where I realised it has a glorious gallery mode that allows screenshots (being careful to avoid spoilers).

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Sooo cuuuuuuuuuteee!….. *ahem*

Under Night In-Birth is the big question to a lot of people. I know I had no idea what to expect at the start of this episode. I played a lot of arcade mode on the original but that was a fair while ago. That being said, the episode starts off with Hyde trying to be serious about looking serious and as stupid as this sounds it really sets a great tone for this episode. The episode is also where the announcer throughout the story that acts in an almost ‘voice of god’ has some cracking dialogue. It’s also the episode where Ruby’s gotta Ruby most of all and you get some moments that could have been lifted directly from the series. The announcer slowly adopts a less sinister role here and acts more like a light hearted Gintama (a cocky occasionally self-aware of the 4th wall persona) and it’s brilliant. Although I’d personally like the story a lot more if Makoto actually wore some clothes and Luna just wasn’t in it. This episode cements my personal hatred for Platinum aka Luna (from BlazBlue) she is just as annoying as she always was in fighting style and voice (obviously a personal preference). The episode successfully even adds an anime classic feature of a fight about curry to its benefit. It’s surprising to find no multiple choices in this story as the ending does imply a possible alternate solution to the antagonists problem but it handles a largely unknown world well.

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Ruby’s Astral Heat is still the best in the game so far, it’s just a fact.

This is the story everyone is here for though; RWBY’s episode is the best example of a 5th entry in a story perfectly explaining away the stuff we already know and just gets on with it. You’ve slowly had tidbits told through the episodes as you progress and it does dawn on you that these epsiodes are all seperate instances of the story, however this is the penultimate episode where you get to grips with the interests going on in the background a little more. There’s a bit of team interaction and then the madness begins again. Some fantastic dialogue moments to be found here and the translation throughout just pulls no punches with one of the greatest lines I’ve seen in a long while. RWBY’s alternate end is the ‘Super Happy Ending’ alternate that fits nicely and given that she has the most interaction with the announcer voice it makes perfect sense.

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“We’re DLC!” – FREE DLC mind

The elephant in the room and only problem with Story mode is that there is no “NOW FOR THE FINAL CHAPTER” moment once you complete all 5 episodes (Prologue is too good to discount). What you realise is that BlazBlue has alternate endings hiding the finale and you quickly realise is why the options has a very useful ‘skip previously read dialogue’ setting. Multiple playthroughs later I was still finding no credits no ‘ultimate’ ending and here’s a ProTip – If you played through BlazBlue’s episode the first time around selecting the top option throughout (except Nu’s dialogue option) then after completing the other episodes try again with the same top options (except Nu’s). It’s a little niggly annoyance that slightly tarnishes the best romp I’ve had in a fighter in years. Personally I found the {spoiler} challenge to be difficult but satisfying, the visual design was a little lacking and I kept expecting a figure to appear from it, then I remembered how many more characters were already in production for the game and it seems fair given the amount of work already going on in the background.

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Both new and old stages are all looking up to scratch

After you’ve nailed the fantastic story what now? Survival is nice, with your final score going up against friends and online. Although the AI very quickly ramps up during it so you’d best bring your A game. I was almost getting perfect victories at the start but as I progressed and the healing wasn’t quite keeping up with the damage I was taking between rounds I was losing out fast and quickly being punished for simple opening mistakes. Personally I found most of my time taken up in the Tactics mode. It still has the training mode but it’s stuffed full of lots and lots of nice touches. There are text explanations for moves and how they work, samples to see at fast or slow with inputs and even a really nice feature where you can heard different sounds for different inputs to help you learn the rhythm. Combos and structure that even I could learn and find myself relying on when the AI started to get the better of me. It also includes the classic Missions tucked away here for you to us for learning various skills, challenges that reward you when you successfully complete a special task 3 times in a row.

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Ah so that’s how he’s standing on my hand!

Online multiplayer is just as good as the open beta. Obviously at the time of review there aren’t a huge amount of people online but the matches have been constant and the tag stamps for quick words and phrases such as, “hey”, “ready to fight?” and “wow that was amazing” are being used and work nicely for quick matchups. As with the beta you need to place yourself onto the pods to fight, thankfully despite the synchronisation being a little slow to click there is a rematch option to create best of 3 and if you don’t want the chibi lobbies there are more traditional rooms for winner stays on matches.

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I WILL GET THIS REVERSAL ACTION DOWN DANG IT!

Overall the polish is pretty much perfect, the voice acting is top-notch (granted I had it on Japanese, you can read about the dub here) but absolutely the best feature of this game is the soundtrack. There is just so much musically amazing at work here, you’ve remixes of classics, RWBY tracks lifted from the series, Persona tracks and the only time you’ll notice a dip is typically the Under tracks but even these are good tunes. The penultimate final {spoilers} in story mode is the track that absolutely blows my mind. This soundtrack is exactly what a mixed fighter needs and it delivers along with the smashes, crashes and slices on every level. The voices have been toned down from BlazBlue as well so they don’t constantly react to every action, motion and hit only when appropriate with little touches like Nu shouting Ragna when he assists her. That soundstrack is something else though and it’s made me re-appreciate how pulse racing a good fighter track can be.

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Presets are a nice addition especially given the roster of characters

I didn’t expect to enjoy Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle as much as I did. Sure the beta was fun and I do enjoy the titles involved but I expected to lose online a lot and the story to be a passable affair. There are a lot of 2D anime fighters over the years that have never learnt from their past iterations but BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle doesn’t simply just take the fighters from their original universes and throw them in. It takes what makes them work, what made them shine and blends it all fantastically. The mixture of perfected Blazblue mechanics, the uniqueness of Persona 4 arena systems, the unique strangeness of Under Night and the pumped motivation of RWBY all mix well into a pure blend of brilliance. It’s story is a little flawed but frankly it’s fantastic. Online play works well, the AI fighting is just a blast and there is a plethora of little nods to other 2D fighters in the alternate colours. Yep, this is the anime fighter to rival all others.

9/10 – CAN’T ESCAPE FROM CROSSING FATE!

*Review code provided by PQube – Check them out here!*

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GAMBIT’S BACK BABY!

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