Blazblue: Calamity Trigger
by RKM

Basic Information:
Developer: Arc System Works
Arc System Works (JP)
Aksys Games (NA)
pQube and Zen United (EU)
North American Release Date: June 30th 2009
European Release Date: April 2nd 2010
Trophies: 1 2 10 38
Blazblue: Calamity Trigger is the first installment of the planned series "Blazblue". It is a 2D traditional fighting game that strongly follows suit with the standard of gaming (how the game is panned out), set by it's spiritual predecessor, the popular 2D fighting series, "Guilty Gear". Although the comparisons will inevitably be drawn between the two series (which in no doubt stems from the fact that Daisuke Ishiwatari was the one that spearheaded development of Guilty Gear and now is involved strongly with the development process of Blazblue), Blazblue is very much itself a powerful presence to behold, and no doubt, you can't deny what a sight it is. Indeed, it does retain the same elements that made the Guilty Gear series what it is today with the guitar-driven rock/metal soundtrack, a diverse range of cast, beautifully detailed, unique anime-styled graphics and animations, and intricate gameplay mechanics, but the geniuses at Arc System Works still know how to implement these elements in a well-done effort to make a game that is simply magical.

Blazblue retains many gameplay elements present in the Guilty Gear series including aerial dash, instant kill techniques (known in this game as Astral Heat), an air-combo system, a gauge system for super techniques (known as the Heat Gauge) etc, which will instantly make Guilty Gear fans feel at home. However it also introduces some new gameplay mechanics to make Blazblue stand out from it's spiritual predecessor and to keep said fans from being too comfortable with the game.
Some gameplay mechanics introduced in Blazblue includes the Drive technique, which is by default, assigned to one of the face buttons. The Drive technique is a command that is unique to each character, which aside from the usual weak, medium and strong attack, is vastly different (and a more unique addition where fighting games are concerned) to the effect that for some characters, it may not necessarily be simply another attack button (e.g, for a character like Rachel, the Drive technique results in her summoning a gust of wind that will push her forward or give her even more leverage for her jumps depending on the direction you have directed her Drive, which obviously plays a big part of the strategic gameplay that using Rachel entails).

"[Blazblue]...will instantly make Guilty Gear fans feel at home..."

Another gameplay mechanic introduced is the instant block technique, which unlike regularly guarding against attacks, an instant block is executed when a player guards an attack at precisely the moment the attack connects (if you're not familiar with that, you may recall Daigo's comeback in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike at Evo 2004 where he utilized a similar technique). An instant block can be distinguished by the fact that your character glows white when they execute an instant block. Although an instant block requires very strict, precise timing, your character's Heat Gauge will increase with every instant block executed, as well as a faster recovery time among other things (and therefore playing off the, "The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward" sentiment).

If you've played a game from Arc System Works, then you've come to know the usual type of game modes they put in their games. You have modes atypical to fighting games such as Arcade, Training, Story and then there's Score Attack. Most of these modes are pretty self-explanatory such as Story mode. Being familiar with Arc System Works also means you know what cast of characters you'd be expecting to see, in which if one thought is to pop up in your mind, it is undoubtedly that; it's not an Arc System Works game without the crazy diversity of characters. Speaking of the characters, Blazblue has a very limited roster (with only 12 characters). However, the depth of these characters makes the limited roster concern work for Blazblue rather than against it. It's worth noting as well that all characters have a sort of "Unlimited" form which greatly increases that characters stats (such as speed, strength, recovering time) which is unlockable after clearing Arcade with each character.
With regards to the game modes present in Blazblue, in spite of them being what you typically see in a fighting game, I admire how Blazblue presents them to the table.

"...[I]t's not an Arc System Works game without the crazy diversity of characters..."

Firstly, most people who have played fighting games have come to expect your usual Training/Practice mode where it's mainly used to practice combos, get familiar with the gameplay mechanics. What I do notice about this Training mode is how situational it is. So to speak, in most practice modes, you can set the fighter's stance or position (which varies depending on whether it's a 2D or 3D game) or set your gauge to Unlimited (again dependant on whether it's 2D or 3D). Blazblue however, goes down to even the most subtle details where players can set circumstances that are situational to a certain character, for e.g, you can set Hakumen's Infinite Gauge or change the settings for Bang's Drive Attacks. All these nuances can make players very appreciative towards a game and certainly makes the learning curve much more forgiving as it gives them an awareness of what sort of situation requires the set strategy that they've practiced and it gives them the perspective of adaptability, in other words, by making all these subtle things a changeable variable on Training mode, it allows players to string together strategies that will lead right into their gameplan. This kind of thing enables them to see what fits, and what doesn't and although it's a small addition, it is most certainly a very valuable integration within Training mode. How may this be seen as a positive thing? Because it provides that crucial step that we may be missing that will allow us to come full circle with our understanding of the gameplay mechanics.

There's your usual local and online multiplayer, which most games seem to have these days, in which everyone already knows the drill with local multiplayer. With mentions to the online mode, it's pretty much your standard affairs that you now should be familiar with, for example, there's Player Match, Ranking Match and there's the Leaderboards, where from the Leaderboards you can download replays of matches. One thing I would like to mention about the online mode though is the lag. Through all the games I played online, there was barely any lag to non-existant. There were even those times where my internet connection was absolutely horrendous to the point I couldn't play any other games online and the game still worked fine for me. Although the beginning of the match is laggy (the part where the characters perform their signature taunts at the beginning of the match), from the moment the round starts until the moment it ends is pretty much smooth-sailing, and that is something worth mentioning, considering the amount of games I play online.

Another feature for the online mode is the Spectator Room. Which as the name suggests, is a separate room from the Battle Lobby where players can choose to spectate. If you're new to the game, I strongly suggest you spectate matches first, practice second and then go back to online. Like many games that have established fanbases (I'd assume that it'll already have an established fanbase considering it was released about a year on Arcades before hitting consoles. Not to mention a fan of Guilty Gear will most certainly be a fan of Blazblue), the competition can be brutal. To demonstrate my point, I spectated a match where a new guy (I could tell by his playing style) faced a fanatic of the game, to which he was slaughtered mercilessly. Undoubtedly, diving straight into the online modes is a mistake that far too many new entrants make nowadays, and it's experiences like these that can ruin a game for a person. Provided, although that notion applies to pretty much every game online, this especially rings true for a game with intricate mechanics like Blazblue.

If there's one thing you would've already noticed by now, it's how beautiful the graphics are. Despite being a 2D fighting game, the developers learned to really step up the graphics and animations for seventh generation. The character models are smooth and crisp, the special effects look gorgeous and character designs are beautiful and they are really stand out. I especially love the animation work for each character's Astral Heat as it really does epitomize what that character is all about. Not to mention, it's over-the-top-craziness done in style and you really get the impression that Arc System Works was really enjoying crafting this gem of a game, and you can almost see their enthusiasm written all over the game, which for video game enthusiasts like myself, can have a near-hypnotic effect on you as the charm of this game really draws you in.

Not content with just settling with lovely visuals, Daisuke Ishiwatari is once again back with what he does best; rocking the guitar. If you a familiar with his works, then you'll no doubt know what kind of music he composes.
Although he composes only rock/metal songs, the fact they are instrumental means they can have a wide appeal (and I've seen gamers that prefer other genres of music really get into the Blazblue soundtrack). Personally, I really love the fact that the soundtrack has a wide appeal because I would love for people to hear the music in this game. In my honest opinion, it is that good of a listen and if I were to describe it in one word, that word would be epic. The soundtrack oozes with Dai's signature intricate guitar work, and they provoke many types of feelings, whether they be that "high adrenaline, high rush" type feeling to a "happy" feeling, to the "powerful, majestic" feeling to the "cold, indifferent" feeling. It's worth putting down that any works of music capable of making you feel such a broad range of feelings while encompassing a wide appeal and pertains to a music genre/s that's not as popular as other music genres is impressive on a godly level.

There are quite a few hidden trophies in this game, which to make worse are not story related trophies (some hidden trophies require you to do specific maneuvers or do a certain objective with a specific character), in which unless you have a trophy guide, would be really hard to obtain. Although I'd like to say if you do manage to nab the hidden trophies without a guide then you are a genius (honestly some of the trophies make you think "they expected me to figure that out?!").
The online trophies are your standard affairs as well, whether it's "Participate in X number of battles" or "Win X number of matches", although the obtainable status obviously depends on the level of competition present in the lobbies (I've been lucky enough to face only inexperienced players so far).
The platinum for this game can be very grueling if you intend to get the trophies without a guide. Even with a guide though, some trophies are almost just a plain nuisance to get, especially the Leonidas trophy where you have to beat Score Attack mode, which if you do plan to get that trophy, I recommend you sign up for Anger Management classes before even trying to get that trophy.

Gameplay: 9.6/10 Brilliant

Singleplayer: 9.2/10 Brilliant

Multiplayer: 9.1/10 Brilliant

Technical: 9.7/10 Brilliant

Overall: 9.5/10 Brilliant

Blazblue is a powerful new entrant into the wargrounds of the fighting game genre, and it certainly is worth buying if you love your fighting games and is definitely worth a check if you're just a casual gamer. Although it has many elements that epitomize the Guilty Gear series, it is indeed a mighty force to reckon with. Everything in this game was done brilliantly and you really see the creativity and the genius mindset of Arc System Works shine through. There will be occasional flaws that you may see or gripes you may have, although I'll like to clearly stress that these in no way will interfere with your enjoyment of the game (provided you've kept your cool and you attempted Score Attack mode when you're good enough to attempt it).
Overall, how to sum Blazblue?
It's fast, it's crazy, it's stylish...but most importantly, it's fun. And underneath all these little nuances that contribute to the overall gaming experience, I'm glad the fact the game is just pure and simple fun, remains to be the most important aspect of gaming I'm glad the developers didn't forget.