BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (PS4 Review)
There was a point where the ‘Versus’ games were king. Two or more hot properties would collide and one would emerge the victor. It’s a simple sum, but more often than not it would add up to more than its parts. While Capcom are the most notable, and now infamous thanks to Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite and Street Fighter X Tekken, it was about time Arc System Works pulled together their ever expanding roster of fighting games under one title – BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle.
To pull these worlds together takes some persuasion, or so you’d assume. As the worlds of Under Night In-Birth, BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena, and RWBY converge, we discover that they have found themselves in ‘Phantom Field’ and chaos ensues, naturally. A central character will discover that they possess a ‘keystone’ and discover that to return to their own world they will need to find the remaining three. As the story continues, you’ll soon discover that an evil A.I. is responsible for all the fighting and not just a source of mediation. While the story might sound interesting, it’s practically mirrored throughout the 4 available campaigns, that’s one for every title that completes the package. With roughly 7 fights per campaign, most of the exposition and time spent will be with the rather long winded visual novel elements of the story. There’s really nothing to shout about here and fans of Arc System’s other works will be familiar with the structure of the campaign. To put it bluntly, it’s just not enjoyable and takes far longer than it should to get through.
What the story does do well is clearly signpost that BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is most assuredly a tag game – although anyone that read the title could tell you that too. The combat is largely focussed on a finite few buttons. You’ll largely rely on A and B, the buttons that allow for standard normal attacks that build up to autochain combos upon repeated inputs. Outside of that you have the ability to switch partners and utilise one of your partner’s three assists with the dedicated assist button. On top of that there is a dedicated button for a universal sweep and overhead as well as ex-moves with the use of special move inputs. You can even combine these inputs for a universal reversal, grabs, pushblocking, and a hard tag combo breaker for when you’re being attacked. While this seems like a rather large list, it all maps well to the standard buttons of a remote and an arcade stick – even if they feel a little awkward at times, but that’s why adjustable controls are a thing. There’s even a comeback mechanic called ‘Resonance Blaze’ that players unlock when one of their characters dies. While in Resonance Blaze you’ll be able to regenerate some health, gain additional meter, can special moves into super moves, and gain access to a game ending Astral Finish. It adds an extra down-but-not-out aspect when you’re in a pinch, even if a 2v1 can’t feel fairly lopsided in the lightning fast matches.
It might seem like a great idea to reduce the number of buttons from the different series to unify them under the banner of BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, but it neuters the original feel of each game and results in really shallow characters that rarely feel like their true form. Only a select few special moves are preserved and previously large repertoires of attacks are now extremely limited. There are even some cases in which some of the roster’s basic functions just don’t work the way they should, like Yosuke and his parry which will completely whiff.
You end up with a feeling that the characters don’t sit well together. Analysing each sprite in an individual background gives the impression that they are all great, but when different series stand side by side there is a disparity that looks bad, a travesty given how unique some of the characters are and how gorgeous the backgrounds are.
Even if you are able to gel with BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, there are a finite number of activities to invest in. Sure the story mode is there, as well as offline versus, but outside of those two modes all that exists is a tutorial, character challenges, some extended mission modes that elaborate on mechanics from the tutorial and the online. It’s a very sparse package, even when all you should really care about is the ability to fight others.
Again, like a great deal of BB Tag’s components, the ability to plays others is withheld. Throughout my time with the game the online was obviously sparse, but more importantly laggy and riddled with connection errors. There are online lobbies for casual matches and for ranked, but it was extremely hard to find a match and even harder to remain in the lobby for an entire set.
It’s unbelievably hard to justify playing BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle over the games it is composed. The BlazBlue cast feel reduce in capability and their unique mechanics are mostly squished into linear autocombos. The Under Night In-Birth cast suffer the same fate of BlazBlue with the adage that they don’t have the incredibly interesting Grind Grid. And the Persona cast cannot use their personas to the same extent. That leaves the RWBY cast who were specifically created for the game and feel like the most fluid characters in the game, but that’s because they don’t have much to compare to. Even if you were a casual player that didn’t care about the other titles, there’s very little in the way to play about with yourself.
Ultimately you’re left with a game that’s incredibly easy to pick up and play but limited in scope. There is definitely something interesting in the tag mechanics that could flourish, yet the limited scope of combos and lack of depth in character move lists holds them It might be best to avoid until BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is at a reasonable price that includes the rather questionable DLC (who are all present throughout the story).