Review: BlazBlue: Chronophantasma (Import)

BlazBlue ChronophantasmaThe first time I played BlazBlue I was impressed by the game’s immense visual look and style. Few fighting games look this good, sound this good, and play this good. BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger was not only an immense game, but one that proved itself to be a worthy successor to the, also excellent, Guilty Gear series. But Ark System Works’ ‘if it isn’t broke’ attitude has resulted in several subsequent releases many have hailed as nothing more than expansion packs disguised as new games. Chronophantasma is the third main entry in the BlazBlue series, and proves to be slightly more of a step forwards than Continuum Shift was. We’re still taking about minor enhancements, tweaks, and additions, but the result is still arguably the best BlazBlue game ever created.

***A few notes on the import review: This review is based on my experience with the Japanese version of the game, and discusses several issues importers may encounter. A localised version of BlazBlue: Chronophantasma will be coming out in early 2014.***

03BlazBlue: Chronophantasma caries on the series’ tradition of offering a fighting experience both hardcore and casual gamers can enjoy. The combat mechanics are insanely complex, the anime characters are crazy, and overall this is a game that should really only appeal to a niche market. But with stunning presentation, beautiful effects, and a ‘stylish’ mode for novices, BlazBlue is a fighter that anyone can enjoy. Immense combos can be pulled off using a single button, and once you get the hang of things there’s a near endless amount of skills to master.

However, whilst the gameplay might be intuitive, the Japanese menus are not. If you own a previous BlazBlue game then working things out is simple enough, as everything is roughly in the same place, but if you don’t then you might struggle. Changing the difficulty can be confusing, and you have to enable the option to skip story text from the pause menu. This is something you’ll need to do, or you’ll be ploughing through an incredibly large amount of  Japanese text. The character voices in-game can be changed to English (great if you like to hear Ragna say the word ‘bitch’) but the story dialogue, text and ninety percent of the menus are only in Japanese. For those new to the series, you can either wait till the English language release, or there’s a list of the translated menu and pause options here.

01Whilst the game might not have too many new features, the enhancements and additional content it does include is still great. As soon as you start Chronophantasma you have twenty three characters to chose from, which is four more than BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend. Then once you unlock Kagura Mutsuki you’ll push the total player count to double that of the original BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger game. New characters include Bullet, a lightning fast mercenary, and Amane Nishiki, a cross dresser who attacks using a cloth. Both make for pretty awesome additions to the roster.

Tweaks to the existing cast have also been made, most notably Noel Vermillion is now wearing less clothes. You decide if that’s a good thing or not. There’s also only two returning stages, Moonlight Castle and Altar, and other than those the rest are entirely new. This helps keep things fresh, especially considering that although there are new moves and mechanical tweaks, including an Overdrive mode that replaces Gold Burst, the game still feels very familiar.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that I’d only recommend importing if you’re a hardcore fan. It’s also worth taking into account that whilst some modes can be enjoyed without issue, others cannot fully be appreciated. The game’s story is obviously where the most problems are to be found, and you won’t be able to appreciate it if you don’t speak Japanese. However, from my own playthrough I did gather a vague impression of what we can expect next year. There’s three different scenarios that all take place after Continuum Shift and progress the story of the last game. You play as a variety of different characters, there’s a lot of text to read, a crazy final boss fight, and a few anime cutscenes that look really good. Considering that the story of the first two games is currently being retold as an anime (review of BlazBlue Alter Memory here), this is an interesting preview of what a second series could potentially look like.

02Whilst the majority of my problems with Chronophantasma will all become irrelevant once the game is released in English, there are a few issues that won’t be resolved. Most notably, additional content that feels like it should have been included for free is being released as paid DLC, including an couple of extra characters and additional outfits, such as Noel’s original costume. It’s likely that the game will go the same way as Continuum Shift, and we very may well see Chronophantasma get it’s own ‘Extend’ version in a couple of years time. If we do, I’d love to see the game running on the PS Vita, as I’ve noticed that the game’s character sprites look even nicer on the smaller screen.

Thanks to it’s large selection of characters, stages, and general fine tweaks, BlazBlue: Chronophantasma is the best version of an immense fighting game. There might not be enough here to warrant an import, and you’ll miss out on some of the experience if you do, but this is definitely one to look forward to at the start of next year.

8/10

Other games with strange names: Kuru Kuru Kururin, Touch My Katamari, Radirgy GeneriC, Noby Noby Boy

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