BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger Preview
The rejuvenation of the fighting genre continues, as yet another colorful old-school fighter is headed our way. Publisher Aksys Games and developer ARC System Works will bring BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this summer; it’s an adaptation of the #1 Japanese smash arcade hit, and fans ought to be pumped. Thanks to a recent eyes-on session and interview with director Toshimichi Mori by IGN, we now have sufficient information to formulate an in-depth preview and we have to say, this game could give Street Fighter IV a run for its money. It’s firmly grounded in the standard anime style, but at the same time, it features an extremely intricate combat mechanic that’s bound to appeal to hardcore followers of the fighters that haven’t died off. They’re going strong, and this game’s gonna prove it. The animation is amazing, but the old mantra reigns supreme: “ultimately, it’s always the gameplay that matters!”
This here is the spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed and much-beloved Guilty Gear franchise, even though BlazBlue resides in a different world. For those of you who aren’t familiar with GG, it was a vivid, breathless 2D battle extravaganza that tested your reflexes to the max and presented a considerable challenge. You can expect all of this and much more from ARC’s newest production, which will boast a ton of distinctly different characters, brilliant high-definition resolution, and we have to reiterate: enough blazin’ animations to make your eyes bleed. To placate all you traditional fighting fans, Mori made it clear that they chose to go with the 2D sprites, even though it would’ve been easier to opt for 3D character models. You see? It isn’t every developer that thinks three-dimensions are always the best choice for all types of games! And when you see the final product; when you first lay eyes on those gorgeous 2D sprites, you’ll fully understand why Mori decided to stick with the old-school designs. Artistry, regardless of design, can shine brightly, provided the creators are talented, and in this area, ARC System is talented.
Okay, the central theme is obvious: two fighters do battle in a 2D arena, and they both have normal and special attacks at their disposal. If this was your typical ho-hum fighter, there wouldn’t be much else to talk about, but this is BlazBlue; there’s lots more to discuss. First of all, each character has a Heat gauge in addition to their Health bar; the former gauge is used to execute special moves called Distortion Drives and the fatalities known as “Astral Finishers.” No, this isn’t Mortal Kombat, but these Finishers are aptly named- they will end the match in one explosive maneuver that grants you instant victory! But the Heat gauge has a dual-pronged effect, as it’s not only used for launching massive attacks. It’s also used to cancel out mistakes or significantly alter the character’s special abilities, which sounds wonderfully complex. The faster they make your fingers move, the more the fans will enjoy the experience…that, we’re relatively certain of.
Think we can stop with the gameplay features? Nah, we haven’t talked about the Barrier Gauge yet. Sure, the players can always block normally when involved in a hectic encounter, but sometimes, a normal block may not be enough defense. The Barrier Gauge provided an additional glowing shield to the block, which means your opponent will have to chip away at the shield during the course of combat. On top of this, there’s the inclusion of a special Guard Libra gauge, which measures how often you defend during battle; defend too often and the gauge will tip in your opponent’s favor and you’ll be stunned. Obviously, this significantly ramps up the strategy of the game, as players won’t be able to be cheesy and just defend all day long. You’re going to have to become familiar enough with your character’s available assaults in order to keep that Libra Gauge in check, and in the end, each battle will always feature two players who are forced to remain at each other’s throats. That’s one way to keep the intensity high, eh?
If you’re not gauged-out yet, here’s one last feature. Some fighters will have character-specific gauges that will let that character execute a special maneuver unique to his or her fighting style. With all these gauges, it almost seems impossible to keep both eyes on the action, but we imagine you’ll rapidly grow accustomed to the gameplay. Finally, we’ll get different modes (Arcade, Versus, etc.) in addition to the main Story mode, and yes, there is going to be a plot and dialogue, which may or may not scare away the fighting aficionados. As a last and particularly special torture, they’re going to toss in Achievements and Trophies, which are of course expected, and yet… Is anyone else concerned that certain Trophies will be damn near impossible to obtain? What, will we need 50 consecutive ranked wins online to get a Gold Trophy, or something? Yeah, we said online; you’ll be able to test your skills against other players around the world, but we’d have to suggest practicing on your own before attempting to take on human players. The CPU will be challenging enough, we assume.
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is destined to be a niche title, but one that should excel in every possible way. SFIV fans should definitely check it out, and if you miss the good ol’ golden days when fighters dominated the arcades, and you went in there with a plastic pailful of quarters every Saturday, BlazBlue is specifically designed with you in mind. We can’t wait to give it a try!
Make sure to check out all our new BlazBlue screenshots!
3/10/2009 Ben Dutka