BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is the latest fighting game to be released by Arc System Works and is the first time they’ve brought four different franchises into one game and to feature a two versus two fighting style. With questionable DLC practices and attempting a different type of fighting game than what they are known for, let’s see how Arc System Works’ BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle performs.
Release date: May 31st, 2018 (JP), June 5th, 2018 (US), June 22nd, 2018 (EU)
Approximate size: 6.5 GB
Genre: Fighting Game
Developed by Arc System Works
Published by Arc System Works (WW), PQube (EU)
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch; Also Available On PlayStation 4 and PC.
The story mode may very well be the weakest aspect of this game. Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite, Injustice 2, and Dragon Ball FighterZ have all had high production stories with cutscenes and deep plots. Well, as deep as games featuring super-powered fighters can be. The point is, the standard in telling a story in fighting games has risen to a height we haven’t seen before and, so, it’s odd that BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle wouldn’t attempt to rise to the challenge or raise the bar. Especially, mechanically, it is on par and even superior to other fighting games out there. In many cases, it is arguably better. Instead what the story has is a text fest that is an overabundance of dialogue. I will note that the story does well to capture the personality of each of the various characters. It is also not cool that DLC fighters make an appearance in the story and that you are actually able to fight them.
The story itself is pretty barebones and is just a simple set up to justify why you are fighting in teams of two against other characters. The plot goes that a mysterious being has brought different characters from the four properties represented in the game and brought them to this world. In this world, all fights have to be the two versus two that permeates across the game and the goal of these teams is to find the Keystone and protect it. Once that has been successfully accomplished, the winning team will be sent back to their world. There are several chapters broken into four episodes, one for each title represented, and it was fun to see the personalities clash and for rivalries from a specific series carry over to this one. There are some sections where you can choose which dialogue to say, it doesn’t really have an impact, but it’s nice to have nonetheless.
The story mode is serviceable, but I do wish they would have made more effort to compete with the more popular titles in the fighting game genre. The dialogue choices was a nice touch but having the DLC characters in the game is unacceptable. Fans of any of these series will be proud to see them authentically represented. The battles are easy to overcome, and the final boss is similar to past games in this genre. If you bought this for a story, a deep emotional rollercoaster, you will be disappointed. If you want a quick explanation on why these worlds are colliding, on how this crossover was possible, you’ll find it here.
Whether your online or off it, the core gameplay that permeates across all modes is two versus two fighting. Out of twenty available characters on launch, with another twenty reserved as DLC, you and your opponent will each pick two to form a team and fight across a 2D plane with the goal to reduce the other’s two characters health to zero to achieve victory. In terms of actual gameplay or actual fighting, the game seems to have two systems at work. At the surface, the game is very user-friendly and easy to pick up and play. Newcomers to the fighting game genre will be able to perform combos with ease as the whole process has been streamlined. The game is designed to make everyone look and feel like a superstar as simple button inputs create flashy displays. An incredibly simple system that had me worried at first. I’ll go on record now and own up to the fact that I am, quite possibly, the worst fighting game gamer ever. Ever. Yet it’s my favorite genre and where I find the most pleasure in gaming. I love testing my skills and learn the mechanics, I love being able to adapt and learn as I put in the work to attain those skills, and I love the thrill of competition. The fighting game genre is one of the purest forms of skill testing and technique learning and demands that a player train and master characters and take advantage of situations to become even better. This game, like most Arc System Works games, offers that. Yes, on the surface, the game looks entirely too easy but inside there are deeper mechanics that add the complexity veterans need. The thrill of the fight, the deep learning of stringing together combos, and the realization on how to capitalize on situations are all available to learn. You can get by and find modest success using these auto combos and you’ll have a good time as you do so. This might be enough for most and the ease in which you can pick up and play is great. Those who try to study the game and learn the deeper mechanics will find the competitive edge and thrill they most likely are seeking. Bottom line, anyone and everyone can and will have a great time with this game if they love fighting games.
When a match starts, it’s up to you and your opponent to reduce both characters health to zero to get victory and this can either be a game of chess or that of utter chaos. Characters dash across the screen as combos are executed and with the touch of a button, you can switch to your other character. The cooldown is tiny, almost non-existent, but there were occasions where I had to wait before I could switch back and forth. We’re talking seconds but it’ll be noticeable from players who play Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite. You have your typical combo structures, some characters are more unique than others, nearly the whole cast has dragon punches and ground grabs. Each character has different levels of supers and variants of attacks depending on your gauge. Typical fighting game tropes and techniques. What differentiates this game from most is its tag mechanic. Tagging is primarily used for two things: switching out a damaged character so they can regain health and/or extend a combination to cause more damage. The only issue with the former is that characters regain health at an alarmingly slow rate and with the latter, a mistimed switch could get you punished. Your tag partner can also be used as an assist, the game offers three types. You have a dash like assist that has your tag partner quick get in and quickly get out, you have a ranged assist where they will cover you and attack from a distance, and a close ranged assist where they will go right up to the enemy player and attack. These options and mixing with your combinations and techniques add more dynamic options to the competitive fighting. Keep in mind you can’t abuse assists and tags because you have a meter and exhausting this meter could leave you vulnerable during a cooldown.
The roster is varied and is represented by four different properties. The development team has done something pretty unique with the roster. Three of the four series represented here (BlazBlue, Persona, and Under Night In-Birth) all come from fighting games of their own. Down to movement, play style, and techniques, each character performs as they did in their respective games but, at the same time, are balanced to work in this game. Those who have played the spectacular Dragon Ball FighterZ will know how much attention to detail and love and care Arc System Works puts into everything they create, accurately giving justice to those properties they are granted permission to utilize. The last part of the roster, the cast from RWBY, make their debut in a fighting game and fit right in, having their skills and weapons from the show wonderfully recreated and making these characters some of, if not, the most fun to play with. They don’t feel out of place and it’s remarkable how authentic they feel to this genre, it’s as if they’ve always been in fighting games.
The actual fighting in this game is fantastic. Arc System Works is a master of their craft and it shows in this latest entry. There are only two issues I’ve found with this release. Your characters die incredibly too fast and this makes the matches way too short. Also, when you swap out a character it takes an extraordinarily long time for them to regain some of their health from the damage received. Other then these factors, the gameplay is great and I’m sure this could be addressed in a patch unless this was by design. It’s a small criticism in the grand scheme of things. So, where can you do all this fighting? What are all the modes? Let’s get into that but before we do, let’s talk about the first thing you’ll be greeted with upon starting the game. The hub world.
Those familiar with Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 and Dragon Ball FighterZ will find a familiar looking hub world in which you can maneuver and participate in various modes using a chibi avatar based on anyone on the roster. The game combines the two as you’ll walk around and interact with the various modes and options, going as far as to include the avatar that provides the player with information in the form of Kajun much like Dragon Ball FighterZ used a monk. When you enter into a lobby, it closer resembles Xrd Rev 2 in that you have to interact with an item, as does another player, to initiate a fight. I stead of arcade booths though, this time its step pads and the whole thing reminds me of a giant DDR arcade dream. Also, nicely implemented, everything can be done using a menu.
This is the story mode of the game and where you should go to better understand the game. This is a nice, quick, area for you to jump into the gameplay before delving into the sea of online battles that await you. After a quick prologue, you’ll go through each of the four sections, broken between each of the properties represented, and fight in the games two versus two format. Despite my thoughts on how the story mode is handled, the pacing is fast and frantic like the gameplay and you’ll go through this mode pretty quickly. One thing I did like about this game, besides its constant changing of who you are playing with, is the dialogue options you’ll occasionally encounter. There are a few sections where you’ll be able to choose how your character responds and even though it doesn’t drastically affect the story, it’s a nice touch. Overall, this is the most forgettable mode and the one you’ll probably spend the least amount of time in.
This is the mode where the hardcore, and all those looking to improve, will flock to. If you are serious about raising your skill level and becoming a threat to your online opponents, you’ll be spending most of your time here. At least, that’s what I find myself doing. If I’m not testing my skills, I’m in training mode discovering new mechanics and testing new combos. Thankfully, this training mode is well implemented. You have the traditional settings where you can pick and choose who your opponents are and what they are able to do. This is critical if you’re having a particular issue with a certain character’s technique and you’ll be able to try and find a means to defeat it. Maybe you have two characters you really like the individual play style of and are having difficulty getting a good flow and having them work well together, this mode is perfect for perfecting your team. Training mode is great, functions well, and isn’t bogged down with loading screens. Switching to different fighters is easy and streamlined.
Couch co-op at its finest is this mode. Got friends over? Family wants to settle some bragging? This is the mode for you. This old tried and true mode is easy to enter, quick to select a stage, and fluid in picking your characters. You’ll have a good time here and with the massive popularity and focus on online play, it makes me happy that we still have these old-school modes. Also, this is a good mode to have a few quick rounds with the CPU without having to deal with any story or side content.
This mode is made for those who want to know what every character is capable of and how to perform their signature moves. This is less about experimenting and more about mastering the abilities present. The screen will display how to perform a move or technique and then it’s up to you to demonstrate your ability to do it. It’s pretty straightforward and shows you the inner workings of the deeper mechanics I mentioned earlier. This is also great for memorizing button layout and what makes every character unique. I learned a lot in this mode, discovering moves I didn’t have any idea was present. I definitely recommend this mode.
This mode is exactly what you think it is. You pick your team of two and proceed to survive as many fights as possible. Whether you win or lose, you’ll set a score and it’ll be there to motivate you and others to surpass it or be a constant reminder of the height of your survival career. You’ll find yourself playing more cautious here, at least I did, because the damage you sustain will play a role in your next fight. A very enjoyable mode but I wish it had the buffs and debuffs options that Street Fighter V’s version has. In Street Fighter V, after you finish a fight you are given an option to spend your score points on items such as health recovery and attack damage boost or to make things harder on yourself like lowering your health. It’s a nice element that can change things drastically and it would have been nice to see a similar element implemented.
Check our Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Collection Review
When you’re not increasing your skills, or testing them, the game offers a gallery mode where you can watch CG movies, endings, and art work illustrations. You can also watch saved replays in the Replay Theatre. After you finish a fight, you can save the fight with the touch of a button. This is perfect if you want to save an epic encounter or if you want study material on a fight you lost. This game is very friendly in encouraging players to want to improve. There is a decent amount you can do if you prefer to play offline. Besides what’s mentioned above, you also gave access to the shop. It’s here you’ll buy more colors for your fighters, additional lobby avatars for the hub social world, and/or items to customize your online profile. The options menu also hosts some settings that can allow you to personalize your game, such as character voice language, and you can choose whether or not you’re alright with other players capturing footage that involve you. A nice set options.
One thing that is lacking that isn’t completely forgivable for me, is the lack of any form of Arcade Mode. Arcade modes have been around since forever and have become a standard in fighting games. It captures that old school feel when you would go to the arcade and test your abilities against the CPU. If you met certain conditions, you’d unlock a secret battle or two, and maybe enjoy a mini game. The highlight of those modes were also the endings you would earn after completing it with a character. This is a mode that was clamored for so much that Street Fighter V had to include it, as it wasn’t available at launch, and they even named the re-release after it. With the game confirmed to be getting seasons of DLC for characters, we can only hope the mode is added. Arc System Works has demonstrated with Dragon Ball FighterZ that they have no problem adding more modes to their games. Interestingly, that game did include an arcade mode. A unique and well implemented one.
Overall, there is enough here to satisfy single player enthusiasts, but this game was designed for the online community. The lack of an arcade mode is sad, survival mode is fun, and there is a nice selection of customization options for you. The gameplay is a ton of fun, a true blast, and your always left with that thrill to have one more match. With that being said, let’s see how the online aspects of this game holds up.
Nintendo’s unfamiliarity with online infrastructures has many worried about the stability one will get when purchasing and playing a game against others across the globe. You don’t know how happy it makes me to be able to write that the online works magnificently. Full bars will play with a fluidity akin to offline play and even some of the lower bar connections run well. It’s hard to gauge as Arc System Works is notorious for providing online stability indicators that are never truly accurate. Out of over a hundred games, I’ve only run into hand full that suffered performance issues and about three where the connection failed so magically that I was sent back to the menu. The game is always working to ensure that the experience is as fluid as possible, visually indicated by the lag associated with character introductions. Sometimes, depending on the connection, the opening character sequences will be put of sync and suffering from slow down but once the actual fighting starts, it’s smooth sailing from there. Arc System Works did a great job with the online structure of the game and it makes sense that they would put so much effort into ensuring it ran smooth because it’s very apparent that the online section and modes were the priority. For them, this game will maintain its longevity through online play and they needed to make sure it worked well. So, what online modes are there?
Ranked mode is where the game puts you against players that are at or around your skill level. It’s very easy to initiate and finding an opponent on the Nintendo Switch is quick and easy. It’s safe to say that you’ll find a healthy online community here. The game implements a best out of three match limit against the same opponent, should you both want to avenge your losses, or you can opt to search for another opponent. The match ups are good, I never was placed against someone who was too much to handle or who defeated me in tragic fashion. That’s the key to having a well done Ranked mode, the game correctly matching you up against those of similar skill, and, for the most part, this game nails it. This is the mode for those who truly cherish their standings in the online community and who have a strong desire to reign supreme. There is a section to view your rankings and the journey to the top is perilous and constantly changing. It’s also a blast.
This mode is the one where you’ll have a Chibi avatar and roam around the cute dance floor. This mode is very social, giving the players many options to express themselves. Avatars can emote, you can write messages, and you’ll be able to post predetermined pictures that represent a feeling of emotion. This mode is very laid back and it’s here where you’ll jump in to fight without worry of rank or skill. There is no way to determine what your opponent’s skill level is besides the game showing you how many fights they’ve actually won. You may encounter some frustrations as the skill level can drastically change from one battle to the next. Interestingly, I found myself in this mode more than others. There is a certain charm with this mode and how unique and social it is. Finding a game, as long as you’re in a populated lobby, run just as well as ranked.
The multiplayer is handled well, runs fluid, and is populated with many players. You have a lot of options to tailor the game to your liking and the game offers the ability to search for rooms and to make your own. Rooms can have up to eight players and you can set it so that losers have to leave, you can set the match limit for each encounter, the fighting order, and whether or not players can use the save replay capture feature. I really can’t come up with any complaints when it comes to the online aspects of this game and recommend everyone give it a try, even if you normally evade online encounters.
BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle looks great visually. The environments are varied, and you’ll encounter some that are colorful and full of life and others that use a darker palette and feel more somber. Those familiar with Persona, BlazBlue, and Under Night will find several stages that they enjoy. I, myself, found several that I hope can make an appearance down the line, but I like the ones included. Series newcomer RWBY is criminally under represented with only one stage linked to it. The stages that are present, both those that are from prior entries and those that are new, look great. There is one common issue that plagues the games visuals. Despite looking great, you can easily spot what properties were created specifically for the game and which ones were brought from prior entries.
The new stages will look better than the older ones and the sprites designed with 4K in mind will look better than those that come from other games and have been touched up to look visually on par. For example, you take any of the RWBY cast and compare them to the BlazBlue models and you’ll see a difference in quality. None of this is game breaking or disorienting but those who notice the small details in gaming, will notice this. I will note that this is where the higher resolution provided by the PlayStation 4 hurts it compared to the Nintendo Switch. Regardless of what’s reused and what’s new, it all looks marvelous and runs fluidly. All the sprites are detailed, and every animation flows exactly how they are supposed to.
The game uses a stylized, sleek, menu and UI that you’ll navigate through as your selecting modes and choosing characters. The character select screen in particular is different from what were used to but scrolling over to a character and changing the sprites color you’ll be using is just as easy as before. As you engage in battle, various effects fill the screen as visual cues of damage are shown to heighten the entire experience. A lot of love and attention to detail has gone into this game and it shows. The social aspects of this game are also visually appealing. Your Chibi avatar and the expressions they make are wonderfully comical and adorable and the social area itself is filled with energy as colors from the dance floor light up the room.
Graphically, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle looks great and runs smooth. Everything has been crafted to look great and to enhance one another. I applaud Arc System Works for being able to release visual wonders like clockwork and with a steady track record. Everything from the game, upon start up until your done for that session, looks spectacular.
Let’s start with the game’s soundtrack because it instantly took a hold of me and it never lets you go. I’ve been humming the songs in my head since I got the game. It’s that good. Normally soundtracks in fighting games go either way: these can memorable or forgettable. It makes me happy to be able to praise a great collection of songs from four great properties. Besides the excellent music, character voices are on par and perfectly represented. Voices that have come to define these characters return and the English voice cast nails their performances. The right amount of emotion is delivered depending on the scene or attack being displayed, or felt, and it’s another indication at how dedicated these individuals are to the characters they have breathed life into.
The sound effects in the game all look and sound as one would expect. The impact is felt through audio design and none of it sounds compressed or lags. Everything done from an audio perspective is designed wonderfully and, much like other games in Arc System Work’s catalog, is nearly perfect.
As a whole package, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is a great experience for both those new to fighting games and to veterans of the trade. The game looks great and runs even better, the music is a collection of the best tracks of prior entries in the franchises represented, and the online runs as smooth as butter. The story mode isn’t some of the best, it’s serviceable at best, and the DLC practices are Capcom level of shadiness. The social aspects of this game are great and it’s easy to see that the online components were the priority, but this also means that primary single player gamers have been left without an arcade mode. When it comes to the fun factor, this is where BlazBlue shines the brightest. Arc System Works has crafted a fighting game that is an absolute joy to play. The game is so fun that I lost track of time way too many times and I definitely recommend this game to everyone who either likes fighting games or has been looking for a title easy to get into.
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle$49.99
- A Blast To Play
- The Soundtrack Is Marvelous
- Online Runs Smooth
- Game Looks Great
- Easy To Pick Up For Beginners, Deep Mechanics For Veterans
- DLC Characters Appear In Episode Mode
- Lack Of An Arcade Mode
- Matches Finish Way Too Quickly
- Announcing 20 Characters As DLC Before Game Launched, Making Roster Shallow