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Review: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (Nintendo Switch)By Azuardo At 06.06.2018 07:25

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Crossovers in themselves are enough to get many people excited, no matter how ridiculous or unlikely, and Arc System Works has almost limitless potential with the multiple series and characters it could throw into the mixing pot to come up with a crazy fighting game broth. With four well-known franchises, that's exactly what the developer has done in BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, with the titular series front and centre, bringing with it characters, music and stages from Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late, and, in a rare circumstance for a Japanese game, the United States-created anime series RWBY.

Obviously, BlazBlue is going to be the best represented in the roster, but with 20 characters available, it is rather disappointing to have only four fighters each from P4 Arena and UNIST, with just half of Team RWBY showing up in the form of Ruby and Weiss. Following backlash of the announcement that 20 more combatants would be added through paid DLC, the other half of RWBY (Blake and Yang) now make it in for free, bumping the roster up to still a somewhat weak total of 22, and only re-emphasises just how few all-new characters there are when considering the non-RWBY line-up has featured in previous games - almost identically so in terms of sprite art and moves.

This isn't to be completely ignorant of the work that has still had to go into this game. However, the fighting mechanics themselves have been stripped back from what hardcore fighting fans will be accustomed to, with just two main attack buttons, a "clash" button that acts like a tag team throw, a tag switch, and partner attack button. It is certainly not as in-depth as the core titles being represented in Cross Tag Battle, although definitely not a major pitfall, as this does work in the favour of newcomers that haven't played a BlazBlue game before. Given the Nintendo home console debut and RWBY fans, this might be quite high in number. At the detriment of long-time players, though, this much more simplified system could be too shallow to hold lengthy appeal.

With its linked super moves and partner tag-ins that can act as both offensive and defensive mechanisms, there is still plenty to learn and master, though, with another good tutorial that covers everything necessary, as is the norm for an ASW game. Older characters have had to be reworked to accommodate the new style, and whilst this has resulted in some moves not being present or forced into auto combos (achieved by mashing either attack button, another newbie-friendly addition), there is a lot of scope for attack-heavy bouts, with plenty of air game and flash factor.

Naturally, there is a visual novel-like story mode present that provides an excuse for the crossover antics at play, and despite there being some humorous moments as expected of a BlazBlue title, it is quite throwaway overall, with a let-down of a final boss that is copy and pasted for all four franchise paths. The multiple dialogue choices hinted at something with a bit more meat to it, but this is limited to only the BlazBlue scenario, and amounts to just a handful of unlockable art. The bigger slap in the face is seeing and battling against characters that will be coming in the future as download content.

Once the short (by BlazBlue standards, anyway) story is done and dusted, there isn't a lot to spend time in outside of online battles. Survival is about the only single-player mode worthy of attention, with the bog standard versus bouts, training, and tutorials making up the rest of the content. Even the gallery is a major disappointment for a BlazBlue game, which normally feature tons of unlockable artworks. You can purchase lobby avatars, character colours, icons and title plates, and spend a bit of time customising (why does this require a log-in to the in-game network first, though?), but nothing like original art, music, or character announcer voices can be bought with the in-game currency. Cross Tag Battle could really have done with an arcade and Abyss mode to add some longevity for soloists.

There is no question that online play is where ASW hopes its fans will keep coming back, and if the early signs are any indication, there is solid netcode propping up this side of things. It's great to see a return of the virtual lobbies, moving your avatar to a battle station to fight with another who joins you, making the process of fighting various opponents very easy. Matches take some seconds to sync up before they begin, sometimes still during the character intros (which is why it is recommended for players to let these play out until things looks smooth), but after that, battles run really well, with not much noticeable lag going on at all. This is based on dozens of personal matches, so it is hoped this continues to be the case in the coming weeks, particularly once the European version arrives.

As mentioned earlier, great effort has still had to be put into BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle to get characters to fit in with the new system under a less complex style, but with so many reused sprites, music, stages, and moves, more was expected of such a crossover fighting game. Its lack of modes and base roster that is clearly missing some major characters, along with being bereft of such simple battle options like health meter size for versus mode (even more of a problem considering damage numbers are already sky high), and not being able to do two-player tag on the same team (What!? This is a tag battle game!), does not do any favours for Arc System Works when factoring in the shambolic DLC situation. Granted, the launch price is cheaper, but should such a crossover game already deprived of the sort of content a BlazBlue title is known for really be releasing with half of its roster locked behind future paywalls? All it does is further epitomise the issues.

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For all its DLC problems and lacklustre content, [i]BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle[/i] is still a fun fighting game to play both online and offline. It is a much more simplified and newbie-friendly BlazBlue game than any in the main series, but that doesn't prevent it from having anything going for it. These franchises deserved better, though; this should have been a bigger celebration of Arc System Works' characters, and it's a real pity that more love wasn't put into it. With any luck, a complete package will release in the future - hopefully with some extra modes that do the BlazBlue name some justice.



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