When most people think of the fighting genre they think of Street Fighter and Tekken as being the staples of the genre, those who are a little more knowledgeable might mention Dead Or Alive. The truth is, there’s a whole host of smaller fighting games, some of which have been around for absolutely ages - BlazBlue is one of those.
BlazBlue Central Fiction is the latest in the series, and sequel to BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma. The sequel brings with it some general improvements to the formula along with some new characters that were previously unplayable.
Straight from the off, the level of content available in BlazBlue Central Fiction is pretty staggering - there’s multiple gameplay modes, a fully fledged digital story, network play and an impressive 35 playable characters. The character selection might be one of the game's most impressive features, the variety available is nothing short of impressive given that each character manages to feel unique whilst also have an impressive combo library. On top of character choice there’s also a nice selection of costumes available, with some being unlockable through gameplay. This is likely something that are fans of the series will appreciate rather than people new to BlazBlue, but it’s a nice touch regardless.
The arcade mode is split into three different acts, all telling an overall story. I’ve tried reading up on the plot, but it’s honestly a bit of a clusterfuck. This is where the number of characters makes things a little confusing, I’ve played the arcade mode with several characters and still have no clue what is actually happening. Unless you’ve followed the series from much earlier on, I imagine most people will find it a bit hard to follow - even then I feel it’s a bit overly complex for a 2D fighting game. I’m not one for anime and Eastern narrative writing so maybe I’m at a disadvantage there.
Luckily the actual fighting itself more than makes up for the narrative. Characters control responsively and move like their size indicates they should, this makes finding a character that suits your playstyle quite enjoyable. Once you do find that character, the gameplay just clicks and you find yourself having a lot more fun. Each character has their own special group of attacks that can be used once their overdrive gauge has been filled. These are often pretty grandiose, pulling the focus away from gameplay and onto some specially animated sequence.
The most fun I had with the game was undoubtedly the online play. Network play is split into a few different options, there is the usual ranked and unranked modes but there is also a lobby mode in which players move about as tiny avatars. This allows players to interact with each other in a more social manner rather than just accessing fights through the menus. There is also split screen multiplayer available for those people that are into that kind of thing.
There’s some interesting modes outside of the arcade, such as a survival mode in which you must survive on only one health bar that carries between fights. Winning a round will slightly refill your health, but the mode teaches players how to play conservatively, rewarding those who play defensively over people that are less cautious. There’s also a time-trial mode in which players are given a time limit, in order to increase this time players must play quickly and aggressively using combos and special moves. So rather than rewarding players for conservative gameplay, it instead encourages players to play far more aggressively. It feels like these two modes have been created to prepare players for network play as these two contrasting styles of play often useful depending on the person you are fighting.
There is no doubt that BlazBlue: Central Fiction has been created for fans of the series, almost to the point where it feels a little self indulgent in places. This is great for people that have followed the BlazBlue series since its initial inception, but it may serve as a barrier to entry for those people that don’t know the series that well.
Where the story falls short, the gameplay rises up. The fighting is fun to pick up and play, but hard to master. There’s no shortage of combos and character specific special moves, making finding your character of choice and fun and personal experience. For those that are fans of the series, Central Fiction is an absolute must have. For fighting game fans that want a fighting game to keep them busy until Tekken 7 comes out, Central Fiction is definitely worth a try, just be prepared to do a lot of reading if you want to understand the lore.
BlazBlue: Central Fiction (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Where the story falls short, the gameplay rises up. The fighting is fun to pick up and play, but hard to master.