BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger PS3 Review

These days, 2D sprite based gaming is on the verge of being an endangered species. True, they may do little to tax the might of the modern consoles, but well crafted 2D art has a charm that developers often fail to translate into the third dimension. Guilty Gear developer Arc System Works is one of the few supporters of 2D gaming in this age, and their latest release, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger has typically lovely aesthetics.

The well designed characters are represented by smooth, high resolution sprites, and their often overblown attacks possess excellent animation, whilst the character selection screen and the story mode contain some tremendous artwork. The backdrops fare worse, sadly: as detailed as they are, they’re largely just not all that interesting to look at. There’s one notable exception, that being a field of flowers where every attack sends petals floating into the air.

As history displays, there’s more depth to an Arc System Works game than good looks, however, and BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger doesn’t change anything in that regard. Like Battle Fantasia it’s a more approachable game than that big, mean Guilty Gear – being gentler on those unfamiliar with the genre, allowing them to execute decent combinations with little effort (many moves can even be mapped to the right stick, meaning simple movements can unleash hell on your opponents), but losing little of the depth that staunch devotees of Arc System Works have come to expect and to savour.

There are all the usual weak, medium, strong and special attacks, but also a drive button, of which performs different things for each individual character. For example: Ragna can absorb health, whilst Jin is able to freeze his opponent. There’s also a Heat Gauge, which is built up through attacking or being attacked, and when you amass so much, you can unleash the flashier attacks in each characters arsenal.

There are two options for defending yourself. There’s a traditional block command of which can be broken with a guard crush, but there’s also the barrier block ability, of which once executed leaves you pretty much invulnerable to enemy attacks. There is a limit to how long you can retain a barrier block, though, and if the gauge that measures this happens to end up empty, it will result in you taking a brutal 150% damage, until the gauge refills to the halfway point, of which normal service then resumes.

More advanced manoeuvres are available for higher level play. By spending a costly 50% of your heat, Rapid Cancels can be performed after any attack, allowing you to cancel animations, restoring your character back to their standing position. Barrier Burst on the other hand allows you to shatter your barrier to create room between you and your opponent, but leaves you unable to activate your barrier for the rest of the round and, on top of this, you’ll take additional damage, so it’s a risk that should only be kept for moments of desperation.

With only twelve characters, the roster may be small in comparison to other fighting games, but it’s largely well balanced, which for most fans of the genre is more important than anything else. Guilty Gear fans can rest assured that there are plenty of weirdos amongst them, as well as a satisfying mixture of fighting styles.

As far as modes goes, there’s all the usual arcade, versus, training options and such, but, on top of all of this, there is also a story mode, encompassing stories for all twelve characters. For a fighting game it’s rich, and, whilst the effort is very much appreciated and the option for Japanese voices is welcome, it’s still hard to care for all of the crazy happenings. There’s online play, too, of which has the advantage of having some of the smoothest netcode in a fighting game, making lag more of a rarity than it usually is.

BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is once again another excellent game from a developer that really knows its craft. It’s both welcoming for newcomers and invitingly deep for the veterans. So anyone with an interest in the genre – be it big or small – shouldn’t hesitate in picking up Arc System Works fine example of both 2D aesthetics and the fighting game genre itself.