BlazBlue: Central Fiction Review – Au Revoir Ragna (PS4)
When BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger released in 2008, it felt fresh. After all, it was a new series in a genre that has churned out Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter for over 20 years. The game’s action was fast-paced, there was a surprisingly good story mode, and each character felt unique to actually use in combat. Now, eight years later, the series is on its seventh installment (fourth if you don’t count revisions) and a lot of the initial charm has worn off.
While the newness is definitely gone, Central Fiction proves why BlazBlue has lasted so long: it’s a damn good fighting game. No matter how ridiculous the incremental release schedule has been it can’t disrupt that solid core. Just like previous releases, Central Fiction‘s combat is still a blast to play, and Arc System Works have made some smart decisions that make this the best playing game in the series.
First off, the user interface has seen some small improvements that help communicates BlazBlue‘s complicated fighting system to the player. For example, once Overdrive (a character buff) is activated the game now shows exactly how long it lasts thanks to a countdown timer. While it may not seem like a big deal, knowing I have exactly four seconds left with my Overdrive can help me make smarter choices during gameplay. It’s a small improvement, but it has noticeable, real impact on the gameplay.
Other changes include two new gameplay mechanics: Exceed Accel and Active Flow. The former is a special attack that is extremely powerful, but ends the player’s Overdrive. While the Active Flow is basically the opposite of the game’s penalty for avoiding combat. Those that fight aggressively will receive an attack boost and will be able to recover their special attack gauge more quickly. It’s a cool addition, that definitely helps to encourage aggressive play.
These new additions are all taught in Central Fiction‘s tutorial, which like past entries, is very in-depth. It goes so far to include character specific tutorials, which is great since so many fighting games just toss players into the action without showing how multiple characters control. One small bummer is that it lacks the charm of Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-‘s tutorial, which was extremely welcoming to those new to the genre. Still, the game does do a fantastic job of introducing players to concepts, even if it could’ve done so in a more enjoyable way.
Like past entries, Central Fiction is filled with different modes to play. Arc System Works did a really great job of revamping the arcade mode by splitting it into three different arcs for each character (granted they’ve been around long enough). It’s great to see a developer making sure this fighting game staple still gets love when other developers have abandoned it completely (looking at you Capcom). Fleshing out the package is solid online play, a wave-based Abyss mode, which has the player leveling up their character over time, a score attack mode, and a new mode called Speed Star. The latter has several different courses to compete in, and players are given time bonuses for performing well and finishing battles with special attacks.
As the title of Central Fiction suggests, story is a big focus for this version of BlazBlue. This is due to it finishing the story that started in Calamity Trigger, and finishing Ragna’s adventure. As someone who has tried to keep up with the convoluted plot, but eventually got confused due to the number of clones and the sheer number of characters that were introduced, I was glad to see that the game offers up a primer of what happened previously. This 30-minute long prologue scene sets the stage well for the events that follow, and I felt like I almost understood what was going on after watching it (but it’s still way too complicated).
The story mode also brings up my biggest disappointment: there is no English voice acting. That omission is a huge bummer for a number of reasons. First, it means that players will have to give full attention to BlazBlue‘s lengthy story and read every line of dialogue. As someone who used to set the visual novel-esque story to auto-play and then listen to it, this change absolutely sucks. Also, the voice acting in previous games was really well done. I associate characters like Ragna and Rachel to their voices, and it feels strange not having them there during the story’s most pivotal scenes. Also, make sure to go into the options and force the character name to show above subtitles, since some scenes got confusing because I didn’t know every character’s Japanese voice.
As far as the actual story is concerned, it’s just as strong as past entries. Characters are still very likable, and the dialogue is still well-written. A lot of the scenes lose some charm due to the lack of voice acting (seriously, you don’t truly appreciate the voice of Bang Shishigami until it’s gone), but it still managed to keep my attention. BlazBlue is one of the few fighting games that really made narrative a large focus, and it manages to tell a more interesting story than the XBlaze visual novel spin-offs.
I also want to touch on Central Fiction continuing Arc System Works’ disgusting tradition of day-one DLC. The game currently offers up $59.40 worth of DLC, ranging from playable characters (Mai from Remix Heart and Es from XBlaze) to alternate color schemes. That’s the price of another game, and this trend sucks. Even though AAA titles get the most flack over DLC, it’s almost always niche titles like BlazBlue that are the worst offenders.
BlazBlue: Central Fiction is a strong note for the series to go out on, if it really does end here. It’s the ultimate package due to the fighting systems being more interesting than ever, and there being over 30 characters to play as. There are a few disappointments such as the lack of English voice acting, but that’s not enough to mar what is otherwise a great game. All fighting game fans should give Arc System Works’ latest a go.
Review code for BlazBlue: Central Fiction provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.