Arc System Works is well-known for their fighting games, especially those in the “anime fighter” niche. Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2, Persona 4: Arena, BlazBlue: Central Fiction, and DragonBall FighterZ are just a few of their works. It’s safe to say that Arc Sys got pretty ambitious with the upcoming BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, by combining characters from four separate franchises into one game. BlazBlue, Persona 4, Under-Night In-Birth, and RWBY characters all go toe-to-toe in this tag-team brawler. While you can check out my full review over here, there’s one aspect that I felt deserved an article all to itself.
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle’s episode story mode contains future DLC fighters as opponents. By my count, there are nine: Platinum, Jubei, Hakumen, Kanji, Aegis, Orie, Carmine, Vatista, and Blake. Another two characters—Naoto and Yang—are shown, but never fight. Some of these fighters will be included in the first few character packs that Arc System Works is selling for $4.99 each. A season pass of sorts can be purchased instead, granting access to all character packs for $19.99. No unrevealed fighters or ones in very late packs are fought against or shown, though a few may be referenced.
It’s important to note that all of them (aside from the RWBY cast) come from fighting games that Arc Sys have been involved in. These characters are not exactly an asset flip, as Cross Tag‘s mechanics are very different from the games in which the fighters originate. Understandably, balancing and tweaking every member takes time. Even so, each DLC character in the campaign has their own unique animations and movesets. For example, Aegis blasts foes with a minigun and uses her Persona. It’s probable that this isn’t her final moveset, and I’m sure the numbers and hitboxes will be tweaked for her official launch. In that case, I can’t exactly call these campaign fighters “on-disc DLC” that’s “hidden behind a paywall.”
But I also can’t deny that this is Aegis, in some form or another. Aegis clearly isn’t a clone of an existing character or palette swapped stand-in with generic animations. She’s not an exact copy of her Persona 4 Arena iteration, either. The other fighters are in similar situations: somewhere between a heavily modified AI stand-in, and a completed fighter.
No matter the case, this isn’t exactly a great look for Arc System Works, especially since BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle has caught flak in recent months in regards to DLC. Of the 40 planned members of the roster, only half are playable at launch. The other half are being released as DLC, paid, or otherwise. Fans are understandably upset about the decision to sell 50% of the entire roster after release. Thankfully, in February, it was announced that the first DLC pack will be released alongside the game and given to players for free for two weeks after Cross Tag’s launch. That pack contains Platinum, Orie, and Kanji—a small handful of the characters found in story mode. After that two week period, though, players who didn’t previously grab the pack must buy it.
Making matters worse, RWBY is severely underrepresented. In the base game, the series has only two playable characters, whereas BlazBlue has 10. RWBY’s main in-universe cast consists of four girls: Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang. Cross Tag launches with only Ruby and Weiss. After fans spoke up about the fact that they’d have to pay extra to play the other two RWBY girls post-release, Arc Sys announced that Blake and Yang would be free for all players. All four RWBY characters were created from the ground up, whereas other fighters were somewhat imported from other fighting games. Therefore, it stands to reason that the RWBY crew will need a lot of extra work and tweaking before they’re good to go.
Team RWBY is now complete! Both Blake Belladonna and Yang Xiao Long will be joining the roster of #BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle for all players at no charge! You can’t break up the dream team. #BBTAG pic.twitter.com/VcYRB1LXPq
— ArcSystemWorks (@ArcSystemWorksU) February 7, 2018
These potential free fighters (excluding Yang) have refined and finished movesets, as they’ll be launching with the game. And more are planned for even later paid packs, yet appear with a similar level of completion. In this somewhat cohesive form, almost half of Cross Tag‘s upcoming fighters are extravagantly shown off in the campaign. It’s not exactly a cause for alarm, yet it’s certainly reason enough to be displeased. Plenty of uninformed players will battle these foes in the story and hope to unlock and play them, only to discover no, they’re mostly paid content. What’s worse, almost all of these characters are fought in the first of the game’s four storylines. It feels very clear that you’re meant to quickly see these fighters, none of which are usable in the base product. It’s an early, persistent whisper in your ear: “If you want to unleash their flashy moves, you’ll soon have to pay.”
It’s all especially disappointing coming off the high of Dragon Ball FighterZ, which was praised for its inclusion of fan favorite characters like Broly, Vegito, and Zamasu. Even then, murmurings on the horizon were worrying. If rumors are to be believed, the final DLC pack for Dragon Ball FighterZ will contain the base, non-powered forms of Goku and Vegeta. Their Super Saiyan counterparts are already in the game, so of course, fans are unhappy at the thought of “weaker” versions being included.
Such rumblings are sure to have reached the ears of Arc Sys, which adds to the Cross Tag situation in a bad way. If fans of the previous game and fans of Cross Tag were already worried about DLC, why wouldn’t Arc Sys do everything in their power to set things straight before launch?
The easiest way to combat this entire situation would be to exclude the DLC characters from the storyline in all capacities. It’d ensure that no mixed messages were sent to players who are out of the loop. It’d also be just as simple to take every DLC fighter in the story and offer them for free. At the very least, the number of future foes shown in these scenarios could be cut down.
More importantly, it would’ve worked in Arc Sys’ favor to announce anything about this ahead of time. It would’ve been great to say something like, “Hey, some DLC fighters are in the campaign. They’re unfinished, and will look nothing like that when released.” Instead, their mouths are shut, we’re in the dark, and I’m not that thrilled about this not-so-subliminal advertising.
Kanji, Orie, Platinum, and Blake are semi-understandable inclusions in the story. They’re finished! All players will have access to Blake, while early adopters will have the other three, too. But even those three will be paid content soon enough, practically making them launch-day DLC. And the rest of these fighters either have prototype builds included in the game, or are close to completion and being held back just to space out cash flow. It doesn’t make sense to include them.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s really hard to tell how developed some of these characters are, while others are free for a limited time. The point remains, though: they’re there, and they’re unique. Although they might not all be finished, on-disk DLC, they do serve as a constant reminder that Arc Sys would like you to throw more money their way soon. It’s a crummy feeling to get from an otherwise super fun game, and I can’t say I condone the behavior of BlazeBlue: Cross Tag Battle.