It’s become a sort of mission of mine to be up-to-date with each new Arc System Works fighting game. This is difficult for me, since I never had a PS3, and finding copies for my 360 (back when I still had it) was oddly difficult. It’s for this reason that I’m glad that Arc Sys has been making an earnest attempt to port their games to Steam so folks of the PC persuasion can enjoy them. With that said, since Chronophantasma Extend just came out on Steam, let’s talk about BlazBlue.
If you recall, back in my Guilty Gear Xrd review, I said how you don’t play a fighting game for the story, so I didn’t score the story. That’s also because Xrd was less of a fighting game with a story and more of a fighting game that also had a movie in it. Chronophantasma, and by extension BlazBlue in general, isn’t getting a free pass on that, since the series is a hybrid between fighting game and visual novel. Luckily, though, it’s actually a pretty good visual novel. There’s a lot of pseudo-magic/science jargon like “ars magus”, “nox nyctores”, and “phenomena intervention” that rings of something a Japanese eighth-grader would come up with, but the actual plotline is surprisingly compelling, and I’m invested in the characters, even if I sometimes need a glossary to know what they’re talking about (which the game also provides). The majority of the characters maintain a fairly laid-back, conversational tone of voice, which in tandem with the goofy terminology presents an almost tongue-in-cheek presentation, which I always enjoy. Actually summarizing the story would take a bloody fortnight, but that’s what happens when you have three games worth of interconnected plotlines (plus, like glossary, the game also provides a recap for the uninitiated, commentated by a few of the main characters). Production values are up a bit from the previous games, with character portraits moving around and the camera taking dramatic angles. Since the character portraits are static, it’s basically a finger puppet show, but it’s a really nice finger puppet show.
But, visual novels aside, you’re here to hear about fighting games, so let’s talk action. The core mechanics are basically the same as the previous BlazBlue games, and Arc Sys fighters in general, with four main attack buttons for light, medium, heavy, and special. The Burst system in most Arc Sys games that is used for breaking an enemy combo has been changed up a bit. Now pressing all four buttons will either trigger a Burst or an Overdrive, depending on the situation. Overdrive is similar to the X-Factor in Marvel Vs Capcom 3, though aside from general strength boosts it also provides character specific benefits, like increasing character specific meters or instantly activating special effects that would require multiple inputs to trigger otherwise. New to Chronophantasma is Stylish Mode, an alternate control scheme intended for beginner players. Tapping buttons triggers contextual auto-combos, and Distortion Drives and Astral Heats can be activated simply by pressing two buttons. It certainly makes things a bit easier, though I still played with the normal scheme, because I’m not a quitter.
The roster has received a hefty upgrade from Continuum Shift, adding in eight new characters and rebalancing the old ones. This definitely makes me happy, since the roster didn’t change much between Calamity Trigger and Continuum Shift, and it feels like fighting games have smaller rosters these days, so I’m glad to get a game with a good bit of diversity. If I had to make a complaint, it would be that designated boss characters like Terumi are a bit overpowered, though there is a distinct possibility that I’m just terrible.
I don’t usually play online with fighting games, but I decided to take a quick spin around Chronophantasma’s Network mode for kicks. Joining an unranked lobby and mingling with other players, each with their own cute little avatars was a quick and simple process, and there were no major latency issues during matches. Ranked matches, on the other hand, were a bit of an ordeal. It could be since the game just came out on Steam, but there didn’t seem to be anyone playing ranked matches. When I tried searching for players, the only people who came up had zero connectivity, and when I entered for a match and waited, it took a good ten minutes to get any player to show up and wipe the floor with me, not helped by heavy lag at the start of the match.
Funky netcode aside, BlazBlue: Chronophantasma Extend is an all-around solid game, both as a fighter and a visual novel. If you’re mad at me for not summarizing the story, well, that’s all the more reason to go play it yourself (honestly, a wiki explanation wouldn’t help much anyway). If you like fighting games, you got one. If you like visual novels, you got one. If you like fighting games AND visual novels, then happy birthday to you.