Although Capcom and SNK seem to have dominated the 2D fighting game market for years and shown us everything that was possible in the genre, when Arc System Works released Guilty Gear X back in 2000 it proved that there was still plenty of unexplored territory for 2D fighters. For starters, Guilty Gear X used high resolution 2D animation and featured characters with incredibly extensive move lists and bizarre abilities.
I’m not sure exactly what happened to the Guilty Gear series, but Arc System Works’ new 2D versus fighting title, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger continues this proud tradition, only in HD and with a new level of refinement. BlazBlue’s offerings are pretty standard: there are twelve selectable characters, each with their own wildly varied fighting style, and all the mandatory modes to use them in, including Arcade, Story, Versus and Practice.
So, why should you choose this when we have the likes of Street Fighter IV at our disposal and Super Street Fighter IV on the way? Well, Street Fighter laid down the basic system for all 2D fighting games back when it was released, and even though the formula has evolved over the years, it and other 2D fighters remain rather familiar. BlazBlue on the other hand, like Guilty Gear before it, takes all of these moves we’re accustomed to using in Street Fighter and King of Fighters and makes us use them in ways we’ve never seen before. In BlazBlue, some characters can use several different moves at once, others can summon creatures which attack the opponent and others even have helpers they can command in battle, essentially giving players command of more than one character.
Even for an experienced 2D fighting fan, the possibilities of BlazBlue’s fighting system can be overwhelming at first. In fact, if you buy the special edition, you get a bonus DVD that explains the systems and shows players a bunch of strategies for each character to help players to think in the right direction. I know it helped me learn the finer points of Arakune, who is one of the more technically-challenging characters in the game, with a lot of stand-offish moves which allow him to pin his opponents in place while he moves in for the kill. If you can master using his many moves in tandem, then Arakune becomes incredibly powerful, and the same can be said for every character in the game, making battles between accomplished players intense, strategic affairs.
BlazBlue’s 2D visuals are simply stunning in HD, and even better if you’re a fan of wild, crazy anime styled artwork. The soundtrack is a mix of rocking power metal and orchestral scores and the voice work can be listened to in either English or Japanese. Both voice casts are just as good. I’ve no delusions that BlazBlue will never be anything more than a niche title, but for those of you who have any interest in 2D fighters, you’ll definitely want to give this a shot.