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9 out of 10
2D fighting games have experienced quite the renaissance recently, what with Street Fighter 4 reinvigorating the genre and the sheer dullness of the 3D variety (Tekken 6, I’m talking to you!) the market is wide open again and frankly; BlazBlue couldn’t be more perfectly timed.
Developers Arc System Works are no strangers to a 2D fighter, their previous work includes the Guilty Gear series so they already had the basics (and more) down, with BlazBlue they’ve honed and improved the genre in all the right ways. The biggest strength to BlazBlue is just how damn easy it is to pick up and play, within minutes of picking up the controller I was already bashing out massive combos and lightning quick moves, this is in part thanks to its accessible ’three button’ control method. Don’t get me wrong, I love fighting games, but there is always a huge learning curve before you truly feel you can take on real opponents and clearly Arc System Works were aware of this problem. They developed a battle system that’s simple for the average player yet hugely deep for the hardcore, what’s been achieved is quite a feat.
An area which the game has a debatable issue is in its roots, not that it’s an issue to me mind but the game is VERY Japanese, extremely so that I could understand alienation for a western gamer who likes a little less Ragna - The Blood Edge (one of the games fighters) and a little more Ken, or Guile. The Irony being of course that those characters also have Japanese roots, it’s just Capcom isn’t quite so anvilicious in their theme.
As far as presentation goes I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen such a good looking 2D fighter (or 3D for that matter!). Beautifully hand drawn character models and dynamic backgrounds that have wonderful depth perception. The menus are a slight noisy and figuring out what’s what at first was a little too much for my eyes, but that was a minor gripe that I got over in about 5 minutes.
On the surface BlazBlue can appear to be a Street Fighter clone, churned out by the "machine" to capitalise on its success, but delve just ever so slightly and you’ll quickly see that’s not the case. What lies beneath the gorgeous exterior is an insanely accessible and fast paced fighter with tons of Japanese charm and enough depth to keep an experienced player satisfied for months.