Japanese publisher Arc System Works are probably best known for their long-running 2D fighting game series Guilty Gear, which started out life on the original Sony PlayStation. In fact, there has been an iteration of the stylish 2D fighting series on every Sony system since, including versions on both the PSP and Vita. But their history actually dates back as far back as 1998, making titles for both the NES and Sega Master System. In 2008, Arc debuted a new game called BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger on Taito Type X arcade systems. The popularity of the new title then led to conversions to both the Xbox 360 and PS3 the following year. Arc used the style they had perfected over the years with Guilty Gear series to create imaginative new characters and stories, with a fighting style that was perhaps considered more arcade friendly. Three sequels then followed over time, leading us to the fourth installment, BlazBlue: Centralfiction, released exclusively on PS4 and PS3 consoles, after being location tested in Japanese arcades in 2015.
The first thing you see when starting up BlazBlue: Cenralfiction is the gorgeously animated anime-style intro scene, with some jaw-dropping action sequences and pumping sound of vocal heavy J-Pop. I found myself quietly singing along the 3rd or 4th time I heard the tunes, despite not understanding any of the words (I hope they aren’t too offensive). The main menu gives you a slew of different game options, allowing you to start with the Tutorial or Training modes, test your skills in the Online Lobby or jump straight in to the excellent Arcade Mode. There is also the traditional Story Mode, which is almost like watching a full length Manga movie, although all the voice acting is in Japanese and subtitled but not dubbed in English. There are also more original modes such as Grim of Abyss or Speed Star mode. There are so many game variations and versions in BlazBlue: Cenralfiction to get stuck into that you are almost spoiled for choice, something that the much maligned recent Street Fighter games could learn from. Each battle starts with the memorable voiceover and oversized, vibrant text of ‘The Wheel of Fate is Turning – Rebel 1 – Action’. This is a welcome difference to the common ‘Round 1 – Fight’ and sets the tone for what is a truly unique experience thereafter. If you’ve played the classic SNK and Capcom 2D fighters, the signature moves of each of the 32 characters should be pretty easy to execute. A simple half rotation or double tap of the D-Pad and a face button combination is all that is normally required. If you do get stuck though, jumping into the easy to navigate pause menu will give you a full description of commands and move lists. You have your simple Weak, Medium and Strong attack buttons to use and a 4th ‘Drive’ button which will alleviate a very different response for each character. These include Valkenhayn Helsing turning into a wolf, Relius Clover using his female companion as a barrier or weapon and the extremely bizarre Platinum the Trinity using her heart-shaped wand to throw explosive presents or encase enemies in a bubble.
The character design here is what really sets BlazBlue: Cenralfiction apart from its competition. Every sprite is beautifully drawn in classic 2D sprite form and animated superbly. Additionally, they all vary so much in character design and fighting style that you will rarely get the same experience twice (no 5 different versions of Ryu’s moveset here). You also have 12 alternative color attire options to choose from on character selection which makes more difference than you might imagine. The game mechanics are very easy to pick up and play, but get deeper the more you involve yourself in the combos and special attacks. Playing through the arcade mode the first time, I gained massive satisfaction in beating the end boss on my 3rd attempt by adapting my attack technique to overcome the never-ending projectiles.
If you are a fan of Arcade style fighters for the quick pick up and play style, local VS modes or Online competition, then you will not be disappointed. In an age where 2D fighters have often become quite generic and repetitive in both visuals and fighting style, Blazblue: Centralfication gives you a really unique experience and credible alternative to the latest Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat sequel.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed) ; Publisher: PQube ; Developer: Arc System Works ; Players: 1-2 ; Released: November 4, 2016 (Europe) ; MSRP: £36.99
Full Disclosure: This review was based on a PlayStation 4 review copy of BlazBlue: Centralfiction provided by the publisher.