Crossover fighters are great and I’ve loved mixing it up with some of my favourite characters from franchises like Marvel, Street Fighter, Tekken, Mortal Kombat and DC in the past, so naturally BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle appealed to me with its amalgamation of fighters from BlazBlue (duh), Under Night in-Birth, RWBY and Persona 4. So what if I only know characters from two of the three franchises – I can still appreciate seeing them beat each other up in hectic fighting action, especially since prolific fighter developers Arc System Works are at the helm.
Thankfully, they deliver yet another exciting fighter to add their already strong repertoire, but unfortunately a lack of content sees it stuttering behind their more fleshed out previous releases.
Now I’ll be honest, whilst I’m a fan of the fighting game genre, I’ve never been one to master their mechanics and become a pro on the online scene. What I tend to look for the most is accessibility, and thankfully BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is certainly easy enough for just about anyone to pick up and play it immediately.
It’s a three-button fighter, so naturally that keeps everything a little simpler from the get go. It ups the ante though with ‘smart combos’ which allow you to string together attacks with the ease of just one button press, whilst the special moves themselves don’t demand overly intricate button combinations to pull off either. It’s just so easy to get going in the game, and not just in a way that depends on button-mashing but one that actually puts you in control of weaving together decent assaults that are as effective as they are stylish.
If the title didn’t give it away, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle features two-on-two action where fighters essentially tag in and out of battle – a quick press of the X button will call your second fighter in or alternatively pressing R1 will cause them to unleash an assist attack. It’s a lot like Marvel vs Capcom with players able to use partners to string together even stronger attacks; sure, you’re limited to just two fighters per team but at least you can actually swap them mid-attack to unleash even more powerful combos that take advantage of both movesets. It’s easy to get to grips with and adds a bunch of different possibilities to fights, with as strong an emphasis placed on tactically using both team members as it is on pulling off heavy-hitting combos. Between the general fighting mechanics and the tag-battling, everything comes together nicely and makes the game a hell of a lot of fun to play.
Whilst I was able to get used to the game (and quite ‘skilled’ at it) fairly quickly, as soon as I hit the online mode and came up against a good opponent I was quickly humbled. Saying that BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is ‘easy to learn but difficult to master’ might be a small understatement, especially when I came up against an opponent who’d mastered the likes of the ‘resonance blaze’ system (which allows you to regenerate health and also become more powerful), push-blocking, ‘distortion skills’ and effective tag-swapping.
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle might be easy enough to pick up and play and its mechanics might seem simple enough to being with, but there’s also an undeniable sense of depth to be found that’s there for die-hard fighting game fans to master. The game’s simple three-button set up and use of ‘smart combos’ will certainly help you get to grips with things and provide more than enough when taking on AI opponents, but you’ll really have to invest some hours in if you want to become a BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle pro.
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle’s main game mode is the ‘Episode Mode’ which sees you playing through four different stories based upon the franchises included in the game. It’s a fun enough way to play the game and certainly takes advantage of the silly side of crossovers, and it makes for some interesting scenarios that fans of each franchise will certainly appreciate. Outside of that, you’ve got ‘Mission Mode’ that throws a mixture of challenges your way, whilst ‘Survival Mode’ follows the tried-and-tested formula of pitting you against endless opponents. Obviously, you’ve got your local and online multiplayer options in place too, so fights with both friends and online opponents are easy enough to get initiated.
It was a little disappointing that the game didn’t included a dedicated tutorial mode or (more surprisingly) an arcade mode for gamers to play through though, especially since they’ve been present in other recent Arc System Works fighters. As mentioned, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is easy to get started with but has a fairly intricate set of mechanics on offer too, so having somewhere to learn and practice all these skills would’ve been appreciated. The lack of an arcade mode on the other hand is just plain baffling and feels like a bit of an oversight, especially since it won’t take too long to work through the ‘Episode Mode’.
Whilst the lacking game modes was underwhelming, the size of the character roster was even more disappointing. You’ve got a selection of twenty characters from across all four franchises, which isn’t a terrible number in itself, but given that the final count after DLC is meant to reach forty it left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth. It left the character selection screen looking a bit barren, especially since it’s organised by the different franchises and some are so much better represented than others. Don’t get me wrong, the characters feel and look great to use and there’s a good variety of movesets on show, but it just felt a little bare.
Maybe I’m just bitter though, especially since there are additional characters that are confirmed to show up as paid DLC in the future. You actually battle some of these characters in the ‘Episodes Mode’, so the fact they don’t appear in the main game for free right now feels even more criminal. I dunno, I just couldn’t help but to feel a little off with the fact that seeing a more fleshed out BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle will involve gamer’s double-dipping in their wallets.
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is an accessible and fun fighter, but one that is let down by a lack of content. This isn’t just with the disappointing character count either, but also a lack of a real tutorial to learn the ins-and-outs of the game or even an arcade mode to try and put any newly learned skills into action.
The lack of content doesn’t make BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle a bad game by any means and I did have a good time taking on opponents in both online and offline combat. It’s one of those games that follows the cliché of being ‘easy to learn but difficult to master’, but you’re at least guaranteed to have fun playing through its often dazzling battling. It’s just a shame that there’s not enough meat to the game’s bones, and that fleshing out the experience is going to come at the expense of the player’s wallet with DLC in the future.
Developer: Arc System Works
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC