Review: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (PS4)

Review: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (5.13 GB)
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Arc System Works
Developer: Arc System Works
Original MSRP: $49.99 (US), £34.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

What do you get when you cross two fighting game franchises, an RPG, and a CGI cartoon? BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle!

It’s not a joke though, Cross Tag Battle pulls from four popular franchises and comes out a decent game even if the ways it strives to be easier for newcomers also feel like they hide some of the appeal of a typical Arc System Works fighting game.

Gameplay:
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle crosses over the BlazBlue franchise with Under Night In-Birth EXE:Late (UNIEL), Persona 4 Arena (P4A), and the Rooster Teeth animated web show RWBY with each of these properties contributing anywhere from two to ten characters to the roster.

These characters can then team up and face off in 2v2 tag battles as the tag name implies.

Cross Tag Battle is what I’ve been jokingly referring to as a 2.5 button fighter. While the game requires five buttons mapped, one is purely for changing characters, one is for assist attacks, and one has only a few uses. This low number of normal attack buttons feels like it was done to make it simpler to pick up.

In fact, much of the game seems designed to make it easier to play. The ever popular auto-combo is present of course, but the game also removes a lot of the more difficult inputs from character’s movesets. In fact you will only find quarter-circle movements here, outside of the special use instant kill moves which just use a down-down motion.

Even the combo challenge mode shows how much of the game relies on the easier auto combos. Most of the challenges rely a lot on stringing together a short auto combo, doing a linking move, then hitting with another or different auto combo.

Review: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (PS4)Review: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (PS4)

A lot of the mechanics of each of the composited games have been removed as well. The Persona characters can still summon their Personas, but they can’t be defeated as in P4A. The BlazBlue characters’ unique Drive buttons have been incorporated into their base moveset rather than existing as a separate mechanic. And the interesting Grid mechanic of UNIEL is absent here.

All the mechanics together make for a game that’s pretty easy to jump into. I brought the game to an anime convention and even people who don’t often play fighting games were able to have fun. The more experienced players still usually won, but it did seem like the newcomers were able to feel like they were doing something.

The ease of play doesn’t necessarily mean the depth is gone though. Going through the tutorials is a must, as they’ve crammed in a lot of ways to use your partner character for example. You can call in an assist and have them stay on screen for a short duration, attacking alongside your main, or you can use the assist as a combo breaker when you’re in the middle of taking damage.

With crossover fighting games, like Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax, or Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel, a big draw is being able to play out dream fights between your favorite characters, if they’re in the game. The roster in Cross Tag Battle has been a point of contention among fans keeping up with the game.

For those who haven’t been keeping up, the game ships with twenty characters: ten from BlazBlue, four each from UNIEL and P4A, and just two from RWBY. I won’t say that it takes no work to turn the existing characters from the older games into Cross Tag Battle characters, but when BlazBlue currently has thirty-six characters, and UNIEL and P4A each have twenty-ish, only a quarter or so are making it into the game.

Arc System Works has announced that there will be an additional twenty DLC characters, bringing the roster to a total of forty. But of course that means shelling out more money on top of the base game price. The exception is the remaining two Team RWBY members, who will both be free DLC.

Review: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (PS4)

And unfortunately, these characters have been teased because some of them are actually present in the game’s story mode. Naturally, they never let you play as them, but you do get to face off against characters from the first couple waves of DLC.

Speaking of Story Mode, that’s a thing in the game… It’s the typical crossover game story: characters from each franchise have somehow been pulled into a tournament by a mysterious overseer who forces them to partake in tag-style fights. It’s ultimately very forgettable though, and would probably be even more so for players who aren’t familiar with at least a couple of the franchises in the game.

The story does eventually offer some tie-ins to BlazBlue lore, but for the most part it’s all to facilitate some cute fight setups, like having the big burly men characters face off at once, or the robot girl character from each franchise. Each of the four franchises gets their own side of the story that lasts an hour or so, and then there’s a few alternate endings to one of the stories to unlock a true ending.

Other modes mostly just fill out the requisite fighting game check boxes: versus mode for local play (or against a CPU), survival mode for a series of back-to-back fights, training mode and a tutorial/combo challenge mode to learn both game mechanics and character combos. Of course a few online modes also round it out, but I’ll expand on those later.

There are a few things that feel like they’re missing though. There’s no “arcade mode” and while survival arguably fills most of that role, the fact that it’s missing after the Street Fighter V debacle is surprising. There’s also no weird RPGish mode, which is strange given how it’s been a mainstay in BlazBlue as well as other fighters from Arc System Works like Guilty Gear and Persona 4 Arena.

As is, it feels like there’s a decent amount of stuff to do. The draw is definitely playing with other people, but Cross Tag Battle does offer some modes for the lone wolves.

Review: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (PS4)Review: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (PS4)

Visuals:
The source material for most of most of the game comes from 2D sprite-based fighting games and it pretty much just lifts some of the work from those. Many of the movements and actions here seem like they’ve been copy-pasted directly from the other games these characters come from. As mentioned before, I’m sure it took some work to port things over, but it does come across as a little lazy.

The sole exception is the RWBY characters, who haven’t been in a 2D fighting game before. Each of these characters seems to have been designed from the ground up with their own set of sprites. I haven’t seen much of the show, but I have it on good authority that the moves these characters have are all authentic for their fighting styles.

Arc System Works has also been using 3D backgrounds for their recent fighting games and Cross Tag Battle pulls those from the source games as well. The one RWBY stage is new, but the rest have been lifted directly. Of course, you can play on any stage, so you can mix and match not only characters from franchises, but where they fight.

Outside battle, the main lobby area serves as the game’s main menu. Here, you can run around as a chibi version of any of the game’s characters to select the mode you want to play. It’s a cute way to add a menu but I often find myself just hitting Option to bring up an actual menu. One cool feature is that people you’ve played against in the online modes can appear in your lobby, even after you’ve left the match and gone back to the offline lobby.

Audio:
As with the visuals, many of the audio components of the game have been pulled from past games. Sound effects on returning characters sound familiar and all of the music is from older games. You can pick the music you want to listen to for each match though, again allowing for mixing and matching from all of the franchises.

The one thing that’s not new is the voice work, and interestingly Aksys has actually decided to include an English dub in the game alongside the Japanese VO work. This may not seem to surprising as many games get dual audio but the last standalone BlazBlue game didn’t get a dub and UNIEL has never been dubbed.

Review: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (PS4)

This is actually the first time UNIEL characters have had an official English voice. Being a very short story and otherwise just pre/mid/post match callouts, there isn’t much that’s voiced anyway but both voice tracks are good quality.

You can actually set character voice language on a by-character basis if you want. So if you want all of the characters from Japanese properties to be voiced in their original language, while the RWBY characters have their official English VO, you can do that. The one rub is that the story mode voices are an all-or-nothing toggle, so either all in English or all in Japanese.

Online/Multiplayer:
Fighting games tend to revolve around their multiplayer in the long run and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is no exception. While there’s a decent amount of solo stuff to do, playing against other human opponents is ultimately the largest replay value in the game. To that end, this one features the usual host of online modes that we’ve come to expect from Arc System Works games.

Offline is just a simple two player mode but online is where there are a few different modes to play. For unranked casual play there are both player rooms and large online lobbies. The former is useful for playing with friends as you can lock the room and invite only those you want to play. The larger lobbies make use of the chibi characters to interact with other players before ultimately jumping into a normal match with them.

Ranked is the final mode, a fairly standard mode focused on more competitive play with matchmaking. This allows you to queue up for online while doing other things like playing in training mode, which makes waiting for matches more palatable. Not that it usually took too long once the game launched, but if numbers do drop you’ll be able to do something while waiting.

I played a fair number of online matches and found it sufficient as far as online goes. Individual matches can vary wildly depending on whether you have a good connection to the other player but you can decline matches that show a slow connection if you want to avoid those. When I had a good connection, the matches were good enough.

Review: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (PS4)Review: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (PS4)

Conclusion:
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is an odd game in that the very simple base mechanics hide a lot of the depth and appeal that the Arc System Works fighting games normally have.

Dropping some of the unique aspects of the component games, while probably necessary, makes this feel a bit samey to other anime-style fighting games out there. While the familiar cast helps makes up for that, the anemic base roster could also hurt it if your favorites aren’t represented or cost an extra fee. Occasionally feeling like a lazy cop-out with a lot of copied aspects doesn’t help either.

Still, as a whole, it’s a pretty fun time. There’s enough solo content to be busy for a few days and enough depth hiding in all of the tag mechanics to give players some meat to dive into in the longer term. If the idea of crossing fates between any of these franchises sounds like a good time, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle has you covered.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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