Preview | Hands-On With BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle

This article was originally posted on Nintendo Scene on 10th April 2018.

As I’ve reported previously, the wonderful guys at PQube are publishing the upcoming anime fighting crossover game, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle in Europe. In case it hasn’t come across before now, my excitement about this project has only escalated since the announcement of it last year, and I had the huge privilege of playing it at Sakura Fight Festa last weekend. Before I talk about it, it should be stressed that this was the Playstation 4 English language build that’s recently surfaced so not all of what I’m about to say might translate into the final version of the game, or what changes will be applied to the Switch version. This being said, and although I only played a few games, I’ve got a decent idea of how the game works and plays, so how is it?

The first impression I had was of the aesthetic, as I watched several games being played by others before settling in myself. The game is bright, colourful and clear, with beautiful sprite work and is incredibly smooth in motion. The user interface, despite having a lot of different bars, numbers and words incorporated into it is actually not as intrusive as it first looks. Despite all of the characters being from disparate franchises, a lot of work has clearly been put in to make them look part of the same universe, especially when it comes to the key character art on the character select screen, which itself is divided up by franchise with five differently coloured rows of characters in a continuation of the wonderfully clear layout of the game on the whole (including that still mysterious, green ETC row).

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Speaking of which, the music on the character select screen (and the title screen too) is phenomenal, keeping closer thematically to the BlazBlue than the other franchises with it’s heavy rock influences. The music in fights is taken directly from the franchises represented, along with the stages, and it is undeniably great that the game adopts the ability to mix and match allowing someone like myself to put music from UNIST over all of the stages regardless of the location. As an added extra, I can confirm that the English voice over work on (most of) the characters is absolutely phenomenal. As there are characters in BlazBlue and in UNIST that have had translated voiceovers before, it’s great to finally hear them for how excitable, angsty or gravelly they sound in English.

To play, BBTAG is much less chaotic than it looks. You select two characters from the motley crew on display, of which this demo had the entire base roster of 20 characters, and enter a two-on-two 2D fight. Each character has their own life bar, which can be slightly restored by tagging them out for their partner, with victory coming to the player that eliminates both of their opponent’s characters through beating the hell out of them. All of the trimmings that are expected from an anime fighting game are here, such as air-dashing, barrier guard, and a myriad of unique mechanics to this game too. One thing I should point out though is that for a game with so many core elements involved, the simplified controls, easy-to-understand tagging mechanics and other choices made for accessibility really aid the player getting comfortable immediately and avoid the potential risk of overwhelming them with complex inputs and spectacle.

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I won’t get too much into the core fighting mechanics here, and save that for when I’ve had more time with the game itself and can speak more confidently on it, but for basics the play is mapped to five buttons; two standard attack buttons, one “Crush Assault”, one “Change”, and one “Partner Skill”. The standard buttons with activate a “Smart Combo” with multiple presses for ease with combos, the “Crush Assault” will summon the partner for a powerful attack, the “Change button” will switch characters, and the “Partner Skill” button will bring in the partner character for a single attack. After this basic set up, everything else is executed with a combination of buttons or a button with a direction or following a motion; for instance, a throw is executed by pressing the heavier attack and “Crush Assault” buttons simultaneously. The end result of this is a surprising amount of depth despite its simplistic basics that is a joy to experiment with.

The only potential downside to the simplicity of the controls is that certain characters have had some of their tools from their original appearances reduced. This makes some of the characters in the game, especially those from the BlazBlue series, feel markedly and noticeably different to experienced players. However, if you come into this game expecting something completely different from any of its component franchises, you’ll very quickly find a fantastically simple yet deep experience. BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is definitely an example of a creation being far more than the sum of its parts. In fact, I would go as far as to say that my excitement with this game has definitely ‘crossed’ a line and I now could not be more impatient for this game to be in my hands already.

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I’ve put the most recent I think that it’s obvious that I’m somewhat hyped for this, but are you looking forward to this game? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@reuthegamer).

Thank you to PQube for bringing this game to the event and supplying the screenshots for this article.
BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is penned in for a release this Summer in Europe.

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