In refined terms, I’m what the fighting game community would refer to as a “scrub.” Outside of Smash (which I’m relatively skilled at… for a casual) I have only a smidgen of experience with Street Fighter and Dissidia, and almost none with other ‘proper’ fighting games. But I also bear a different identity — one unabashedly obsessed with Japanese culture. So when BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle — an unlikely crossover between BlazBlue, Under Night In-Birth, Persona 4 Arena, and RWBY — was announced, I was simultaneously fascinated and hyped.
This past weekend I attended Sakura-Con 2018 in Seattle, where Arc System Works was demoing the game out to the public. And while I have very little experience with fighting games, especially the “anime fighter” sub-genre, I was excited to dig in to a game that had a couple franchises I was intimate with. And after the few bouts that I did engage in, I’m happy to report that I’m more excited for BBCTB than ever.
The selection of characters in the demo was pretty good, if not equivalent across franchises. BlazBlue came without the most characters, around eight or nine, while both UNIEL and P4A had about a half dozen, and RWBY offered only a paltry two. The game’s roster will likely look similar at launch (given its DLC plans), and upon realizing that it feels a bit sparse. Still, the large array of open spaces on the character select screen was enticing, even if I’ll have to shill out another $20 for most of them.
BBTAG works off of 2v2, fast-paced assist battles. In usual fighting game fashion, you hit your opponent ‘til both their characters are drained of HP, at which point you win. Like Persona 4 Arena, the game features an auto-combo system wherein tapping either the light or strong attack buttons in succession will automatically combo enemies, making it extremely casually friendly.
For my matches, I mostly picked from the Persona roster, as I’ve actually played a bit of P4A over the past few months and was more familiar with them. The slight change in button scheme (and lack of Persona health) took a minute to get used to, but most of the commands I remembered were the same. Yu, Yosuke, and Chie all played very similar to how I remembered, so I was decently comfortable switching to the game’s mechanics — hopefully the same can be said for the BlazBlue and UNIEL characters as well.
The two RWBY characters, Ruby and Weiss, were also lots of fun to try out. Ruby seemed like a variation of your typical shotoclone, with a ranged gun attack and a swift-fly strike. Weiss was a bit tougher to parse in the short time I played her, but she appeared to be more of a zoning character, able to put up an offensive barrier and strike with ice from far away. As the only originally animated characters for the game (the other franchises have their assets carried over) they were gorgeously done, and make me excited to see some of the other RWBY characters animated, especially given their insane arsenals.
In terms of actions taken in BBTAG, most seemed like typical fighter affairs — light attacks, strong attacks, throws, specials, and so on. There were a couple points of intrigue, most of which revolve around the game’s assist mechanics. Besides usual assist tactics, you can also utilize a “cross combo” in which your assist character remains on screen for several moments, giving you a chance to connect your attacks with their’s for massive damage. The game’s “crush assault” command — a variation of overhead moves like Guilty Gear’s Dust and Persona 4 Arena’s All-Out Attacks — acts as a team-up combo that can deal massive damage if it connects. And then there’s Resonance Blaze, a power-up mode you can only activate when one of your teammates has been defeated, offering you a souped-up chance at victory. While my success with these various tricks was uneven, it certainly seems like there’ll be plenty of ways in which the game mechanics can lead to crazy combos and comebacks.
For my part, I managed to win three matches in a row despite my relative inexperience, and I had a blast doing so. While a lot of it was frantic button mashing and using the smart combos once I had an opening, pulling off the occasional assist or crush assault was deeply satisfying, and I could only imagine the ways in which an actual fighting game pro could use them. While I was eventually done in by somebody who had actually played an anime fighter before, I left the matches feeling satisfied.
While I can’t offer a super hardcore analysis, the matches I played of Cross Tag Battle were immensely fun, and I’m honestly stoked for the full release in just a couple of months. Time will tell whether or not the game manages to have an intense competitive scene, but as far as casual play goes ArcSys has crafted a fluid, fast-paced anime fighter great for any fans of the franchises represented.
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