BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger Portable Review

By Colin Tan on March 27, 2011

BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with a pretty solid reception from gamers and critics alike with praise for its combat system and also for its story, which is quite rare for a game of this genre. Arc System Works is looking to bring that deep and chaotic fighting experience to gamers on-the-go with this portable version that literally brings the fight just about anyway players go.

The plot of BlazBlue is actually quite an interesting one. Compared to other heavy weights of the same genre, the story is anything but a simple excuse to add another mode to the game. The game takes place after a terrible war that almost left humanity on the brink of extinction. After the war, the Novus Orbis Librarium, or NOL for short, takes over as the world's governing body and humanity soon becomes dependant on the very creation that saved them, tools known as "Armagus," a merging of both technology and magic. However, not everyone can use it, thus resulting in segregation and civil unrest. The story begins with the Library being ravaged by a top class rebel known as Ragna The Bloodedge, or the "Grim Reaper." As a result, the Library resorts to placing the largest bounty possible on his head, attracting many vigilantes from around the world to claim the bounty and his prized possession, a powerful Armagus known as the Azure Grimoire.

The story is delivered in a rather episodic approach from different perspectives depending on the character, some of whom will cross paths on several occasions. While each character offers a different view on the situation, it is their supporting backstories that actually enrich the experience. Some characters fight for vengeance, some for money and others merely to protect their loved ones. In any case, each character provides a unique adventure in and of the main plot itself. Not to mention that there are multiple paths and endings for each playable character.

BlazBlue Calamity Trigger Portable Graphics

Arc System Works certainly hasn't held back in bringing BlazBlue to Sony's handheld device. Every single playable character from the home console versions is available as well as the many modes like Network, Score Attack and Legion, all this in addition to the already tried-and-true Arcade, Versus and Story modes. Each character has a unique set of skills and attacks that are pretty well-balanced with no one character being too overpowered or underwhelming. The controls are very responsive, allowing for proper attacks and combos to be executed, a very essential aspect to the fighting genre. Attacks are categorized as light, medium, heavy and special techniques known as Drive attacks that are unique to each character. These are also labeled as A, B, C and D respectively. In addition, there are also grab attacks that can be initiated on ground or in the air by hitting the B and C attacks simultaneously. Successfully stringing these attacks together usually result in a flurry of combos and juggling opponents until their health bar hits empty.

Players can also perform special techniques known as Distortion and Astral Finishers. Distortion Finishers are executed by filling up the Distortion gauge either by taking or dealing damage. These attacks are pretty over the top and obviously deal a lot of damage, but that's what finishers do in the first place. To add insult to injury though, there are the Astral Finishers that can only be performed when the Distortion gauge is full and only in the deciding round of a fight. However, Astral Finishers can only be unlocked by purchasing them in the in-game store, along with a multitude of other unlockable goodies including special illustrations and the very cute spinoff segments, Teach Me, Miss Litchi.

What BlazBlue offers in its gameplay though, is its flexibility and impressive accessibility to both the hardcore fighting fan and casual gamer interested in delving into the genre. Most matches in the story mode are rather easy and serve more as a tutorial to get players used to the controls. The true test of skill lies in the other modes, including Arcade, Score Attack, Legion and Network. The Arcade and Versus mode are traditional in every sense of the word. Players are pitted against other characters in a 10 match bout to see who makes it to the top in the Arcade more. The earlier matches are actually very easy and it's the last sets that prove to be incredibly challenging, even on normal difficulty settings. Score Attack will have players on their toes as they battle for the highest score and Legion is a conquest style tournament, in which every point on the map is battled for with a persistent health bar. Players also have the option of choosing a character from the losing army to join their side. Moreover, players can battle it out by linking up through the Network mode which uses the PSP's ad hoc system.

BlazBlue Calamity Trigger Portable Special Moves

Visually, BlazBlue does not disappoint. The character sprites and backdrops are all amazingly detailed even to the most minute attribute. The animations are smooth and crisp, providing a high quality 2D fighting experience that is lacking quite a bit on the PSP. Story scenes and dialogue are exchanged through scenes with illustrated character portraits and backdrops, a familiar method of storytelling that's commonly used in most Japanese visual novels. However, these story sequences tend to get quite lengthy and players may find themselves spending more time listening to a monologue instead of beating down on an enemy. The sound design is more than satisfactory with the option to switch between English and Japanese audio complete with subtitles. Each character is voiced exceptionally well including the more eccentric characters like Taokaka. Some of the dialogue can be quite cheesy but it's mostly delivered with spot-on nuance.

Another striking aspect of the game is its soundtrack. It features plenty of electric, techno and rock tracks that serve to elevate the adrenaline rush and it does so exceptionally well. One especially memorable moment is when Bang Shishigami performs a certain special, initiating his theme song which is performed by legendary Japanese artist, Hironobu Kageyama, who is mostly known for performing the many theme songs of popular anime series Dragonball Z and being the lead singer of the music group, Jam Project.

BlazBlue's story will last a good 15 to 20 minutes per character, but the other modes offer more than enough to keep players coming back for more. Score Attack and Legion presents a strangely addicting nature and players can always battle it out with each other through the Network mode. The story mode itself is worth playing through simply to complete every single possible ending for each character.

Final Thoughts

BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is anything but a simple port from home consoles to the handheld arena. It can certainly hold its own among the league of already established titles of the same genre and definitely offers a deep and exciting 2D fighting experience that is lacking on Sony's handheld. There are plenty of modes to try out and every single one offers more than enough to keep players coming back for more. Although the story mode is relatively short, each character has multiple endings, providing inventive to play through every characters' story more than just once. The presentation is also very pleasing with stunning 2D visuals and a striking soundtrack that enriches the experience. BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger is definitely a fight worth getting into.

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