Arc System Works’s BlazBlue franchise has had a long-running history ever since its original release with BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger back in 2008. There’s been numerous sequels, enhanced re-releases and even some spin-off titles set in the game’s universe. Unlike most other fighting games, there was a heavy emphasis on the overarching narrative as its main focus instead of being a side gimmick added in as a bonus to the core versus modes. So with this year’s release of the latest entry in the franchise, Central Fiction, which supposedly aims to wrap up the overarching narrative as its stands — how does it stack up against the previous games in the series?
As one would expect from the game’s narrative-centric title, this game is heavily focused on the narrative — specifically wrapping up the character Ragna’s narrative threads that have been dangling for a while now throughout the prior games in the series. Since this is a game that’s multiple games deep in the series, the developers thankfully included a roughly 30-minute prologue catch-up for newcomers or those who might have forgotten some of the finer key details. Surprisingly enough, it does a better job than one might expect, although there’s still a ton of terms and characters to get acquainted with if you’re new to the series.
The characters, both returning and new, are well-written. Where some long-time fans especially might have an issue with is that the developers and North American publisher Aksys Games decided to forgo the usual English voice track and left the game with solely its Japanese voice track only. This is much more of an issue for a game like BlazBlue as the dialogue is its central focus due to the story mode, so those who aren’t fluent in Japanese (which makes up a large market of this game’s western audience) will have to constantly reference the subtitles while playing. And there’s a certain charm missing when some of the fond English voice actors you remember aren’t there anymore voicing certain characters.
Outside of the story mode, there are a number of gameplay mechanic tweaks Arc System Works made over Chronophantasma. One new mechanic is “Exceed Action”, which is a special attack that deals a large amount of damage but in turn ends one’s Overdrive (in Blazblue, essentially a buff). The other new mechanic is “Active Flow”, which encourages players to keep in the game by rewarding them with an attack boost and recovering their special attack gauge more quickly if they attack the opponent aggressively.
Central Fiction also makes other minor adjustments to the UI such as making timers either more evident or introducing new ones for actions that weren’t evident beforehand, specifically in the case of Overdrives now. One thing I do wish this game did, however, was co-opt Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-’s “interactive” tutorial where it was almost like a game instead of the usual going from dialogue-to-dialogue box. It still is leagues ahead of other “top-tier” fighting games that shall remain nameless, though.
Outside off the story mode and tutorial modes, there’s your usual selection of challenge modes, online lobbies, a place to unlock in-game items, etc. If you’ve played prior BlazBlue games, it’s the usual things you’d expect. Character-wise there’s seven new characters, with two being DLC and one being an in-game unlock (although you can pay to unlock this one early if you wish). And of course, as is par for an Arc System Works release, there’s a plethora of optional DLC available for purchase ranging from colors, lobby extras and even announcer voices if you so please.
If this is the end of the series (at least Ragna’s main story arc), it’s a fine send-off for this era of the series. There’s no radical changes to the formula, but the formula itself was pretty fine-tuned by this point and didn’t really need a whole lot of tweaking. While I would have liked to have seen a proper English dub, it still doesn’t mar what is otherwise a great fighting game.BlazBlue: Central Fiction was reviewed using a digital copy provided by Aksys Games. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|Over the series's many iterations, the gameplay has been finely tuned and is a joy to play.|
|For the hardcore, there's some nice tweaks to aspects that you'll enjoy.|
|While not as good as playing through the older games, the retrospective recap does a good job of getting people up to speed.|
|No English voice acting is a disappointment.|
|Wish that something like Revelator's excellent tutorial mode would have made an appearance here.|
|If you disliked Arc System Works's delivery of DLC, it's similar to their other games and past BlazBlue titles again here.|