BlazBlue: Central Fiction marks the fourth main entry in the hardcore 2D Japanese fighting game series, and it appears that this will be the final game to spiritual successor Guilty Gear, as the story has been nicely tied up thus meaning the wheel of fate is turning for the very last time for the BlazBlue franchise. Fortunately, Central Fiction sends the series off with a bang, and fans will be happy with the amount of content and playable characters that will help keep fighting fans happy until Arc System Works release their next project.
The BlazBlue series has come a very long way since the series began with Calamity Trigger in 2008 which only featured a mere 12 characters. Central Fiction adds 7 brand new fighters for you to play as, now taking the roster of characters to 35 which is an astonishing figure, especially as each individual character is unique and has their very own playstyle and special finishing abilities called Distortion Drive which consumes 50% of a character’s Heat Gauge.
Some of these new characters include: Nine, who uses a wide variety of magic based on the basic elements of Fire, Water, and Wind. She can combine and mix those elements to create more powerful spells, whereas Hibiki has a completely different approach when engaging in combat. He is a nimble and fast fighter who will look to close down his opponent very quickly whilst using his shadow clones to make duplicates of himself, and he can also teleport, causing chaos and confusion.
Unlike other games in the fighting game genre, BlazBlue focuses heavily on its story, and now all that effort has finally paid off, making the previous games well worth the time and investment. The narrative is confusing even for veterans of the series, so first time players won’t know what’s going on. Luckily for them Central Fiction will recap the most important events of the past stories through short cutscenes with tons of dialog and conversations between characters, and the game warns you beforehand that this will likely take you 30 minutes. Sadly enough, the English Dub that’s been with the series since the very beginning is gone, so you’ll have to make do with the text heavy subtitles which may reduce the enjoyment of certain players.
If Story Mode isn’t your cup of tea, there are a host of other game modes to occupy your time, as well as extensive training modes where you can go through the tutorial if you’re a newcomer, which is very important to get a grasp of the basics of the game. Training mode helps you to get a good feel for a character to see if their playstyle matches your tastes, and Challenge Mode gives you a list of specific character combos to learn and pull off.
So, you have no excuse if things aren’t working for you, as the game does a great job of teaching you how to play and showing you the way to succeed. You have the two substandard modes of any fighting game worth their salt, which are, of course, Arcade Mode and V.S Mode. The other modes are Score Attack, the new and improved Abyss Mode, and a series first Speed Star Mode. These will all keep you entertained whilst giving out a challenge until you are ready for the big leagues of competitive online play.
Network Mode is split into three different types of lobby rooms. In ranked you will play an online match with set regulations, and with each victory you will grow and rank up your skill level and move on to people more equal to your skill level. In player match you can set up your very own party of up to 8 people where you have more control on the game rules. Lastly, with online lobby you can choose to play and socialise with players all over the world.
The BlazBlue series has always been highly praised for its reliable net code. Rarely have I encountered any kind of major lag other than a few hiccups at the beginning fights during the intros as the game syncs up. BlazBlue is a very hardcore fighting game, and you will find some serious competition online. It’s hard going in as a newcomer and finding someone your own skill level to play and enjoy the game with, so it’s very essential that you practice and train well, otherwise you’ll taste defeat over and over again without your opponent breaking a sweat.
The key to success with BlazBlue is finding one or two characters that you take a liking to and sticking with them until you master them and know their every move inside and out. Veterans of the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series will feel right at home here, whilst newcomers will have to get to grips with the very high learning curve. There is a lot to learn in BlazBlue with regards to the “Overdrive” system that taps into a character’s hidden power and enhances certain moves and abilities, as well as rapid cancels that when used correctly and timed to perfection can result in super extended combos for devastating damage, instant blocks, instant barriers, and break bursts.
With all this and more to learn, the feeling you get when all that hard work comes off is quite exhilarating. Arc System Works, as far as I’m concerned, are the best developers when it comes to making a fighting game. You can easily see the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into the series, and hopefully BlazBlue: Central Fiction and its accompanying series will get the credit and recognition they deserve with this final send off.
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Aksys Games, PQube
Platforms: PS4, PS3
Release Date: 4th November 2016