It’s time for fates to collide as Arc System Works takes a plunge into the crossover fighting arena. Taking their beloved Blazblue franchise and pitting Ragna the Bloodedge up against the likes of Yu Narukami from Persona 4, Ruby from RWBY, and Hyde from Under Night In-Birth. Arc System Works certainly knows how to make a great fighting game; does Blazblue Cross Tag Battle keep that tradition going?
Blazblue Cross Tag Battle is a 2v2 fighter and like any crossover fighting game the reason for these worlds colliding is rarely important or even acknowledged. After all, it is a fighting game and the main appeal is to fight, not tell a story. However, being a massive fan of Persona and Blazblue, I went into Blazblue Cross Tag Battle looking forward to what is really going on. A mysterious entity has taken the fighters from their own world and placed them in a “virtual” world. Each team is in possession of a keystone and is given an objective and so the adventure begins.
I won’t dwell on the story too much, but to put it simply, it is entertaining — but it isn’t amazing. I didn’t expect an amazing story, but more of something that delivered some funny moments with characters that’d never interact otherwise. What was so surprising to me was the length of the story mode. The Blazblue episode is the longest, but the Persona team only had 6 chapters which equals 6 fights. It was nice seeing them interact with Ragna, Makoto, and Waldstein, but it certainly is short lived.
One other issue to take into account when playing through the story mode is that it goes off the idea that you know these characters. I’ve played Blazblue and Persona, but RWBY and Under Night in-Birth were totally alien to me. Making their story modes feel even more underwhelming as the jokes and novelty of them fighting Ragna had no impact. That is one thing I have found a little bizarre about Blazblue Cross Tag Battle and the decision to have these four worlds collide. RWBY and Under Night in-Birth are pretty niche franchises and I can’t help but feel that maybe it’d be better to have had the game fashioned as a “BlazbluexPersona” title, but also getting guest stars like Ruby and Hyde to join in. It’s not as much of a criticism, but something I did find odd. After all, RWBY only makes up 10% of the roster.
Of course the story won’t even interest a lot of people and the real appeal is the fighting. Blazblue Cross Tag Battle delivers a system that offers depth, but also ease of use for players to pick up. As always Arc System Works show their skill at crafting a fighting game. Auto combos and the same inputs for specials help bring in casual players, but from my experience online that doesn’t make someone an instant pro player.
Blazblue Cross Tag Battle has 5 inputs. Light, Heavy, Clash/Sweep, Partner and Tag. Light and Heavy are self explanatory and will be the attacks you use most often. Mixing in what attack is suitable for your current situation. Clash is an interesting one, in neutral/5C it will trigger a duo attack, I must admit I am struggling to see its utility at the moment and seldom see it used online, but I won’t write it off, just cause I don’t understand it. Then you can also use 8C for a low sweep attack and also others attacks in the air. Partner will call in your partner (duh) and depending on the direction you press will trigger one of three assists. Then finally Tag will swap who you play as. Also like many fighting games released nowadays it features “Resonance Blaze” a move activated when you only have one fighter left which recovers health and offers other benefits.
Then the fighting system boasts a whole range of mechanics and tricks to make use of. Swapping partner mid combo to extend the beat down. Swapping character whilst being caught in an opponents combo to save yourself, as long as you have the meter. Reject Guards to push your opponent away if you they are laying down a lot of pressure. Cross Combo which will keep your partner on the field and have them attack as you input their attacks for them out of the three they have access to. Then a few more I haven’t mentioned. These attacks and mechanics all blend together well for the most part and keep your options and brain ticking as you face off against opponents.
The elephant in the room has to be addressed and that would be the roster. There was controversy surrounding the title when at first it was announced to have a total of 40 fighters, but later revealed only 20 of these will be in the base game. Arc System Works did clarify that the other two members of RWBY will be free DLC and character pack 1 will be free for the first two weeks. Making the base game feature 25 characters and to have the full roster it means the entire package will only cost $70 which isn’t too bad at all. However, some might be frustrated with the fact that some of these fighters are locked behind a paywall. Characters like Aegis and Carmine are already in the game and you fight them in the story.
Dodgy DLC aside, I must say that the roster is pretty good and as mentioned $70 for a 40 character game is reasonable. The base 20 fill a wide arrange of roles from zoners, grapplers and more. Finding who works best with who is a real treat. Personal disapointments are inevitable and due to the inputs in the game it’d seem characters like Litchi Faye Ling, Carl Clover and Bang Shishigami will never get in, but apart from that I can’t fault the roster. How I wish Tsubaki, Bang and Teddie made it in!
A major part of any fighting game is the online. Blazblue Cross Tag Battle features a variety of modes to pick from. A ranking mode which will place you against someone with similar skill and record your wins/losses. A personal lobby option where you can set the rules, password and other details and finally a open lobby which can hold 64 players all running around as their selected avatar. Here you can interact, type messages and use preset ones to communicate and select who to fight. From my experience the netcode is fine. I’ve had some matches which are laggy and others that weren’t, so it has depended on who I’ve been playing. If you like the fighting system the online will certainly cater to your needs and keep you entertained.
The offline is a whole other story and is pretty lacking. I already mentioned that the story seemed quite light on content and there isn’t a great deal to do offline. Local matches, a survival battle mode, training and a shop to customize your player card for online is all there is (As well as the story mode). No arcade mode or any quirky experimental mode. I remember Dragon Ball FighterZ being guilty of this. I mean, the main appeal today is the online, but to not even have an arcade mode is strange. So for the minority who might be buying this for it’s single player appeal be warned there isn’t really one.
For anime fans Blazblue Cross Tag Battle will be a dream come true with its character designs. It is part of the reason why I gave the franchise a try years ago. The characters all look fantastic and are a visual buffet of colours. The backgrounds to the fights all look superb if you ever actually get a chance to look at them and the animations for the ultimate attacks for each character are truly satisfying visually. Then if you read my Eat Beat Dead Spike-San review you should know already I love the Blazblue soundtrack and this title is of course no exception as there aren’t a lot of new tracks. In fact I think there is only one/four major new song(s) and that is the Crossing Fates track with a different remix for each franchise. Either way a title with Blazblue and Persona music by the great Shoji Meguro is a good soundtrack in my book.
With the Switch being a fair bit weaker in comparison to the PS4 it is always a fair question to ask how well a title performs on the Switch. From my time with Blazblue Cross Tag Battle I see no noticeable flaws in performance, it is smooth and looks great. To top that off it runs excellently in handheld mode and I can’t find any problem with performance. Of course the poor D-Pad on the Joy-Cons and having to use a wireless connection might make some shy away from playing with it undocked, but the option is there.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Blazblue Cross Tag Battle was provided by Arc System Works.