Arc System Works has developed a high pedigree with its brand of fighters over the years. In the EVO fighting game circuits, many of its titles have been featured in battle grounds for a good reason: strong gameplay with bold visuals. Even to this day, the team has been the one to make the definitive anime fighting adaptations with Fist of the North Star and Dragon Ball Fighter Z, as well as realising a fighting game based on Persona 4 with Persona 4 Arena. It is pretty much a guarantee that with Arc System Works behind the development, gamers are going to get a great beat ’em up. With BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, the venerable fighting developer has made one of the strangest crossovers since Smash Bros. Brawl featured Solid Snake.
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The BlazBlue series of releases are a weird bunch. At face value, the series is basically Arc System Works making a parody of its own Guilty Gear. Nothing is really taken seriously, characters behave silly, and the tone is generally light-hearted, in spite of the esoteric jargon. Naturally, when it came time for a crossover game with Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth, and the popular Rooster Teeth anime series, RWBY… it became time to expect things to get sillier than a Monty Python convention. It all somehow works, as absurd as this surreal mixture is.
This anime buffet would be extremely satisfying if it weren’t for the fact that half of the most desirable items on the menu are only served á la carte. After enjoying time with the four story modes that each crossover game gets represented with, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle will have teased so many characters that can only be accessed from behind a pay-wall. This is unacceptable, especially since RWBY only has two playable characters. This is not a crossover, this is a cameo. If the RWBY series is going to get featured in a fighting game, teasing most of the cast in the story mode as opponents will only frustrate and anger. Even Persona 4 Arena heroes like Aigis and Kanji are locked behind DLC. Why is Kanji not available? He wasn’t some obscure late character from the series – he was there from the start.
What is really confusing about all this is that not all of the character packs are available from the start in spite of them already being in the game. Perhaps the argument can be made that this is a BlazBlue spin-off, but then why is Taokaka completely absent from the roster and won’t be DLC? Even with the concession of this being at a lower price-point, nobody who would be interested would accept it in its current state. It is painfully obvious that this was a victim of scheduling and a rushed production in order to have it out in time for EVO 2018.
In spite of the circumstances in regarding the mishandling of DLC practices, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is a pretty solid fighter. It is clear that compared to past BlazBlue releases and Persona 4 Arena that Arc System Works took measures to make this a much faster, yet simpler, experience to pick-up-and-play. Every non-heavy character now moves at a full sprint. There is an auto-combo system in place as seen in Dragon Ball Fighter Z and all Astral Heat moves are done with the same inputs. Hurt fighters that are tagged out get some health regenerated and Persona users can still summon broken Personas without worrying about durability. There is great care put into making all these characters function properly when faced against each other so that the battles are fair and balanced. There will always be the issue of some fighters like Gordeau being over powered thanks to his massive attack range and speed. This is inevitable when having a varied cast from four different franchises.
The story mode feels cheaply made, relying on static portraits and hammy voice acting. It serves its purpose to get users to mix it up and play as characters they may not normally ever use. Sadly, there is no proper arcade mode to have a steady and rising challenge with one tag-team. Why such a standard and basic feature is not included makes as much sense as 20 fighters behind a pay-wall. There are some neat options to mess around with like being able to set specific characters to English or Japanese. A survival mode and a suite of replay features do not make up for the overall package feeling anaemic.