It seems like it was only yesterday that Chrono Phantasma, the last iteration of BlazBlue, was released, and here we are with yet another version of the game. Of course, by ‘yesterday’ I really mean back in 2015, an eternity when it comes to sequels these days. BlazBlue: Central Fiction represents the latest and greatest version of Arc System Works’s anime fighter out there, offering new characters and yet another extension on the game’s storyline. Is it worth a look?
Well, I can’t speak for everyone who’s into this series, given everything it brings to the table, but I’d say there’s a good chance that a lot of BlazBlue fans were excited to try out the new characters available in Central Fiction and I’d call them a selling point. We’ve got Hibiki, a quick rushdown sort who uses dual swords, shadow clones and extended combos; Nine, one of the Six Heroes who we’ve been hearing about since the first game, who wields powerful magic in classic “zoning” style and has a hilarious special attack that deals massive damage after an extensive windup; Izanami, the latest big bad, who has both rushing and zoning abilities thanks to a stance change mechanic; and Naoto, the protagonist of a collection of BlazBlue novels who plays like another rushdown character with badass-looking blood attacks.
All the newbies are fun and feel unique; you’ve also got a few DLC characters and unlockables, most notably Es from the much-beloved XBlaze visual novels. Older characters have seen some revamps as well, of course, including even more changes to my beloved Noel Vermillion, who it seems I have to re-learn every time one of these games come out. At this point saying that BlazBlue’s cast is extensive is selling the game a little short. Not only are there over 30 different characters to choose from, each plays significantly differently from the next, to the point where you could devote all your time playing the game to a single favorite and still have plenty to learn hours later.
Mechanical changes in Central Fiction include an increased focus on offense by offering a buff for pressing the attack. I’d never claim to be the best at BlazBlue, but I would say that out of the contemporary fighting game series it’s probably the best choice if you want a combination of variety and tight fighting mechanics.
Naturally that’s not all there is to the game; we’ve got a ridiculously extensive story mode to check out as well. I’ll admit that while I’m a fan of the BlazBlue series I don’t tend to keep up with the story, and even with the game’s extensive and detailed glossary (and a recap that’s literally half an hour long) you’re probably a little too late to jump on the plot train if this is your first entry. I couldn’t even begin to explain what’s going on here and will instead rely on the many, many available story recaps on YouTube to introduce you to BlazBlue’s plot if that’s what you’re into. The point is that this isn’t just a fighting game with a story – there’s lots of it and fans are bound to have a good time taking it in.
As usual, there’s a myriad of other modes that will serve up plenty of fighting action. Perhaps the most praise can be heaped on the fact that there’s a standard arcade mode, since certain other well-known fighting games have apparently decided that’s not necessary anymore. Other options include a multi-stage campaign mode and a fully fleshed out online option; the latter works about as well as we’ve come to expect from these games, though I’ll admit to some annoyance with lag at times. I’m also a little concerned about the game’s online population, since there were times when I’d have trouble finding a match that wasn’t clearly intended for two friends playing together who didn’t want to fight strangers. One wonders if there haven’t been too many iterations of BlazBlue at this point, spreading the community out amongst several games instead of concentrating it, but who knows?
Naturally, this is up there with Guilty Gear Xrd as one of the most beautiful games out there, with a 2D sprite-based style that’s second to none. Battles are intense, fast-paced explosions of color and animation that are bound to drop some jaws if you’re new to these games. Voice work and music are fantastic as well, which has been the norm for BlazBlue since Calamity Trigger was released. Suffice to say you won’t have any issues with this game’s presentation – well, unless you were hoping that the story mode was dubbed, which it’s not. Subs all the way.
So is it worth picking up BlazBlue yet again? It’s kind of a cop-out answer, but that really comes down to your history with the series; if this is the first time you’ve played this, then BlazBlue: Central Fiction offers the latest and greatest version with the most characters and the most recently-updated fighting engine. Fans, of course, already preordered the latest game the second it was announced. If you were tepid on BlazBlue in the past, though, Central Fiction probably doesn’t change enough to change your mind, serving more as an expansion of what we already know and love than anything new.