Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger (Playstation 3)

The latest release from Arc Systems, the creators of Guilty Gear offers gameplay that is both familiar and different. It's another 2D fighter in a similar style, but has unique elements such as distortion attacks and moves, that make it feel unique. Its characters are somewhat less balanced and the gameplay moves at a slower pace. To compensate, BlazBlue includes multiple modes including versus fighting, an extensive story mode and extensive online support. Blaze Blu's beautifully designed HD visuals explode from the screen with lush 2D anime-style character animation, excellent 3D backgrounds and extensive voice-overs. Its intricate fighting system makes BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger an unapologetically hardcore fighter, but its excellent mechanics and challenging gameplay make for a challenging and excting 2D fighting title.

As soon as you load BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, you'll see the lineage and influence of Guilty Gear in BlazBlue's stylish character designs, elaborate menus and heavy metal/goth soundtrack. These elements should be immediately familiar to fans of GG, but BlazBlue goes in several divergent directions that give it a unique personality. A roster of 12 unique characters gives you a varied selection of fighters to choose from. As in most fighting games, each character brings a unique fighting style to the arena, but they share a number of basic attacks and moves that allows you to jump right into the action and build your skills from there. Most standard attacks can be performed using the standard face buttons. In addition, there's a variety of weak and strong punch and kick attacks, dash, roll, counters and throws to use. These attacks are fairly straightforward and give you plenty of options. However, BlazBlue's fighting system is more complicated than that. When your attacks connect and you damage opponents, the character's special gauge increases. Once the special is full, Distortion Drive attacks are enabled. These are devastating, multi-hit combos that cause massive damage. The trade-off is that Distortion Drives use half your heat guage. In addition, the game uses several blocking moves, cancels, counters and more. Most of the moves are fairly easy to perform, but you the challenge comes in finding the right moment to use them. One of the more interesting aspects of the system is called the Guard Libra system which has a significant effect on battles. When you block an opponent's attacks, your character's Libra gauge will increase. When it's full, you can unleash an attack on the opponent that will leave them stunned for a few moments, giving you the opportunity to inflict additional damage with little risk.

One of its most unique features in BlazBlue is its extensive Barrier system. This cool gameplay mechanic is essential in that it allows you to deflect attacks effectively. In order to throw up one of these, you need to have enough energy in your barrier gauge and when you do this, your enemy cannot attack you. The effect only lasts for a few seconds. You can also use this defensively in other ways, such as performing a Barrier Burst that unleashes a wave that throws your opponent to the other side of the screen. The drawback here is that Barrier Bursts can only be used once per round and completely drain your barrier energy and leave you vulnerable for the rest of the match. Another cool idea that BlazBlue implements are Astral Heat moves. These special attacks are unique to each character and inflict an almost unstoppable amount of damage that nearly guarantees your victory. These moves are difficult to perform, but obviously worth the effort. Obviously, some characters are easier to use than others but the harder characters deliver more damage once you get the hang of them. Players will also have to contend with drive attacks. Drives are slightly more powerful than standard attacks, and are fairly easy to perform. However, they can be easily blocked by opponents. Working together to create combos, these basic and super moves can be quite powerful when chained with other moves. This just scratches the surface of the tactics, special moves and attacks available to the player, but shows that BlazBlue has plenty of depth in terms of strategy and patterns. BlazBlue's characters share similar sets of basic commands but each one implements different fighting styles. Mastering them requires a lot of skill and effort and each one offers a distinct approach that require you to adjust your strategy. Players will need to figure out when certain moves and strategies are more effective and when they're just button mashing.

While the game's fighting system is deep, it's also quite intuitive as well. Most players should have little trouble learning the basics and mastering all the special moves. Once you get beyond these factors, you'll find an engaging fighter. One of the elements that sets the game apart from the pack are its numerous game modes. You can choose to play through a standard arcade round, battling through a series of opponents until you reach the end level boss. There's also an extensive Training mode that lets you select which moves and tactics you want to practice. You can choose which character you'll use, their opponent and which moves you want to learn. This mode also allows you to record and playback your achievements. Another cool idea is the Score Attack mode, where you face off against a series of foes. In order to make things easier for newbies and even more manic for experienced players, special moves are assigned to the right analog stick and pressing in one direction allows you to unleash them effortlessly. In addition to single player battles, BlazBlue allows players to go online and fight against opponents in either ranked or friendly matches. The online modes are effectively implemented overall, though there was some noticeable lag here and there. It wasn't a major bug, but the online experience didn't feel as smooth as the disc based game did. However, this is to be expected, since very few console fighters translate perfectly online. One of the most innovative aspects of the game is BlazBlue's story mode. This is interesting on a number of levels, mostly because its far more elaborate than you'd expect. Story takes you through a character's journey and their backstory unfolds in a series of extended cut-scenes between rounds. Each battle takes a single round approach, but it helps to move the story along quicker. Players can see the individual characters and learn their motivations and struggles. This gives BlazBlue much more depth than you'd find in most fighters. Once viewed, you can see many of these cinematic sequences, as well as other elements such as CGI artwork, in the game's Gallery mode. This helps to show off BlazBlue's impressive character designs and style, and gives you motivation to keep playing.

There can be little dispute that one of the most appealing aspects of BlazBlue is its visuals. The game's overall design merges steam-punk and neo-gothic anime styles to create a beautifully rendered world. Its character designs consist of cool stylish players rendered in traditional 2D sprites, but the huge number of frames used gives their animation a great deal of fluidity and style that makes them immediately pop off the screen. Their elaborate attack animations and special attack effects add to the vibrant presentation and make each battle a feast of sumptuous eye candy throughout. These compliment the nicely designed 3D backgrounds to create a very nice looking game that effectively uses HD visuals to create a title that looks traditional and modern at the same time. BlazBlue's scrolling and scaling techniques lets you take the action slightly beyond the ring's parameters making for an impressive visual appearance overall. The game's elaborate menus and loading screens have also been beautifully designed, and give the game a consistently elaborate appearance throughout. Its music and soundtrack is nicely done as well and its mix of metal and neo-classical fits the genre and style of BlazBlue's fantastic neo-gothic world flawlessly. Its extensive use of voice-overs is most noticeable in the story mode, which helps to give each character a unique and satisfying storyline. These outstanding production values help to give the game it's modern, HD feel but it's the traditional play mechanics, with a deep fighting system, varied characters, challenging opponent AI and multiple modes of play helping to keep you coming back for more. It might not have famous Guilty Gear name, but BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger offers the intense, deep gameplay that players have come to expect from the series. Its nicely balanced character roster, extensive fighting system and challenging play make this one for an exciting and satisfying fighter title that delivers an outstanding gaming experience.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B+

> Related Reviews

Street Fighter IV (Playstation 3)

Samurai Shodown Anthology
King of Fighters Collection
Fatal Fury Anthology (PS2)