Blazblue Cross Tag Battle Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Arc System Works

Publisher: PQube

Release Date: June 5th (US), June 22nd (EU) 2018

Price as of Article: £34.99 GBP $49.99 USD

Game code provided by PQube for review

Story

I always find it surprising when a fighting game has a story mode, but the Blazblue series is well known for putting in the effort in this department. What we have here is a cross dimensional competition organized by a mysterious force. An almost insane robotic announcer has pulled in various fighters from different worlds in order to compete against one another and reach the goal with their special crystal. Doing so will allow them to return to their home world, at least that’s what is promised. The rules of this seemingly generated world are conveniently set so that when characters meet and fight, they can only do so in a 2 v 2 battle. The story is ludicrous and full of “and then this happens, and then this happens” with little to no thought gone into any structured narrative, my initial excitement wore thin after about half an hour and the realisation of what was happening set in. For the uninitiated like myself, I found it very disinteresting and the unholy length of the hollow chats between fights really sucked my enthusiasm out.

Out of the four story components, each following a different series, the only one I was compelled to follow was the Persona 4 one thanks to my love for that game and the characters. What that says is that this story is fan service only. If you’re fans of the characters and series already you may be somewhat satisfied, but for me who’s only invested in one series of the four, it was an exercise in patience just to scroll through the endless dialogue and static cutscenes.

Gameplay

As far as gameplay goes, it’s a 2 v 2 fighting game, when both opponents are taken out, you’ve won. There are no rounds to speak of, it’s one win and then on to the next fight. From what I’m aware, the gameplay has been simplified heavily for this spinoff entry. Indeed combos are rarely difficult to pull off and require only a minimum amount of effort, especially with the direction buttons. I actually like this as it’s definitely more accessible compared to many fighting games out there and you can pull off combos very easily even if you barely do anything.

There are a few extra things like the skill game, distortion skills and of course the tag system which is implemented very simply. You can press B during the fight (as long as you’re not getting pummelled at the time) to Switch to your partner, allowing a brief respite for one fighter and a chance to recover a bit of health.

A tag match wouldn’t be fun without a bit of assistance from the looker on chipping in with a few attacks here and there and there’s a quick button input for them to do so, causing pretty hefty damage to your opponents.

While I’m sure there is a little bit of depth, I have to say it all feels a little on the basic side. That’s not a problem for me personally, but I think hardcore fighter fans may not appreciate it quite so much. I really don’t know how competitive this game can be in the long run compared to other fighting games out there. It can feel satisfying for the casual player to pull off nice moves and combos but after you’ve played the game for a while the simplicity starts to wear thin. 

There are six difficulty levels to choose from when playing the computer foes. I’m generally crap at fighting games but I seemed to manage to hold my own against the AI rather well on the default setting, more experienced fighting game fans will probably want to notch it up a bit so they can have a challenge.

If you’re still worried about the challenge, thankfully there are robust tutorials for complete wet farts like myself. These come in the form of Tactics Mode. This is where you have basic general tutorials, specific character instructions and missions. It’s packed enough and I think this is very much appreciated by the uninitiated like myself who find fighting games a bit daunting in general.

I did have a slight issue with the instructions though. When commanded to do something, you’re instructed via Attack A, Attack B and so on. Not the actual representative buttons like the X button or Y button, which is something I feel complete newbies would appreciate a lot more. I know this is standard for fighting game tutorials but at least having the option to switch instructions would have been nice.

Online is a huge part of any modern fighting game and while I think the developers have done a decent job in being robust with the lobbies and the experience, I did have plenty of trouble finding people to fight with. When I did finally get with someone, I did notice a fair amount of lag. Whether that’s my connection or not, I can’t say I had a very pleasant experience online here. It also seems to be a little on the barren side too. Just a few weeks after release I could only often find 2 or 3 people on at any one time. 

Audio

The audio is generally excellent. Initially it can be very difficult to hear the songs present in the game thanks to the default sound mix which really puts character voices and sound effects with much higher priority which is a shame. Once I tweaked it, however, I found I appreciated the soundtrack a lot more. Songs are taken from various tracks famous within each series so every franchise gets its turn in the limelight. 

There’s a surprising amount of voice acting here. Throughout the story mode every piece of dialogue is impressively voice acted by (at least as far as I’m aware) by the normal voice actors you may be used to with your favourite characters. It’s all very well done although I suspect some characters may be a little too anime for some, or just a little too stock. But that’s what you’ll get from a game like this.

Visuals & Performance

Visually the game is off the charts with how wonderful it looks, especially in regards to the fighters. I don’t know if they are hand drawn or 3D models imitating 2D art, but either way they look absolutely phenomenal. Crisp, clear and colourful, you can see the imitation hand drawn art, no doubt inspired by Neo Geo classics like Garou: Mark of the Wolves. Backgrounds are less impressive as they are generated in 3D. It would have been nicer to have them in gloriously animated 2D hand drawn art too, but I’m sure that would have eaten up a lot of development budget and time. 

Animations are excellent during the fights, so much detail has gone into lovingly giving these characters justice. The flow of combat just looks great and is pleasing to the eyes of people who aren’t even playing. More work could have gone into the story cutscenes which are almost painfully cheap. Static character art sliding in and out does not constitute as compelling or high quality.

Value

Priced at £34.99 in the UK and $49.99 I think fans of the various series will find this decent value for money, however those just looking for a solid fighting game to mess around with versing friends or online may find better value elsewhere either in one of the cheap Neo Geo titles or maybe the Street Fighter Collection. Saying that, it’s clear to see there’s a decent amount of production gone into this one with how lovely it looks and sounds, so maybe it does deserve its price.

Pros

P

Welcoming to new players

P

Lots of fan service

P

Looks absolutely stunning

Cons

P

Cheap, uninteresting story mode

P

Online was rough for me