Oh happy days, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, the new series from Guilty Gear’s creators, Arc System Works, has finally been released here in the US, with my copy arriving in the mail this afternoon, and I couldn’t be happier. An entirely new cast of crazies lurks within, and though the cast is on the smallish side, they seem to be a fairly diverse bunch. I’ve only had time to start sinking my teeth into Noel, as she seems to be the most likely candidate for me to main after years of learning Millia in Guilty Gear. I’ve already gotten into something of a flow with her, but that seems to be aided by the fact that she’s got a bit of an easy spammy chain. I’ve also played around with Taokaka a bit, as she’s my other obvious contender for a Millia replacement, but her moves, particularly the charges, take some getting used to. Things aren’t going as intuitively as they might for another reason though… (more on the game itself in a bit)
With the mail today, I’ve also just gotten my first ever arcade stick (the normal version that Capcom and MadCatz put out for Street Fighter IV), as I really would like to be able to properly use them. A little bit of history… Outside of Smash Bros, Soul Calibur (both Dreamcast and Arcade versions), the vast, vast, vast majority of my time spent playing fighting games has been done with a DualShock in hand. The buttons are all in a nice, tight formation, uniformly shaped and spaced, and on flat planes so you aren’t warping your fingers trying to switch between them. It all works quite sensibly, and so that’s always been the way things are supposed to be.
Thanks to this, the bulk of my muscle memory is in the thumbs, and looking for the square-triangle-circle-cross diamond formation, but the stick puts square and triangle side by side over cross and circle in a top row/bottom row configuration that’s pretty standard with arcade cabinets and other fighting sticks, which is driving my brain nuts. I can’t easily reconfigure it to match, and on top of that, instead of the intended square-triangle-L1-R1 finger placement for the top row, I’m finding myself settling into cross-square-triangle-L1, which just borks getting at the other buttons. Throw in fingers unused to being spread out like that and being hopeless with the stick itself, things are looking pretty painful. I’m hoping that learning BlazBlue (and King of Fighters XII in the coming weeks) on the stick without ever touching the DualShock will help me get the hang of it more quickly though, as it’ll minimize the preconceptions about where things belong (though keeping countless hours of Guilty Gear out of mind is gonna be tough).
But back to the game. The second 2D fighter out of the gate in HD (SSFIITHR being the other, I don’t really count SFIV as it isn’t sprite-based) for our beastly modern consoles, the game is freaking gorgeous, even if it does top out at 1080i. Mostly. The character sprites (and designs in general) are absolutely top notch, and I’d expect nothing less from the guys that made fighting games pretty again with Guilty Gear X, but they’ve gone with 3D backgrounds that just don’t compare. Granted, I generally have the same opinion every time this is done, but hey, they’ve not done anything to prove me wrong.
Arcade Mode’s nice and big, a 10 round affair that looks to have a nice progression in difficulty. Story Mode is in full display, with multiple paths for each character to complete in order to get the various endings but messes with it the formula a bit, allowing you to save between fights and requiring 100% completion of a character’s story to unlock their Insta-Kill equivalent (or yes, beating Arcade Mode with a character will unlock it as well). Rounding out the options, you’ve got your standard Versus, Training, Score Attack (which I presume will play out similarly to the Survival Mode found in most other fighters), Gallery, and an online mode that I think I want to get into once I get the hang of things.
All in all, quite pleased with what I’ve seen so far, its just as fast, furious, beautiful, and over the top as Guilty Gear, which means it has everything I wanted out of it, really. Truly learning the game is going to be an uphill battle, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and can’t wait to see what other random bits of insanity the game has to throw at me as I spend more time with it. Unfortunately CONvergence means that I won’t really get to sink my teeth into it this weekend, but I’m sure I’ll be playing nightly, and next weekend I should be able to go nuts with it. Hold on, stop everything. It has Remote Play too Fuuuuck Yeah! (this’ll mess with my stick-only plans, but I don’t care, I’ll be able to play at work!)