Game Title: BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle
Developer: Arc System Works
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital Download
Battery Life: 3 – 4 hours
Download: 6.4 GB
Arc System Works really makes interesting fighters, both in gameplay and in plot. The BlazBlue series is one of my favorites of recent years, mostly due to its anime style and in-depth storyline, offering both a fighter experience and a Visual Novel one. Another one is Under Night In-Birth, whose latest release came out to handheld fans via the PS Vita, and offering an incredibly-extensive Story Mode that added tons and tons of lore to a game that really didn’t have much explanation to it.
To make things even better, the Switch just got the newest game in the BlazBlue series, which is a cross-over of not only BlazBlue, but also Under Night In-Birth, the Persona 4 fighting game, and the popular web series RWBY.
Having extensively played through its various game modes, here is my review of BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle for the Nintendo Switch!
The plot behind Cross Tag Battle takes place in a realm known as a “Phantom Field”, where people from various worlds are collected and forced to participate in 2 vs 2 matches to fight for magical items known as Keystones. Once Ragna the Bloodedge, Yu Narukami, Ruby Rose, and Hyde Kino find themselves in this strange place, they go on journies to get through the tournament they’ve been forced into and get back home.
The plot of this game does have a bit of length to it, but it’s not that great of a story. The latter chapters really flesh out the lore and character representation to a pretty good degree, but its starting scenarios with the BlazBlue characters are really weak and have scenarios, cliches, and representation that feel completely out of place and unlike the actual characters being shown.
On top of this is the fact that there is no “Teach Me” mode in this game to explain the background lore behind each of these games. The story scenes reference events that expect you to be familiar with all games/series involved and does little to nothing as far as explaining who these characters are and what their worlds were like before they got dumped into the Phantom Field.
BlazBlue: CTB is a 2D fighting game with visual novel elements involved in its story mode. In this manner, it’s like most previous games in the BlazBlue series. When you’re not going through story scenes, you’ll be in a 2D arena, fighting it out with an opponent.
First of all, let’s talk about the roster situation here. From early in its development, we knew that Arc System was going to go the DLC route for characters and that’s where we’re at. From launch, there are 20 characters available to play as with 20 more on the go via mostly-paid DLC. One interesting bit is that some of these DLC characters make appearances in Episode Mode, but the fact is that it is set up so you need to pay for the DLC to have more than the default 20-character roster the game’s launched with.
As far as game modes are concerned, the main mode of the game’s plot is Episode Mode, which has you playing through 4 story scenarios, one for each of the games involved in this cross-over: BlazBlue: Central Fiction, Under Night In-Birth Late[st], Persona 4 Arena, and RWBY. It’s also worth noting that the BlazBlue scenario has several different endings, one of which is the “True” ending, only achieveable when all other scenarios have been cleared.
Outside of this mode, you’ve got a shop to buy custom characters and icons for your profile and the hub world (similar to the avatars from Dragon Ball FighterZ), Online Lobby for multiplayer, Training Mode for practice, Tactics Mode for Tutorials and Missions, and Survival Mode for fighting the AI in a gauntlet until you end up losing a match.
The one thing I like about Tactics Mode is that it’s a Tutorial like Pokken’s. You have tutorial lessons for the basics of combat and doing combos, but there are also tutorials for each playable character (including DLC characters), so you essentiually have in-game guides on learning how each character works and how to string their combos together.
As far as actual combat goes, things are very simplified in how you fight. Instead of trying to meld several different combat systems into one game, they’ve opted to have one system with relatively-simple combo commands to make the game accessible to veterans to fighters as well as newbies. Every character has combos that can be stringed together by mashing the action buttons, but also special moves that require a combination of simple directional input. It’s not nearly as complicated as BlazBlue is known for, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The big gimmick with this being about Tag Battles is that you fight as a 2-character team. You can summon your partner for Assist Attacks or have them take over, completely. You also auto-switch if one character loses all of their health in the fight. This also ties into the energy gauge, where you build up bars of energy to use special attacks, be it character-specific or Assist Specials. I view it being very similar to the system that Marvel vs Capcom 3 used back on consoles as well as the Vita/PSTV.
Everything in gameplay comes together pretty smoothly. You proceed through the tutorial to learn the mechanics, play Episode Mode to enjoy the story and gradually-increasing difficulty, and then you’re let loose to use the money earned in Episode Mode for Custom Avatar and Title items and can then jump into the online to start playing other players.
One thing, though, is length. BlazBlue games are known for having incredibly-lengthy story modes that make them in and of themselves, a legitimate game. This game doesn’t have that. There is a good bit of story, but across the tutorials, and Episode Modes (including the True Ending), you’ll likely only get around 7-8 hours of actual gameplay. This can be increased if you wanna play online and do Survival Mode, but in terms of overall story content, there’s not that much here for a game that costs $49.99.
Controlling the game isn’t hard. It’s the same in docked and handheld, so no need to worry about touch or motion-oriented controls. The control scheme is also customizable, so you can remap any of the commands that use the action buttons, triggers, and analog triggers to create a scheme to your liking.
By default, you move around the hub world and battlefields with the Arrow Buttons / D-Pad and/or the Left Analog Stick. Note that the Arrow Buttons/Left Stick are also used for Guarding, as there is no set button for that. The Right Stick is only used in the Hub World for rotating the camera.
The L and R triggers are used for dashing and summoning your partner for an Assist Attack. The L2 and R2 triggers aren’t used, but I use them for some of the button-combo commands like Throw and Cross Bursts. Then the action buttons. By default, B changes the party members out in battle and A, X, Y use the three different attack types.
It’s not a bad control scheme, but it is customizeable if you don’t like it.
The graphics of this game are alright. The Switch version definitely has some downscaled character models, with each one having a lot of jagged edges around them, even in docked mode. The visual novel character artwork is top-notch, but the in-game renders and many of the environment backgrounds definitely look much prettier in the PS4 version.
The trade-off to that is performance. The game is pretty much flawless when it comes to performance and stability. I encountered no crashing, no frame-drops, no stuttering, no freezing, etc. Be it in Episode Mode, Offline, or Online, the game plays wonderfully.
Being a 2D game, you might think you’ll get a lot of Battery Life out of it. Well, you’re not wrong but you’re not completely right, either. Here are my Battery Times, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 11 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 22 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 05 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 17 minutes
It certainly isn’t terrible, but 3-4 hours is a little under what I was expecting.
In conclusion, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is a fun fighter that anyone can pick up and play. Granted, prior knowledge of all franchises involved is recommended for Story Mode, half the roster is locked behind DLC, and the Switch version definitely isn't as pretty as the others. But if you can get past all of these flaws, it's still a fun little fighter to play on the go.