BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Review
Fighting game fans come in two flavors. You’ve got your casual button mashers who live for the flash, and then you’ve got the hardest of the hardcore dedicated to learning every last move, strategy, and frame of animation. So which group does Aksys and Arc System Works’ BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma appeal to?
Those looking to make the next step from Street Fighter will feel right at home with BlazBlue: Chrono Plantasma’s flying projectiles, quarter-circle motions, and motley crew of anime-style characters. Tired of the Japanese gi-wearing warriors of Capcom’s fighter? BlazBlue has squirrel girls, cat girls, red beasts modified with magnets and jets, and other charming personalities in its 20+ character roster. It’s not for everybody, but the otaku among us will appreciate the level of polish that went into the game’s high-resolution spritework. There are even dedicated opening for each and every character mashup.
However, unlike Street Fighter’s tried and true engine, BlazBlue adds an extra layer of depth and speeds up the whole affair. Air dashes, barrier guards, and specialized special moves for each character make it more akin to an advanced Marvel vs. Capcom 3 — it even has a similar control style with light, medium, and strong attacks, along with a dedicated “special” button. It works, and is every bit as responsive as it should be.
Can’t be bothered to learn dozens of intricate move combinations? BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma’s “Stylish” mode has casual fighters covered without coming off as pandering. With the press of a couple of buttons, you too can crank out a five-hit combo like the best of them. It might be simplistic, but it lowers the barrier of entry and can be turned off at any time.
So what makes BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma worth picking up? After all, there have been three releases in the past couple of years, giving Capcom’s re-re-re-releases a run for their money. The answer? More. More characters, more background stages, more story, more special moves…there’s just more. Your garden variety arcade, training, and versus modes are all present, but there is also Unlimited Mars mode (which pits you against hardened AI), Abyss mode (which has light RPG-leveling mechanics), and Challenge mode.
The biggest addition, however, is BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma’s new and improved online mode. The previous three games had solid netcode, but finding your next match amidst the sea of icons and Japanese characters required the equivalent of a video game Sherpa. Chrono Phantasma streamlines the process with easy-to-understand menus, customizable “D-Codes,” and accessible lobbies.
The meat of BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma is its visual novel-like story mode, though this effort seems oddly placed. Though it offers hours of story and fully-voiced scenes, its still cutouts and lengthy pieces of dialog make it an exercise in tedium. It also makes no sense, even for veterans of the series. The recap mode “Teach Me, Miss Litchi” is a valiant effort to get people up to speed, but the majority of people will likely see it as a distraction and nothing more. Unfortunately, the only way to unlock one of the characters is through said mode, making it an extra hurdle for those looking to get the full BlazBlue experience.
BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma is easily the definitive version of BlazBlue, making it a perfect jumping off point for new players. Veterans might balk at the thought of buying a fourth game in the series (along with its character DLC), but the changes made here are far greater than the incremental ones of previous entries. It will likely not be the final chapter in the BlazBlue saga, but it is the finest way to experience this fighting game series thus far.