Saturday, July 4, 2015

BlazBlue Chronophantasma EXTEND - Preview Review

In my time spent with the latest release of BBCPEX I've come to realize that I'm going to have to invest some quality time in a proper playthrough of the game in order to gain an understanding about everything it offers, and to give it a fair chance. So far I've sampled the key modes of play, and features, but have yet to try out the two new characters. I can say that for the most part the game remains the same as the last version technically, and functionally. It is also a mostly all-inclusive port. By "mostly all-inclusive" I mean that you don't have to pay for a majority of the lobby, color palette, or stage DLC that you had to pay for in the vanilla version of the game. This can all be unlocked through the gallery via the in-game currency you earn as you play online, and offline modes. Aksys Games did create some new DLC though that you will have to pony up the dough for in order to obtain. This includes a couple new color palettes, some new voice-over options, and a handful of lobby avatar items. As far as the new characters go one is a third Carl Clover clone (Celica), and the other a Nu-13 clone.

When it comes to the BlazBlue series some fellow BB fans agree with me in saying that the original games were the best. While they weren't improved upon, and didn't include the bigger roster they were more balanced. I am glad that Aksys Games continued to build upon the BlazBlue mythology while offering up new features, and characters, but the current direction they've taken with the series worries me. Looking back I do know that the "Stylish" fighting style has always been a part of BlazBlue. It was implemented to attracting a wider audience of gamers (aka, the casual crowd), but in being included in the series this option (which turns casuals into pros) has only served to hurt the competitive aspect of the intended offline, and online experience. You won't see tournament players using 'Stylish', and the players who do use it online abuse the privilege more often than not. The Stylish fighting style in online BlazBlue effectively gives casual gamers the upper hand against those who would care to actually learn the "Technical" aspect of the game by turning then into instantaneous fighting game pros/combo masters. This in itself is making the online portion of BBCPEX an unbearable mess. It's not bad enough that Gamestop, and other retailers are now selling/promoting third-party mappable (mappable single button combos) PS3 controllers for use in fighting games, but Aksys Games has also made the PS4 version cross-play with the PS3 which opens up the ability for gamers to use said controllers against unsuspecting opponents.

With the combination of mapped controller usage, cheap gameplay options in-game (Stylish), and cross-play compatibility BlazBlue isn't as inviting as it once was in it's early days. In fact it has increasingly gotten worse due to the lack of moderation on the developers' part, and on Sony's, both of whom aren't bothering to combat the online cheating epidemic. Whenever an online mode of play is at least half of a game's offered experience it is absolutely imperative that the quality of said experience is maintained, and pleasantly so. Online games in general have fallen victim to the worst sorts of gamers, and gaming tactics, because of the blatant no-care attitude given by those who provide the paid for gaming experience. As much as certain people want to deny it some gamers are out to simply cause others grief, and to win any way they can. Enter the competitive nature of the modern-day competitive scene (Thanks CoD). When you gear a game's experience towards such a crowd it's a sure fire way to ruin that game, series, or franchise. That's why I think Aksys Games tries to revive BlazBlue, and Guilty Gear ever so often with extended editions. They could just work to make a game right, and build upon the game through updates, and patches, but they choose to re-release games with slightly enhanced features in order to revive interest amongst the gaming community. This is not working. Not for their dedicated, and dwindling fans, and not for those looking to get into fighting games properly.

Where BlazBlue, and BBCPEX ultimately fails is the unbalanced roster (which features OP characters), and the easy-to-use "Stylish" mechanics. I personally feel that if characters in fighting games had uniform damage for specials, and melee based attacks it would make for an even challenge. If a developer wanted to tweak the learning curve to attract a certain crowd of gamers beyond that all they'd have to do is tone down, or ramp up the amount of mechanics that are made viable, and available to gamers who want to learn the game. They could do that, or tweak the mechanics to be optional. Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN, for example has a system of mechanics that can be used professionally, or minimally according to the gamers' style of fighting. A player not utilizing all mechanics can still win against a pro player in GGXrd even though they don't use all the given mechanics. The latest Guilty Gear also does not use a "Stylish" option to attract casual gamers yet anyone who spends at least a little time with their favorite GG character can get in on the action while feeling like they have a fighting chance.

This brings me to a second concern regarding the route of development Aksys Games is taking with their fighters. Recently it was disclosed that Aksys Games is planning on making the upcoming extended version of GGXrd (Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN: Revelator) more "User Friendly". They stated online that they are going to change the mechanics so they'll be more attractive to the casual crowd. Why this bothers me is I feel that GGXrd's current build is perfect. It's got an optional mechanic system that let's the pro's shine, and the newcomers have a fighting chance against said pro's. I feel it's a bad decision for the future of the GG series if they choose to do this, and feel that it could cause the same problems online that I've currently encountered in BBCPEX. I hope for the sake of fighting games, and Guilty Gear fans that I'm wrong though.

In closing I will say that a proper review is coming for BBCPEX, but that I'm going to skip the technical details to give you a more heartfelt review regarding my experience within the game. I will go over all of the modes, features, and characters, but will not break down the mechanics. I feel that the tutorial breaks down the mechanics efficiently enough for gamer, and explains things well enough. It would only serve to unnecessarily lengthen the read. I will try to have that review posted early next week. Until then these are my thoughts, and opinions about BBCPEX.

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