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ArcSys with a Twist.

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle brings together the worlds of BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth and RWBY in a surprisingly approachable alternative to each of the games that it borrows from. Introducing a unique, but easy to understand fighting system supported by innovative tag mechanics, great characters, and the usual ArcSys flair that makes its games so striking.

As the name implies, BlazBlue leads the charge in Cross Tag Battle, but make no mistake, this is not a new entry in the BlazBlue series. Cross Tag Battle carves out its own identity by putting the focus on its 2v2 tag mechanics and simplifying some of the complexity that ArcSys games are known for.

That may sound like too high a price to pay, but Cross Tag Battle makes it work by striking a fantastic balance that appeals to newcomers and experienced fighting game fans alike.

The assist system is where fighting game fans will find depth.

Like Dragon Ball FighterZ, there’s a sort of universality to the roster. Every character has simplified special move inputs, an overhead mapped to the heavy attack button, a invincible reversal attack, a light and medium auto combo, etc. While this homogeneity does cause some the cast to lose a bit of their individual charm, it also makes picking up new characters much easier, which is great for a game that requires you to play with two characters in every match.

Happy to Assist

The meat of BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle’s fighting system is in its assist system though, and that’s where fighting game fans will truly find the depth they’re looking for. One example of this is that characters have three assist moves that can be called upon while they’re not active, typically a dashing assist, a long-range assist, and a close-range assist.

The ability to have three unique assist attacks, each with a predictable effect, adds a ton of versatility to every team; better still, it makes using them in combos very intuitive. Whenever you knock an enemy away with an attack, chances are you can catch them with a neutral dashing assist to continue the combo. If you’ve got an opponent stuck in a corner, you can probably knock them down and scoop them back up with a close-range assist. If you catch them with a stray projectile assist, you can usually find a way to dash in yourself and continue the combo. If you can imagine a combo, and it makes sense, you can probably pull it off in Cross Tag Battle. That’s extremely satisfying.

The assist meter adds an extra layer of strategy on top of the skill and execution.

These combo-extending assists don’t come for free, though. In addition to the standard fighting game meter that governs super moves and EX attacks, there’s also an assist meter that fills up naturally over time. If you get caught in a combo, you can spend 100% of that meter on a Cross Burst to instantly call in your partner to interrupt the attack and swap out, but you’ll be unable use them for combos for a short while. Likewise, if you spend the meter for combo extension you’ll be without a Cross Burst and vulnerable to damage yourself. It’s a very well thought-out system that adds an extra layer of strategy on top of the skill and execution, and it’s also balanced by making the cross burst itself extremely punishable if blocked.

Less well thought-out is the single-player story mode, which loses the plot as it attempts to explain why the worlds of BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In Birth, and RWBY are all coming together. None of the four episodes offer any sort of satisfying conclusion, there’s no way to pick specific chapters to replay for a new ending, and it quickly gets tiring listening to the same revelations that happened in one episode, in another.

At least the characters in each of the series are all fantastic, and some great interactions between them prevent this mode from being a total slog. Ruby, in particular, steals the show with her adorable reactions whenever someone has a cool weapon for her to geek out about.

The announced DLC characters already appear as opponents in story mode.

In fact, the roster in general is pretty great, although disappointingly small at 20 total on disc,  which is especially frustrating because the announced DLC characters already appear as opponents in story mode. So they’re already here, just gated off behind a paywall. Not to mention the lack of a traditional arcade mode or any other significant single-player mode outside of a bare-bones survival mode. The slightly cheaper-than-average $50 price tag softens the blow, but BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle still feels lacking in modes and characters right out of the box.

That being said, the true staying power of any fighting game is in how fun it is to compete against other players both locally and online, and in that regard, Cross Tag Battle is great. Online play is the usual ArcSys affair, with an interactive lobby and adorable avatars that you can unlock. While Cross Tag Battle still doesn’t use the GGPO netcode, after nearly 100 matches in the beta, I’ve only rarely encountered lag substantial enough to affect the outcome of a game. Playing locally is still obviously the way to go whenever possible, though it would’ve been nice to have a quick-restart button rather than getting kicked out to the team order-select screen every time.

The Verdict

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is like a jigsaw puzzle made of pieces from four entirely different sets, that by some miracle still manage to fit together to make a unique and mesmerizing tag fighting game. Aside from its unsatisfying single-player mode and aggravating paywalled characters, it’s just the right blend of accessibility and depth, and one of the best entry points into fighting games you’ll find.



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