I finally picked up the PS3 exclusive BlazBlue: Chronophantasma when it went on sale on PSN a while back, and was met with quite the surprise. I had been disappointed by the announcements of the game’s DLC and that the individual story mode that set the series so far above and beyond all other fighting series in terms of story and character development had been eliminated in favor of a single narrative including all characters upon its North American release last year, but after waiting for the price drop to buy, I was met with what possibly should have been a 2014 game of the year contender.
In spite of the dated sprites and low-budget visual novel format, the amount of content and insane length of the story mode (about thirty hours of dialogue with very little combat) along with the realization that this fighting series not only boasts arguably the best gameplay in the genre, but the most complex lore of possibly any current video game series to boot I was more than pleased with this third game. I was actually kind of blown away.
But what is it I love so much about BlazBlue that I happily sit through hours on end of exposition and wacky antics when I could be comboing, rocking some of the most badass finishing moves ever, and powering up my fighters in the addictive rapid fire action of Abyss Mode? It’s the characters, stupid.
The reason I keep coming back and the reason I never get any good at this game is because I absolutely adore the characters. I use a different one every time I play because I want to play as them all. They’re all fun and full of personality and great abilities. To get good at a fighting game one needs to practice, practice, practice with a single chosen character, and I can never choose just one. My favorite varies from game to game depending on various tweaks.
This is part one of my list with the first five of the ten most interesting and stylish characters out of the twenty-eight playables. Chronophantasma Extend will bring the series next-gen for Japan in April with even more storylines and content. Cross your fingers for a prompt North American localization and a quick turnaround for the next full game in the series, because there are still plenty of non-playable characters who need some love. The wheels of fate are turning. Rebel one – Action!
The thing I’ve always loved the most about the BlazBlue franchise is its pure imagination and creativity. Within the fighting game genre, there’s a pretty limited number of character archetypes and fighting styles that we see again and again. Then Calamity Trigger comes along and suddenly we’ve got characters like this semi-liquid shape-shifting thing that resembles the No-Face spirit from Spirited Away and uses insects as an attack method. Did I mention imagination and creativity?
Arakune is an old colleague (love interest?) of beloved doctor Litchi Faye-Ling and student of the mad scientist Kokonoe who lost his mind (and form) while engaging in ill-advised experiments. Litchi is single-mindedly obsessed with restoring him to his old self, but every other character considers him a lost cause. As he is, he typically wanders in search of the Azure speaking in barely understandable sentence fragments that usually end in a fit menacing maniacal laughter.
In combat, he flows around the battlefield effortlessly and has attacks that can “curse” an opponent, which allows his assault to be temporarily augmented by insects attacking from all over. Very, very fun to play as, and arguably the coolest concept for a fighting game character ever.
Rachel is a pivotal figure in the series as one of the few characters who knows what the hell is going on. As an Observer, she exists somewhat outside of time and can see the time/space possibilities both infinite and finite within the time loop where BlazBlue takes place. Her primary goal is in breaking this time loop, which she describes metaphorically to series protagonist, Ragna the Bloodedge, as a story that constantly changes but always has the same unhappy ending. Unable to change fate herself, she manipulates the heroes of the story in an attempt to overthrow destiny and break the cycle.
Rachel is a delightful character largely due to her adeptness at wrapping other characters around her little finger. She has one of the legendary world-saving Six Heroes, the werewolf Valkenhayn, as her personal butler and is constantly accompanied by her cat and bat familiars, who she uses in battle as shields so she never actually gets directly hit. Her haughty, indifferent demeanor drives Ragna crazy, but her passive-aggressive reverse psychology never fails to set him in motion.
Rachel is possibly the most interesting combatant of all. She controls the weather and can use wind for many purposes from sending projectiles at enemies to sailing across the screen on a parasol as well as placing lightning rods on the battlefield she can be activate at will. She also uses familiars for several unique attacks, such as a frog that hops about until it comes into contact with an opponent and delivers a shock. She’s not a major power character, but she’s incredibly unique in the fighting game genre.
Like Rachel, Kokonoe is an Observer, but unlike Rachel, she doesn’t like to share any of what she knows. Her haughtiness is also less refined than Rachel’s, making her an abrasive genius who cares little about other people except as pieces in her chess match of practicality with the Novus Orbis Librarum organization, who act as a government whose secret agenda is to recreate the world through destruction. She’s the daughter of two of the Six Heroes, which makes her extremely powerful, and her scientific knowledge and ambition make her a primary force in the story.
Kokonoe’s sarcastic attitude is what really makes her a star in the series. She’s really a one-of-a-kind personality. One thing about the localizations of BlazBlue games that can’t be overstated is the performances by the English voice actors. They pull out all the stops in making these characters their own and coupled with the artist’s renderings with emphasis on posture and facial expressions, they really come to life in spite of the limited animation.
Sadly, the character is only playable as waaaaaay overpriced DLC, but her reputation as a top-tier character is cemented. Naturally, her fighting style incorporates a lot of tech and physics, including utilizing singularities, her creation/fellow fighter, Sector Seven’s Hellboy-esque enforcer cyborg Iron Tager, and a finishing move that literally drops a meteor on her opponent as she laughs maniacally. Hopefully, she comes included in the Extend package.
This psychotic man-mountain made his debut in the latest installment, and made a big impression. He was a Sector Seven member who was driven mad by his own raw power and became known as the Mad Dog once he became so obsessed with his own capacity for violence that he began killing people on the battlefield indiscriminately. Once he became beyond control, Kokonoe devised a cryogenic cell to keep him in stasis and out of trouble. Needless to say, he eventually got out and is now a rogue force of destruction on the loose.
Because of his immense raw power Azrael’s body is equipped with a limiter that keeps his strength in check. Evil puppetmaster Relius Clover claims he will only remove this limiter once he kills his enemies, so the big guy wanders the world searching for opponents to destroy and devour while tracking his targets. What makes the Mad Dog so damn cool is, again, his demeanor. He engages in conversation in a perfectly lax manner with half-lidded, indifferent eyes, but when he finds a worthy opponent, he throws his arms out in a thoroughly intimidating “come at me bro” stance and lets his crazy out. That boy ain’t right.
It’s no surprise that this guy is a rushdown character. Lots of powerful punches and kicks. His Drive ability marks weak spots in the areas he strikes that can be struck to create more damage and nastier combos. He can also absorb projectiles and send them back, and his finisher is lifting up a huge chunk of earth with his opponent on it, throwing it into the sky, and then smashing the whole thing as it descends. BAMF, much?
Hazama is the head of the NOL’s intelligence department, where he was a mysterious and snarky figure with unclear motives until it was revealed that he is actually an artificial host body for Yuuki Terumi, a former member of the world-saving Six Heroes turned apocalyptic villain.
Hazama usually has a calm and condescending demeanor, but has maintained a twisted air of menace since being discovered for who he is. His classically gangsterish outfit complements his affinity for butterfly knives and as you can see, the man knows how to rock a fedora most villainously: with a partially concealed menacing glare. When he gets excited, Hazama is prone to psychotic outbursts, and that’s when he really earns his high ratings as the best villain in the series.
The contrast between his usual calm, cool, collected image and the insanity within makes for a great character. Hazama uses a Nox Nyctores (causality weapons that combine technology and magic), Ouroboros, which has a snake-like form which he uses like a grappling hook; like Scorpion’s harpoon in reverse except instead of “get over here!” it’s more like “here I come!” He can use it to pull himself immediately to his opponent for combos or to traverse to anywhere the screen almost instantly, making him an extremely mobile fighter. His hooded other half, Terumi is available as DLC in Chronophantasma.
I’ll meet you back here next week to for Rebel Two.