BlazBlue: Central Fiction (PS4) - ReviewEvan Norris , posted on 28 November 2016 / 9,542 Views
BlazBlue is not an easy series to get into. With so many sequels, enhanced editions, and spin-off media, it can be more than a little intimidating. It doesn't have the cachet of series like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. Yet it's a franchise equal - and in some cases superior - to those well-worn franchises. The latest (and perhaps last) game in the 2D fighting saga is BlazBlue: Central Fiction, the most feature-rich and balanced installment yet.
Unlike many fighters which boast single player experiences that are basically glorified arcade modes, Central Fiction features a deep and captivating story mode that plays out like a season of an especially good anime. It's actually more visual novel than anything, with storylines and sub-plots carried over from previous installments. The story revolves around the Novus Orbis Librarium (NOL), a multi-national organization that monitors and, in some cases, suppresses dangerous sources of power.
While the story in Central Fiction, which thankfully summarizes the events of the preceding three games for series newcomers, is one of the title's highlights, it is seriously convoluted, even for those who've been along for the ride since it started in 2008. With so many supporting characters and through-lines it can be difficult to make sense of the proceedings. Still, with hours of dialogue and lots of character development, the story mode is one of the game's strongest points, even if it's missing the English voice-overs of previous installments.
In terms of gameplay, Central Fiction scores even more points. Many of the mechanics that define the series, including three-button attacks, horizontal and vertical mobility, and the "drive" system, return. New mechanics include "Exceed Accel," a super-move that deals huge damage, and "Active Flow," which rewards aggressive players with boosted damage and recovery. If it all sounds overwhelming, that's because it is. Luckily, Central Fiction includes a robust tutorial and an easy mode called "Stylish" for rookies.
These additions might seem relatively minor, but they work well with what Central Fiction, and BlazBlue in general, are trying to accomplish: a balanced, competitive 2D fighter that discourages passive fighting techniques. The learning curve is steep, no doubt, but the rewards for mastering the complexity of the system are worthwhile.
Apart from training and story modes, Central Fiction includes several other modes to keep players coming back. There's score attack; Speed Star mode, a take on time attack; and, best of all, Grim of Abyss. Similar in design to Onimusha's "Dark Realm," Grim of Abyss asks players to take down opposing fighters through multiple levels, strengthening their characters along the way.
In addition to lots of challenge modes and gameplay tweaks, Central Fiction hosts 35 fighters (including unlockable and DLC characters), by far the most of any game in the series. One of the more interesting newcomers is Hibiki Kohaku, a NOL captain who fights with traps and duplicates of himself. Complementing Hibiki and the rest of the roster are some gorgeous musical tracks and amazingly drawn levels that look like something torn from Steamboy or Rintaro's Metropolis.
BlazBlue might not be a household name, but it's one of the finest 2D fighting series on the market today. Central Fiction, ostensibly the last of the saga, is its best. With a huge cast of characters, several challenge modes, and deep, involving gameplay, it stands as a worthy addition to fighting fans' libraries. Patience is required to overcome an initial learning curve and a cheat sheet necessary to decode its mythology, but those willing to persevere will reap a nice reward.
This review is based on a digital copy of BlazBlue: Central Fiction for the PS4, provided by the publisher.