Initiation: Blazblue: Calamity Trigger

Welcome back to the second edition of Initiation, where our writers talk about a series, franchise or genre that they have never played. This week I’ll be telling you about my first time with the popular anime fighting game series, Blazblue: Calamity Trigger developed by Arc System Works.

The Evolution Championship Series, an annual esports tournament for fighting games, has a huge influence on the fighting game community. It’s safe to say that the event is pretty indicative of the top and most popular games to compete in within the West. With the conclusion of Evo 2014, upsets were made and Wongers were raised. It’s a fantastic time to see the state of the game and how far players have progressed in the last year in their games of choice. After watching all of the finals, one particular series that interested me was Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma, the third official game in the Blazblue series. You don’t have to be a seasoned fighting game veteran to understand the tension between the two players who fought their hearts out for the tournament prize. While it was one of the smaller games at Evo, the final series was the closest I’ve ever seen from any fighting game match.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard of the Blazblue series, but I had yet to touch one of their games. With a fighting itch just waiting to be scratched, I decided to grab a copy of Calamity Trigger, the first game in the series. The game was released in 2009, so I was a little curious as to how it’d hold up to modern fighting game standards.

I’m happy to say I’m not disappointed with the game. Even with its age, Calamity Trigger manages to retain a classy and stylistic aesthetic that is prevalent everywhere from its logo, to the main menu, to the round calls within a versus match. Being an anime fighting game, there are no 3D models to be seen here, every frame is meticulously drawn to reflect a character's current pose or action, be it pulling out a gun or getting struck. I’m also pleased to report that super moves still look sweet as ever, even after five years.

The game brings you in with little knowledge to go on apart from a manual that explains controls and advanced maneuvers. Other than that, the game lacks a tutorial mode that may make it a little difficult for beginners to the genre to jump into the action. Fortunately, experienced players won’t have much to complain about in regards to the control scheme and learning curve. After a half hour into the training mode, I had a good grasp of how to play the game properly.

There are a few different modes to play through, such as a story mode, an arcade mode that simulates the traditional arcade play-style of fighting multiple rounds of enemies, standard versus, and a training mode to practice your skills. There is also a gallery to view unlocked art and listen to the game's fantastic music.

The story mode is probably the coolest part of Calamity Trigger, which plays out like a visual novel with standing character graphics and a few full CG art frames scattered within. Each character's story mode is relatively short and consist of four to five battles that can be finished within 20 minutes. However, within each character’s arc are a few different paths that will unlock alternate endings or extra art. Finding these is always a treat, but also a little difficult because they require certain conditions to be fulfilled. That said, completing a character's story will only give you a piece of puzzle, and so you must complete every character’s story to have a good understanding of the plot.

Though the game’s plot was told in bite-sized portions and can be hard to follow, I enjoyed the story and thought it was very interesting, especially for a fighting game. The general setting and premise of the story has a dark undertone to it  but there are some comedic events and side-stories you can view to lighten up the mood.

Oh, and did I mention the soundtrack of the game is amazing? Cause it’s amazing.

With just a few hours of playing, I found myself more and more absorbed into the world of Blazblue. The fighting and gameplay works very well, and is certainly satisfying to work through, but the biggest selling point of the game is the universe that the series is built on. With a large cast of diverse and interesting characters within a dark and engaging story, the game could have been anything other than a fighting game and it’d likely still be a treat to play.

Consider myself initiated: I’ll be picking up a copy of Arc Systems Works’ newest entry Chrono Phantasma in the coming weeks.

And that’s it for this month’s Initiation! Check back next week for a variety of interesting feature reads.