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BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle Review

It's not just BlazBlue, it's a gateway into higher-level fighters.

Review by Mike Williams, .

I have conflicted feelings about BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. When it was first announced, I assumed it was just BlazBlue with some additional characters from Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth, and RoosterTeeth's RWBY. That's not the case, as evidenced by a roster that starts smaller than BlazBlue: Chronophantasma Extend; if this was just BlazBlue, all those characters would make the transition, since the game doesn't redraw any of those characters.

Newcomers Welcome

Instead, it's best to treat this as a different beast entirely. This is an entry-level title in the Arc System Works pantheon. It's designed to be a bit easier to get into without completely losing depth and veteran-level play. Given that the developer is responsible for a number of the leading modern fighting games, this is arguably a good idea.

Cross Tag Battle drops the the number of basic attack buttons from three to just two: Light and Heavy. The animations and attacks that would have fit in BlazBlue's three button system are now folded into auto combos, which can be done by pressing Light or Heavy Attack four times in a row. Characters move much faster and ground/air dashes can be mapped to a single button press.

Special moves are done with input commands, but everything is quarter-circle or down-down inputs. There's no Dragon Punch commands, though nearly every character has an anti-air Dragon Punch-type of move. Supers are done using the same motion for every character. There's an invincible reversal move. All the higher level moves, including recoveries, EX moves, are still here, just with more streamlined access.

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is a 2v2 fighter, and even tagging in is dead simple: you can tag in with the bottom button (B on Switch, X on PlayStation 4) or have your parter use one of three Assist moves with the shoulder button and a direction. Alternatively, if you need your partner in the fight immediately, you can activate Cross Burst, which brings them in to interrupt an attack, but prevents you from using them in combos for a short period of time.

Cross Tag Battle is simplified, but it's not like the skill gap is gone. This is a heavily offensive game; it's not as fast as Dragon Ball FighterZ, but the damage feels pretty high. Most of the moves above, like the Cross Burst, are easily punishable if you know what you're doing. Plus, traditional timed combos are still available here. Combined with the cancelling into a tag and you can set up some crazy combos.

Muddled Character

What the easier and more accessible mechanics add to BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is the ability to jump from character to character. Learning a new character is less difficult for a neophyte because all the basic motions and moves are the same. The important part is learning what type of character you're dealing with. You still have zoners, grapplers, or those who lean towards rush down play; it's just a matter of what suits you.

As I mentioned, the starting roster is a bit small, and that makes it feel like Arc System Works is rushing this release a bit. The game is launching with a cast of 20 characters from BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth, and RWBY. The roster heavily on the BlazBlue cast: you get 10 characters, with mainstays like Ragna and Jin joined by fan-favorites like Rachel and Azrael. Yu, Yosuke, Chie, and Yukiko make the transition from Persona 4 Arena; Hyde, Linne, Waldstein, and Gordeau come from the relatively niche Under Night In-Birth; and Ruby and Weiss are all-new characters hailing from RWBY.

Things get a little weird when you realize there are actually 40 characters planned for release this year. Arc System Works has promised that at least 31 characters will be available by Evo 2018, with BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle being one of the headlining games. But getting all those characters is a bit confusing. RWBY's Blake is available for free now, and the last member of the crew, Yang, will be available for free as well. Platinum from BlazBlue, Kanji from Persona 4 Arena, and Orie from Under Night In-Birth are available now as part of the Cross Tag Character Pack 1, which is free for the first two weeks, but will return to a $4.99 price tag after that. Finally, there's the All-in-One DLC Combo pack for $19.99, which gives you access to all six Character Packs planned for release.

Essentially, if you want the entire roster—and note, some of these characters are already opponents in base game's story mode, so you're just paying to unlock them—you're going to be paying a total of $70. And you have to wait for their release. After going out of its way to simplify the mechanics, it's a bit mystifying that Arc System Works made getting all the characters so complex.

Waiting in the Lobby

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is tied together by the Entrance, which is the same lobby system that Arc System Works has been using in Guilty Gear Xrd and Dragon Ball FighterZ. From this hub you can wander around, tackle the story in Episode Mode, learn the ins-and-outs of the game in Tactics Mode, using the Training Mode to practice your moves, Versus Play with a friend or the CPU, or really challenge yourself in Survival Mode. Playing online and offline nets you currency that you can use in the shop to buy Entrance avatars, tag stickers, or alternate colors for your fighters.

You can also jump into an online lobby to take on other players. Arc System Works is an old hand at online netcode and I didn't have many problems in my matches during the review period, even though I was playing on the Switch. There's a bit of lag and hitching when matches first connect, but the matches themselves ran fine. Only one match of mine was a bit of a mess, but your mileage may vary, especially around launch.

The rushed feeling of BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is carried forward into some of the additional modes. The tutorial, which is listed as Tactics in the menu, definitely teaches you everything, but it does so in such a dry manner. Episode Mode has a story that tries to explain why all these characters are together, but it's nowhere near as good as story modes from Persona 4 Arena or Dragon Ball FighterZ. And the Gallery mode is pretty threadbare in terms of extras.

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle is a solid fighter. I like the idea of streamlining some of the cruft that the BlazBlue series has acquired over the years and making a game that appeals to new players. As a new beginning, something that Arc System Works can build upon with characters from almost anything, I think this works. But the roster is pretty small unless you get into the mire of DLC. And the additional modes feel like the developer could've put forth a bit more effort, especially given some of their past work. It's worth your time, but I can't heartily recommend it.

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle has some great ideas, simplifying the mechanics of BlazBlue for newer players and bringing in characters from Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth, and RWBY. The core of the fighter works well, but the character roster is a bit small until you get into a mess of downloadable content. The additional modes also feel a bit dry and threadbare compared to Arc System Works' past efforts. This crossover is solid, but could use some tightening up as a full package.

3 /5

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle Review Mike Williams It's not just BlazBlue, it's a gateway into higher-level fighters. 2018-06-06T20:30:00-04:00 3 5

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Comments 13

  • Avatar for NateDizzy #1 NateDizzy 2 months ago
    I was about to pick this up, but then remembered I have many real world responsibilities that would keep me from enjoying even 1/10th of what this game has to offer. CURSE YOU, RESPONSIBILITIES! Gettin' in the way of my vidja games!Edited June 2018 by NateDizzy
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  • Avatar for nilcam #2 nilcam 2 months ago
    I'm an old hand at fighting games; I started with Street Fighter II in my college's student center. I adore this game! It puts the emphasis back on offense, where it belongs. The gameplay feels more like Persona 4 Arena than BB and that's perfectly fine with me. I prefer the P4A games to most other modern fighting games.

    I'm also on Switch and find the online to be excellent. For the record, I do use a Hori Ethernet adapter and have good internet speeds (75 down/25 up.) It's infinitely better than Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection.Edited June 2018 by nilcam
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  • Avatar for docexe #3 docexe 2 months ago
    It's no guarantee that I will be any good at it, but I like what it's mentioned about the game being more streamlined than other Arc System Works games. The crossover itself is also interesting as well.

    A shame about so many characters requiring the season pass, but that's the world we currently live in.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #4 Kuni-Nino 2 months ago
    You say it’s a gateway into higher level fighters, yet the opening paragraphs are all about how the whole system is dumbed down compared to Arc Sys’s superior games. I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense to me. Tbh, I’m getting annoyed of the recent trend in new fighting games to simplify themselves. SFV is starting to look complex in comparison which is not a good thing.

    I’ll let it pass here because it’s a tag game and these games are never supposed to be serious, but if Arc Sys does this to future GG and BB games, I’m going to be pissed. Fighting games are supposed to be about skill and and the ability to execute. Lowering that barrier only makes the games less entertaining to watch and to play.
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  • Avatar for nilcam #5 nilcam 2 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino I don't know if you played the demo but that cleared up a lot of the misconceptions I had of this game. I get what you're saying about execution being important and I think Cross Tag approaches execution in a different - and possibly - better manner than other fighters. Execution here is honestly more strict than SFIV or V; the difference is that the motions are simplified. Almost everything is on a quarter circle. The universal reversal system is simpler than a dragon punch motion and are more easily whiff punished. This comes almost directly from Persona 4 Arena. In P4A, a whiffed reversal put the character in a fatal counter state which increased the damage of the counter hit combo.

    I disagree with the widespread notion that this game is dumbed down. The emphasis is moved from complex stick/pad motions and more on movement and understanding the game's many systems. It's pretty tough to figure out the proper point to burst a combo string, for instance. The smart combo system is basically a glorified gatling system from older BB games. It generally branches from light to heavy to special and is very customizable. Chie can go AAA cancel that into BBB cancel that into a special; or she can AAA > BBB> partner assist > AAA >BBB > special; or AAA > BBB > Assist change > into the other character's strings. The depth is here and, when you come up against a skilled player, you definitely feel it. The pressure you're under is more oppressive than in any other game I've played.

    I'm honestly not sure Cross Tag will get people to play other games. Cross Tag is its own beast. It's faster than most fighting games and the damage is far higher than any other modern fighter. It's like using Super Street Fighter II Turbo as a gateway game.
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  • Avatar for TheWildCard #6 TheWildCard 2 months ago
    Ah, glad to see Mike did get time to review this.

    My initial impressions are despite some misgivings in terms of simplified controls (only two buttons for normal attacks, that also have autocombos mapped to them :/ ) this game is pretty fun. Really wish we had normal C attacks though instead of the clash attacks, seems like they wanted two buttons for it's own sake, which is not the right call imo. Some characters feel better than others though (haven't been keen on the Persona characters so far).

    It's a shame the package feels rushed though. For as much praise this and Fighterz is getting for making games more accessible to casuals they sure have been a significant step back in terms of single player content, which is most important to casual players. At least Tag has a good tutorial and mission stuff compare to Dragonball. Rushing this game just for the sake of EVO is going to undercut it significantly in the long term.

    That said the game is pretty fun. It feels more dynamic than Dragonball and has a better neutral game and defensive options compared to hyper rushdown orientation of the later.Edited June 2018 by TheWildCard
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #7 Kuni-Nino 2 months ago
    @nilcam Thanks for illuminating it further. I’m glad to hear that it has more flexibility than something like DBFZ. While I respect that game, I sort of hate the kind of game it is with its lack of defensive options and nonexistent neutral. I’m not that interested in Cross Tag’s roster but I might give it a shot somewhere down the line.
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  • Avatar for nilcam #8 nilcam 2 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino No problem. My interest in this game was a roller coaster; some weeks I was excited, other weeks I was a pass. The beta/demo was very helpful in convincing me to buy it. I find that I like simpler fighting games; Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Super Turbo are definitely high water marks in the genre.

    This game has some great defensive options as well. The reversals have some start up invulnerability kind of like a light punch DP in Super Turbo. They go much higher and are more easily punished. For 1 bar of meter, you can perform a push block. It pushes the attacker a full screen away; if they're in the corner, the character doing the push block gets pushed back nearly full screen. There's a partner burst which calls in the other character who performs a hard knock down on the character. This fully depletes the tag/assist bar but builds resonance. I don't see a turtle style being possible in this game. Movement is too good - double jump, air dash, instant air dash, super jump, super jump air dash; you can even jump again after a super jump.

    There are three meters in the game - special, assist, and resonance. Special is standard and can be used for special moves, EX moves, and push blocking. This one maxes out at 5 bars, I think; during level 4 resonance blaze, it maxes out at 9. The assist bar is divided into two halves. Each assist or tag, costs one half. If you cancel the assist into a partner switch, the assist meter builds fast. The resonance meter is filled by using partner skills and assists. Once one character is knocked out, the remaining character can initiate resonance blaze which refills health, builds meter much faster, and increases chip damage to the opponent.

    TL;DR: If you have the chance, I'd recommend renting or playing a friend's copy. It's a really good fighting game. I'd rate it 4.5/5.Edited June 2018 by nilcam
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  • Avatar for Wellman2nd #9 Wellman2nd 2 months ago
    I really like the demo that I played on Switch but I will wait for a discount or a price drop. Because I want the DLC characters but I am not wanting to pay for just 20 characters even at $40.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #10 link6616 2 months ago
    @nilcam right? This game was a full spectrum of emotions, I first thought it was a fairly eh during the beta, but bought it anyway, blown away by the story mode. Then started really tinkering and honestly I think this might be my new marvel 3.

    Expect to see my Naoto (p4a) nu team at evo 2019 winning.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #11 MHWilliams 2 months ago
  • Avatar for nilcam #12 nilcam 2 months ago
    @MHWilliams@link6616 Yosuke is my guy from P4A. I love his movement and speed. I haven't played enough of Persona 4 to comment on his personality.
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  • Avatar for Senperfecct #13 Senperfecct 2 months ago
    I like such kind of games and also I think my daughter will like it as well because she loves amime
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