Black Rock Shooter: The Game – Style, And A Bit Of Substance

By Yusouf . April 29, 2013 . 1:20pm

BRS_PT_01

The year is 2051. Earth has plunged into chaos, having been turned into a catastrophic warzone from an unexpected alien attack 19 years prior. What is left of humanity are twelve men fighting for their lives in this futile war, preparing for the worst.  In this dark time, there is no wish more desired than a saviour. Someone that can stand toe-to-toe against these heartless invaders. That saviour is named Black Rock Shooter.

 

At first glance, Black Rock Shooter: The Game appears to have the potential to deliver an interesting premise, with a multitude of characters and a dark setting. The gloomy atmosphere and the fear of being alone is one of the game’s major themes, but somehow the story fails to offer any kind of emotional impact over the course of the game, spiralling into a horribly disjointed experience. The plot is a confusing hodge-podge, providing near zero background knowledge of the world and its characters, leaving players confused as to what’s actually going on within this supposedly complex war.

 

Over the course of her journey, the Black Rock Shooter finds out more about herself, but only to an extent, and by the end of the game, it really doesn’t matter much, due to the weak writing and gaping plot holes.

 

BRS_PT_02

In addition to the weak and confusing storytelling aspect, characters in Black Rock Shooter: The Game are constructed from the stereotypical clichés present in most anime. Furthermore, character interactions feel forced and unnatural, and listening to them interact in-game can be awkward at times. For example, the game attempts a Metal Gear Solid-esque vibe during communications in-game, where a system similar to MGS’ Codec is used. Unlike MGS, though, the conversations range from laughable to aggravating, and provide no real help in understanding the story or setting better. Character motivation are underplayed, and as a result, it is very difficult to care for any of the characters introduced.

 

Black Rock Shooter’s one saving grace aside from its aesthetics is its gameplay, where it attempts to splice a third-person shooter element into what is essentially an RPG. It seems bizarre at first, but the system really works, as the main character utilises a cannon to dispatch her enemies. In BRS, enemies are visible on the world map, and coming into contact with them will shift her onto a different plane where gameplay switches to a third-person shooter style. There are 3 basic actions BRS can do in combat—shoot, guard and dodge.

 

BRS_PT_03

Shooting and dodging will slowly fill up your Heat Gauge, and when it is completely filled, BRS will go into an overheated state and become unable to perform any actions. Guarding, on the other hand, does not fill up the Heat Gauge, but it will completely halt its recovery. Managing the Heat Gauge is essential for survival, and enemy attacks can get quite varied in the later stages, which makes battles quite intense. Learning to dodge and guard at the best possible moments can be a challenge, and coming out of a battle unscratched can be quite satisfying.

 

Skills are another essential feature of combat and they must be equipped in a loadout before they can be used in battle. BRS can equip a maximum of four combat skills in a loadout, and unlimited amount of passive skills, assuming she has learnt them beforehand. Learning skills involve BRS completing challenges, which can range from killing a certain amount of enemies to killing specific enemies with specific skills. Usually, it’s the former. Skills do not require MP to cast, but they have a specific cooldown timer, with the stronger ones requiring longer cooldown.

 

In the event that you need to heal, you can access an item menu that will the provide necessary resources for healing. When the item menu is opened, time will also stop, giving you ample moment to strategize or even take a breather from the relentless enemy attacks before deciding on the best course of action to take next. However, caution must be applied as items can only be obtained from enemies and treasure chests. There are no shops in the game, sp to stock up on healing items, you’ll need to kill several weak enemies first and hope they drop the necessary item before taking on the more difficult bosses.

 

As an RPG, Black Rock Shooter is a sharp steer from the traditional format since there’s also no equipment to be found, no shops selling items, and no NPCs to talk to throughout the game, aside from a single mission.

 

BRS_PT_04

Black Rock Shooter is structured for portable play. Load times are non-existent , which is always a plus in a portable game, and story missions are separated into bite sized chapters,  which makes it perfect to play on the go. Missions are usually around the 10 – 15-minute mark; unfortunately, save points are the only method of saving and there is no suspend save function to be found in game. Dying is also not penalised, as challenge completion is still counted whenever BRS dies, as long as the “Retry” option is selected instead of “load”.

 

On the downside, Black Rock Shooter feels like it’s been artificially padded a little too much at times. Quite a number of missions require BRS to defeat all the aliens in the area before proceeding, which can be bothersome when you are trying to speed run through the game, or to just enter the battle phase and end it with a single shot due to being over-levelled, wasting precious time. Additionally, while it’s commendable that the game tries to include variety in its missions by having a level dedicated to dodging and slashing enemies on a bike with style, this aspect of it is very underutilized. The bike missions are quite enjoyable by themselves and it would have been nice to see more of these levels but with different enemy attack patterns.

 

BRS_PT_05

Ultimately, Black Rock Shooter: The Game looks like an anime and plays like one, but a mediocre one at that. The combat manages to eclipse the weak writing, but only to an extent, and it feels like none of the potential the story had was tapped even in the slightest. The main story can be completed in roughly 9-11 hours, and there’s some post-game content for completionists to unlock as well, ranging from costumes to concept art. Unfortunately, the game simply tries to pack too much into a short amount of time and the result is less than satisfactory.

 

Food for thought:

1. BRS’ soundtrack is amazingly good. Imageepoch has some really good composers in-house. Check out the Fate/Extra and 7th Dragon 2020 soundtracks, too, if you’re interested in hearing some of their work.

 

2. BRS comes with Japanese audio with subtitles. Some boss encounters are not subtitled, but these consist only of a few spoken lines.

 

3. The Character designs by Black Rock Shooter creator Huke are fantastic, and they translate well into polygons. Overall, the game is very stylish.

 

4. There are some localisation discrepancies with the aliens’ names, but these are for the better, as the original readings are impossible to pronounce and the localised reading are taken from the aliens’ katakana names.

 


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  • KuchikiSentou

    That confirms it for me then. I’m not waiting for this game to come to Europe.
    Time to dust off the ol’ US PSN.

    • Romored

      It’s already out in Europe, afaik.

      • KuchikiSentou

        Jeebus!! Nice save!!
        Now hopefully, news on Dragon’s Crown EU release..

  • Göran Isacson

    An interesting experiment in other words, but not necessarily a succesful one. Can’t say I expected much of the story to begin with so hearing it’s bad isn’t TOO big of a deal to me. Might get it if I find it cheap somewhere, although considering how rare it will be finding this cheap may be a tall order…

    • http://twitter.com/#!/kaishou Kaishou

      Well since it’s digital only (eng ver), you can only hope for a sale.

  • http://truner.beluva.hu/ Truner Razer

    My favorite PSP game, finally out in English! I’ve played through the Japanese version twice and didn’t hesitate when it appeared on the american PSN. Really fun game and something that should be cherished. As I said before, NISA is really the best for bringing this over! :)

    • RoxasTheUnknown1

      *internet high-five!* Played this in jp. Loved it. Now that I can actually read it. Love it more. Now if only NISA could nab 7th Dragon 2020/2020-ii from SEGA and Sol trigger too then all would be right with the universe.

      • http://truner.beluva.hu/ Truner Razer

        Oh god yes, the 7th Dragon 2020 games look soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good!

    • miyamoto

      Best PSP game I ever played. Period. Runners up are SD Gundam G Gen World, KH:BBS,

      I hope Toukiden is as good as BRS:The Game or better

      • http://truner.beluva.hu/ Truner Razer

        Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix is another very good game that I have played for around 600 hours now. XD Definitely a good timewaster. I played a 3D arena Gundam game, but it wasn SD. I still kind of liked it. Gotta see what Toukiden is.

  • Laith Rem

    I don’t think the story is bad actually. It’s a story that is about the sleeping girl that wakes up at the beginning and all that happens around her. Humanity’s war against the aliens or the origin of the latter are inconsequential to her so they are not shown. And they not need to be since they are unimportant. It’s a very minimalistic story.

    • http://truner.beluva.hu/ Truner Razer

      First of, you win an internet for your avatar. Second, the story of this game feels like a really twisted version of “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland”

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000442928254 Zak Ledward

        If you want a twist of Alice in wonderland go play the American Mcgee’s Alice series, that’ll twist your pretzel

        • http://truner.beluva.hu/ Truner Razer

          Been there, done that. Loved it! :D

    • Clifford Michael

      I totally get this. And thinking of the story as BRS’s experience gives me a new appreciation for the game. Yes it was shallow when compared to other JRPGs, but it never really set out to be a groundbreaking piece of work to begin with. It was there to cater to the fans of BRS. And that could be said about pretty much the entire franchise. It’s a franchise for fans, by fans. I didn’t buy the game expecting a deep story, I bought the game expecting to see BRS kick butt. And I’m satisfied.

    • Sayorain

      I think ultimately like the anime it focuses more on the character interaction between BRS and others. Hence the interactions with humans and later Nana. Pretty much, we already can easily assume that the world is fucked, humanity is extinct, etc. I think it’s just character connection that makes it worthwhile….

      except when you get into the ending of stage 3. My god. why.

  • Nightmesh

    I felt the same way about the story. So much so that I’ve started skipping it all together to just fight. I really like the battle system. I thought it was going to be really dull based on videos of it but its actually faster then I thought.

    I get this strange feeling like there is this one person on the internet that’s just going to say the story made more sense and was better in the Japanese version. I feel it in my bones!

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Tohsaka

      ‘I get this strange feeling like there is this one person on the internet
      that’s just going to say the story made more sense and was better in
      the Japanese version. I feel it in my bonesl’

      More than one person, every game, not looking and this is true.

    • suppaguy

      The story wasn’t that bad! Ok, maybe it was, but if you want nonsensical story go watch the OVAs. Funny how both of these BRS spinoffs consist of nice fight-scenes but lacking story.

  • Alex Sargeant

    Very glad it was only released at $20. I knew I wasn’t going to really get anything -that- amazing. It was still a neat ride to tide me over until Soul Sacrifice.

  • DesmaX

    I’m just a sucker for good battle system, so I’m really enjoying this game… Even though I find the “Challenges” annoying, I dislike when games tries to reward you for doing nothing special

  • Carlos Daniel Flores Loreto

    Any info regarding why this isn’t available in Mexico and Canada?
    What kind of licensing issues could the game have in these countries?

  • http://twitter.com/Talosizanagi Blank Slato

    I’m canadian so I’m sad.

    • Freud_Hater

      You and me both, buddy. No idea why they’re not giving this to us :/

      • Kevadu

        I would blame Canda, but this is like the one time when that wouldn’t really make sense ;)

      • ShadowDivz

        I know, i wanted to play this on my vita so badly.

  • Freud_Hater

    Well, I’d interested, but I live in Canada… soooo I have absolutely no way of buying this. SORRY!

  • Brimfyre

    The story isn’t a masterpiece and maybe it helps to have low expectations, but it is turning out to be way better than I expected.

    All the soldiers are horrible and forgettable but that is kind of the point. The last of humanity is a bunch of American 80s movie cliche’s. And at first BRS seems like she will just be Rei Ayanami, but she develops a nice dry sense of humor. And Rothcall is the most likable of the humans and he needs to be. It isn’t bad.

    I still think the premise itself is really great, despite how it is handled. Humanity’s ultimate weapon wakes up when there is only 12 people left on Earth. It’s kind of like, what’s the point of even trying to fight at that point? Luckily after Level 3 they take it a step further.

    It’s by far the best Fiction of all BRS media so far.

    • GODDUKEMONEXA

      you must admit the story is better than anime and the ova

      • ShadowDivz

        OVA was kinda all over the place, but the fight scenes were really nice.

        The anime is just…. *shudders.*

        Then again, most animes are boring highschool crap, but it was really a step too far.

      • Brimfyre

        That’s is why I said it was the best BRS Fiction so far.

        I hated the OVA but I actually really liked the anime. I thought the characters were more likable but I know I’m in the minority.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jin.lee.7927 Minasuki Sasuko

        The anime has a really nice story i don’t know what you are talking about and this too i don’t see whats bad about this

    • JohnNiles

      So the last 12 humans are dudebros? ._. That’s not quite what I was expecting… maybe something more along the lines of 999/Zero Escape.

      Ah well, I’m still open to buying it.

      • Brimfyre

        I think that might be the joke. Basically the guys from Gears of War need help of a teenage girl to save the world.

        Edit: But don’t worry. They aren’t in there that much at all.

  • Zonic505

    Sounds like the kind of game to wait to be on sale. Sounds decent enough, but I think I’ll work on my backlog while I wait for this to be 1/2 off or so.

  • derfwub

    The composer is Manabu Namiki, by the way. He composed for many of CAVE’s STGs, as well as some classics like Battle Garegga, Armed Police Batrider, Desert War, etc. This is definitely one of his best soundtracks, I highly recommend tracking it down if you can.

  • Juan Manuel M. Suárez

    If you think the story is a mess, don’t even go near the anime as that’s a convolluted mess of epic proportions~.

  • Jesse

    I kind of liked some of the survivors, like Marion and Rothcall.

  • Ricardo C

    I finished this game on Sunday morning (around 1 am). I liked it for what it is. Boss fights can be hard at times if you dont have the right skill set for them but so far I made very little change to my skill set and change them back when needed. The final boss fight has been the best I’ve fought for a PSP game and the music for the final battle is worth the wait if you haven’t spoiled yourself already.

  • Christopher Nunes

    True the story isn’t amazing, but the gameplay is! No matter how many times I fight I love the combat system but I believe it can be fleshed out even more, improved if you will.

    The triangle button isn’t used for anything so I was thinking of interesting way of having it map to BRS’ sword since she uses it and closes the gap between her enemy and slashes them but is risky because you can’t dodge or block during this state and have to time it right so you don’t get hit or have the enemy warp from their spot.

    And I dislike how the dodging works at time when I know I successful get out of the way of an enemy’s attack range only to somehow get hit still and if I dodge back I still get hit so I have to block.

    One thing I’m disappointed about is that you don’t really get to understand the characters that much, the antagonist more so. I wanted to know more about the enemies the characters are fighting but we really don’t get any other info about them aside they are the enemy and they die after one boss battle instead of them retreating at first and finish them off later. There’s some backstory to them but you don’t really know that much about them and with their unique personalities it’s sad that you don’t get to understand them a bit better overtime.

    The Post-Game content is the closest we’re getting to learning about the characters more, but still… no Database to give more backstory or such is a bit of a letdown. If there’s a sequel for this game in the future I really hope they improve upon the writing a bit. So far the manga’s story seems a bit better than the game. And I enjoy the Challenges, trying to max out BRS’ skills and stats (but it seems like BRS stops increasing her stats after LV40 even though her max level is 50).

    The story is short, but the game has a ton of things to do after the story is done and unlockables which I like as I’m trying to unlock everything and clear out all the Challenges.

    Not a perfect game, but I really enjoyed it! I give it a 8/10 because the game’s combat system is awesome and challenging at times, since you only have a limit of 5 of the same item each which means you have to use it sparingly and at the right time otherwise you have no items to heal you when you need it, and even at max level and/or max skills you can’t one-shot every enemy and boss and you have to work hard and fight strategically to minimize damage, perfect usage of the Heat Gauge, and timing your attacks just right… simply bashing the shoot button will get you killed easily at the end of the game.

  • http://twitter.com/JonasPolsky Jonas Polsky

    Black Mesa Shooter

  • Yuriangels

    by the way, u guys know how much its going to cost?

    • Herok♞

      I believe it was $20 when I checked PSN

    • SpecDotSign

      It’s $20 on PSN.

  • https://www.behance.net/cobaltcomet KOKAYI5

    The game was fun, but all the villains are killed off quickly. No one get any development. You have a conversation before the boss battle then they’re dead. And BRS herself develops but not into anything new. I had fun but I don’t want to play it again. And the motorcycle parts, not being able to to shoot unless you dodge 5 times? What? C’mon.

    • Laith Rem

      The Post-game missions give the aliens a lot of character.

  • http://otoboku.se manga

    So far the storyline has been the saving grace of this game for me. I attach easily to game characters and thus having spoken with Rothcall that much gives me a warm feeling. Even the major and Phobos really stuck to me.

    What I don´t like is the battle system´s difficulty. Normal enemies are easily defeated. Bosses that are three times as fast and disfigure the auto aim function in battles are hard. Espacially as they shoot and move, something that you can´t really do as BRS. Which forces me into guarding for only a slight bit of reduced damage.

    When I´d want to evade instead. Managing the heat gauge is vital as I´ve been defeated more than once thanks to bad timing. I mean getting overheated just as the big bad boss does her/his most damaging fast attack is no good thing. What full health bar you say? hahaha that´s gone now and BRS defeated…

  • neogeno

    I cant get enough of the style and character designs in BRS. The story is alright to me. Its not every game where the entire human race gets purged. It was interesting to wonder what kind of crazy stuff was going to happen after humanity has been wiped out. I expected more but I understand that the story is more character focused.

    The game mechanics were alright but I feel it could have been expanded a bit. I felt a bit mislead when I figured out the battles don’t let you run about but instead slide.

  • Ladius

    As sad as it is, my personal experience with the game’s beginning pretty much mirrors this review. I really hope the game will be able to surprise me in the upcoming hours, but so far it’s one of the weakest jrpgs I have played in years :(

  • Rishtopher

    What I got from this review is basically that I’m not missing that much. That kind of works in my favour though, since I can’t even play it in my country.

  • wyrdwad

    FYI:

    “BRS’ soundtrack is amazingly good. Imageepoch has some really good composers in-house. Check out the Fate/Extra and 7th Dragon 2020 soundtracks, too, if you’re interested in hearing some of their work.”

    I can’t comment on Fate/Extra, but 7th Dragon 2020 wasn’t composed by anyone in-house at Imageepoch — rather, that soundtrack was composed by the legendary Yuzo Koshiro, known for his work on Ys I & II, Legacy of the Wizard, Actraiser, Streets of Rage, Etrian Odyssey and the Wangan Midnight games.

    So that game doesn’t really prove anything about Imageepoch’s in-house composers, save that they have good taste in third-party contractors. ;)

  • Go2hell66

    I kind of liked the storyline, the dark setting really works well in this game, but i can see what you mean by them giving you zero background which makes it really confusing, funny thing is a lot of animes tend to be like that these days. i think the battle system could have been great if they actually made the battles harder . eventually everything starts dying in 1-2 shots after a while so you just mash your way though the game.
    Soundtrack was amazing though cant argue there

  • michel

    Imageepoch are the Sorcerors of low budget games!

  • Hines Green III

    Honestly, I see BRS the game as like an end of the world mega man like thing. I don’t know, maybe I like to over think things but I really liked the story cause I get to play with theories .

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