There tends to be a tradition with Arc System Works’ fighting games. The developer includes visual novel elements in its campaigns. We learn about the characters and their world through these episodes. Sometimes, we even shape their journeys with decisions. And with BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, that tradition continues. Moreover, it is executed in a way that helps introduce characters from each series, in case people may be unfamiliar, while also telling a story that explains why everyone is suddenly in the same place.
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle’s Episode Mode begins in a logical way, which is with BlazBlue. Ragna finds himself in this constructed space in another world, where select individuals plucked from different realms are fighting to prove themselves heroes. After introducing people to the format, Noel is pulled to act as his partner for a few rounds. Two of the most iconic and important characters in that series help us find our footing. It reassures us that things are familiar, even if they look and feel rather different. We will still get to make choices that can influence the course of the adventure or make us feel like we have some degree of control.
The Ragna and Noel partnership can end rather quickly, with the two separated. But this is a wise move, and one we will see happen often with each of the BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle Episodes, regardless of the series we are currently following. Continuing with the example offered in the introduction that focuses on the BlazBlue characters, players can see these other characters from Persona 4 Arena, RWBY and Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] through Ragna’s eyes. They are as unfamiliar to him as they may be to the person playing, providing an easy way to introduce people and establish them as characters. Ragna acts as a control, offering access to a fighter that is easy to learn and has been a video game staple since 2008. Whenever new folks appear, we get to have one on our side and meet two others.
This acts as a springboard into the other Episodes. Once you have waded into BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle’s campaign introduction by seeing Ragna’s first steps, the Persona, RWBY and Under Night In-Birth stories all open up. You have plenty of save slots, letting you go through them one at a time or jump around stories between chapters. Each one of them tends to focus on one or two specific characters from the series, to help you better understand who they are, their motives and their playstyles. I found this especially helpful for RWBY, a series I had no experience with prior to playing, as Ruby Rose worked well as a relatively easy to character to use and an open personality.
And for people who may be coming to BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle because they liked these series other than BlazBlue, the Episode structure is a good way to introduce this fighter’s mechanics before they go into Survival Mode, Versus Mode or even the training Tactics Mode. In the first two chapters, things are not terribly difficult. It is more about familiarizing yourself with the situation and backgrounds behind characters, then seeing how they interact. It is an opportunity to go from, “Hey, these people look cool!” to “This person is a ranged fighter who is good at keeping up pressure, and I feel like I can put together some interesting strategies when using them.”
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle’s Episode Mode takes a staple and continues to use it in a way that makes a game accessible. It introduces us to all these characters in a way that is not demeaning, as we are seeing people we may be more familiar with encountering them as strangers too. It offers fights that let us learn about characters in an environment that is not too intimidating. Its combination of matches and visual novel segments helps ease people into the crossover and get comfortable.
BlazBlue” Cross Tag Battle will come to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC via Steam in North America on June 5, 2018 and in Europe on June 22, 2018. It is immediately available in Japan and Asia.