Since its inception in 2009, BlazBlue has carried the torch of anime-based fighting games in both the East and the West. Now after six years, three sequels, and two extended editions, and even the revival of the Guilty Gear series, it still remains something of a gold standard for fighting game fans. With this in mind, Central Fiction can be seen as a tribute to everything BlazBlue. The game features new characters who had previously been NPCs, nearly every piece of music, stage, and special attacks from previous games, and mixes them with entirely new elements unique to this title. All of this certainly makes for an impressive package, but how does it stand up to other current fighting games? That is a question that will take a bit of time to answer.
The first thing you will likely notice upon booting up Central Fiction is just how many much stuff there is to do and see. Beginning with single player modes of play you have the typical arcade mode, where you battle eight characters in a row with minimal story elements thrown in, Score Attack, which is arcade mode with am online ranking board, Speedstar, a variation of score attack with a time limit. On the multiplayer side of things you have versus mode and not much else, but I honestly think that is all you really need. Unlimited Mars, a mode which pitted players against incredibly powerful versions of characters, is sadly absent here, so those seeking an extreme challenge will have to look elsewhere.
Beyond all the brawling found elsewhere in the game, Central Fiction also boasts a rather lengthy story mode that will take between 20-40 hours to finish depending on how fast you read. While I won't say anything about the actual content, as I don't want to spoil any of the crazy things that happen within it, the story is as well written as a fighting game story can be and wraps up most of the dangling plotlines from Chrono Phantasma. However, and much to my annoyance, several characters from BlazBlue spin-offs are included as key players in the plot, which can be confusing for player's like me who haven't kept up anything Blazblue related beyond the main games.
What is most interesting about this iteration of the story mode is that it is incredibly serious and does away with most of the goofy elements of past story modes. This means no Teach Me Miss Litchi, no Help Me Professor Kokonoe and only a handful of gag reels that rehash elements from the other BlazBlue games. This is a bit of a letdown, as I always looked forward to this sort of thing to break up the seriousness of the main story. In their place are side stories that explain what various side characters are doing during the main plot. While I agree that this was a good way to show off the game's vast cast, the silliness of the gag reels will still be missed.
Gameplay wise, minor improvements have been made to the combat system with the inclusion of Overdrive super moves, a move that can only be activated during Overdrive by pressing all four face buttons at once, and minor adjustments of returning characters. But perhaps the most exciting thing here is the many new characters that join the party for Central Fiction. Avoiding spoilers, such previously unplayable characters as the Izanami, Nine the Phantom, Naoto Kurogane, Mai Natsume, and Hibiki Kohaku all make up the cast of newcomers and play in new and interesting ways. In addition, both characters from Chrono Phantasma Extend (Celica and Lambda-11) return as well, making them new to players who passed on that game. However, characters such as Nine and the secret character unlocked after completing story mode, feel overpowered and might be in need of re-balancing in the future.
There is one critical flaw in Central Fiction's otherwise excellent existence, is the fact that is it completely lacks an English dub. I can't really say is this was due to how lengthy the story mode is, or to get the game out closer to the Japanese release date, but it really is no fun to no longer have the option to have the excellent English dub in place of the original Japanese. There were many characters, such as Platinum the Trinity, that I enjoyed hearing far more in English than Japanese and the loss of that voice make me a little bit sad every time I choose her for a match.
In all Central Fiction is a step up over every BlazBlue game that has come before it. By refining its combat down to its base elements, and tempering it with just enough new features and characters to keep things fresh, it manages to provide an experience that fans of the series will likely enjoy greatly and presents the best place for new fans to jump in as well. I really hope that there isn't any Extend version of this game, as there was with prior BlazBlue titles because adding any more to the mountain that is this game just seems unnecessary.
BlazBlue: Central Fiction was reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation 3.
Blazblue: Central Fiction represents the best and most refined version of a game that has been evolving since 2009. If you've ever wanted to pick up a 2D anime fighting game, this is the one to get.
- Bring the story of Blazblue to an end in a satisfying manner.
- New characters are interesting and, for the most part, balanced.
- Story mode is more refinded and easier to navigate then in past titles.
- Gameplay is refined and easy to jump into, but diffcult to master.
- References to spin-off titles in the franchise may confuse even long time fans.
- At least one new character is in need of rebalancing.
- Graphics are looking a little dated.
- DLC characters are expensive by most standards at 7 $ a peice.