I’ve spoken before about how I believe that videogames are art, and, in many cases, what’s important about a game is how it makes the player feel. Whether a game makes you happy, sad, or annoyed, we are primal creatures at heart, and will always remember our feelings on a particular game long after we’ve forgotten exactly what Sephiroth was actually trying to do. We are human, and we remember our feelings about anyone and anything long after we’ve forgotten the finer details of the matter that brought us to those feelings. How a videogame makes you feel is important.
That said, BlazBlue: Central Fiction makes me feel… impotent.
BB:CF is the latest, and theoretically final, chapter in the BlazBlue saga that started with BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger. If those words make no sense, just be aware that BlazBlue is a fighting game series with a deathly melodramatic storyline that almost puts Kingdom Hearts to shame. Seriously, here’s a portion of the cast of BlazBlue: Central Fiction:
- Ragna the Bloodedge
- Ragna, but as a King of Fighters character
- Ragna’s brother
- Ragna’s brother, but in armor
- Ragna’s sister
- Ragna’s sister, but as a robot
- Ragna’s sister, but as an obsessive robot
- Ragna’s sister, but as a stoic robot
- Ragna’s sister, but as a bad guy
- Michael Jackson
- Michael Jackson, but in a rain slicker
Throw in Squirrel Girl, a generic gothic lolita vampire, and No-Face, and we’ve got a complete cast of 35 playable characters. And each one of those jerks has a comprehensive backstory, ridiculous powers, and enough dreams to put Kirby to shame. This is clearly the final chapter because the roster has become unwieldy, and it could collapse at any moment if the catgirl accidently beats the muscled arena monster (which one? Who cares). The adage has always been that paying attention to the story in a fighting game is akin to reading erotic friend-fiction for the plot, but there are some people that slurp this nonsense up like delicious udon.
And I, as you likely know, am one of these people.
The BlazBlue plot is complete nonsense tied to a decent fighting game, and that’s all it takes for me. BlazBlue is fun to play! I like the characters, how the controls feel, and the bevy of interesting special moves and “systems” that apply to each character. On a whole, the franchise has always felt like “Street Fighter 2, but a little more complicated”, and, since that “complicated” seems to push the game into a more offensive (as in the opposite of defensive, and not as in “our president elect”) direction, I’ve always been a fan. The fact that my imagination gets to run wild every time I learn a new character and clear arcade mode is just a nice bonus between bouts. Oh, this well-endowed brunette is trying to save a bookworm that turned into a bag of bugs? Well, that’s neat, back to the fight.
And then there’s the actual Story Mode.
BlazBlue Story Mode… let’s not mince words here, it has always wanted to be a damn visual novel. And that’s terrible. There are a lot of videogame genres that mix well with the visual novel format (JRPGs, TRPGs… uh… instruction manuals?), but the basic essence of a fighting game is adrenaline, and “get ready to sit around and read” does not have anything to do with fighting. I can think of a worse fit for the visual novel format, but BlazBlue, game after game, seems to send more and more words at a pretty basic plot (bad guy wants to resurrect great evil and destroy the world, good guy dislikes this). Yes, there are magical weapons and six legendary heroes and betrayal and sex and sister clones and some manner of ninja running around, but it all adds up to a story that should be 90% show and 10% tell. I know more about puppet master Relius Clover from his super move that traps an opponent in a medieval torture device than from eighteen characters in story mode claiming “Oh, that guy is evil”.
But, despite my protests, I’ve played through almost all of the BlazBlue story modes. Why?
Because I’m an idiot Because it’s presented well. BlazBlue might throw a novel’s worth of text at me, but it’s all voice-acted, and I can “enjoy” the story less like reading a book and more like watching a movie. It’s not a very animated movie, but it’s passable, and it’s enough that I’ll at least give it a go some lazy Saturday afternoon. I am kind of curious why Michael Jackson picked up a raincoat, after all.
But Central Fiction makes that experience a lot more difficult to swallow for one simple reason: BlazBlue: Central Fiction does not have an English dub.
In the grand scheme of things, this is not a big deal, and I understand the thinking. There are 35 characters in this game (and that’s not including incidental characters like the two tailed cat or that one nurse character that keeps hanging around), so that requires, give or take, 35 voice actors (or at least a healthy number of voice actors with excellent range). And voice actors gots to get paid, son. And this isn’t just a Zelda situation with dialogue like “running grunts” and “rolling grunts”; no, this franchise always has that damn Story Mode, so some lucky voice actor has to record a movie’s worth of dialogue for the “star” character. So, before we even get going, we’ve got a pile of time and money pumped into a “feature” that, let’s be honest, is nowhere near the main draw of the franchise. I played Street Fighter 2 until my thumbs were raw back in the SNES days, and a lot of the time that was with the game on mute, because damned if I want to hear “sonic boom” over and over again (and for the record, I wasn’t just sitting in silence, I probably had Xena Warrior Princess on in the background). Point is that voice acting for a cast this ungainly is a tremendous expense for the tiniest of payoffs. Oh boy, I can finally know what the red guy is saying to the magical girl… Who cares?
Well, I guess I realized how much I do.
BlazBlue might have a stupidly large cast, but it’s a stupidly large cast I seem to care about. Yeah, I know, no one is more surprised than me. I’ve been enjoying games featuring these characters for eight years (technically, there’s only been four “games”, but each one seems to get an update… so I’ve probably played a BlazBlue game a year for nearly a decade), and, honestly, a big factor in that is probably the voice acting. Since I can understand these characters and their in-battle dialogue, I have a much better grip on how Taokaka is a bit nuts, or how Hazama is collected in nearly everything he does. In earlier games, I can literally hear how the anti-hero of the piece is conflicted about the damage he’s doing (for a good cause), and how his brother’s vengeance drives the dude… a little batty. Yes, the voice acting is only one piece of these characters, but losing that feature would be like if the next Street Fighter game didn’t include some standard part of its franchise. Imagine a Street Fighter where all the fighters wore burlap sacks instead of signature outfits. Imagine a Street Fighter without special moves, where Ryu could only throw mundane punches. Imagine a Street Fighter without an Arcade Mode (*cough*). It would still be the same game, but it would be undeniable that something was missing, and it would be a lesser experience for it.
And would you sit through a fighting game’s Story Mode where you have to actually read a novel’s length of words? Screw that jazz. I barely have time to proofreed this article.
So, as ridiculous as it sounds, BlazBlue: Central Fiction makes me feel impotent. I know voice acting is expensive. I know it takes time to record that much dialogue, and it would probably delay the game into next year. I know it’s not an essential piece of the BlazBlue experience. I know all of that, but its absence is still felt. And I know there’s nothing I can do to “get it back”, because what am I going to do? Boycott the series until the English Dub returns? Bah! I still want to play the game, I just want it to be… better? Complete? In the end, I can’t do a thing, and what I desire is likely gone forever to placate a better bottom line.
I’m playing a macho, testosterone fueled fighting game, and I feel powerless.
And that’s what I’m going to remember.
FGC #213 BlazBlue: Central Fiction
- System: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, and arcade. Yes, arcade. There’s only one left, so we’re not using the plural anymore.
- Number of players: Two players just whaling on each other until language means nothing.
- Favorite Character: Kokonoe Mercury is a pink, half-catgirl (however that works) science nerd that builds giant robots and is one of the few (only?) “smart” good guys that is capable of working effectively behind the scenes and on the battlefield. She was practically made with BlazBlue’s giant nerd audience in mind, and, yes, I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. Also, we share a birthday, so again, total sucker.
- Progress? Mai Natsume, the paid-DLC character of BlazBlue: Central Fiction, is actually trans, and that seems to be treated with as much respect as anything else in this series. That’s good! There’s also Amane Nishiki, an effeminately dressed dancing man who is obsessed with cute, young boys, and has a finishing move that transforms his opponent into a child form before a curtain literally (and ominously) closes. That seems… wrong.
- Did you know? Jubei, the legendary cat swordsman, is still not a playable character after having been involved in the plot from the absolute beginning. If you need any confirmation that there’s another version on the way, well, there you go.
- Would I play again: Probably! Unless an upgraded revision is released, then I’ll ignore this one forever, just like every other previous BlazBlue. Sorry, old fighting games!
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Death Smiles! Wow, it’s Aksys Anime Week all of a sudden. I’m not okay with that! But whatever! Please look forward to lolis!