Tag Archives: blazblue

FGC #605 Curses ‘N Chaos

Let's rockSometime around the 14th century, the Black Death was ravaging the European population. Given this highly lethal plague was on everybody’s mind (how could we ever hope to understand?), this seems to have been the time that the anthropomorphism of Death manifested in the public consciousness. As anyone that has ever visited a Spirit Halloween is aware, Death is generally visualized as a skeleton in a black robe wielding scythe. To elaborate for anyone from a foreign culture, the scythe is supposed to symbolize the literal harvesting of souls, and the skeletal body is supposed to be symbolize how bones are scary. Beyond that, ol’ Death is a pretty fundamental part of Western culture, and it is unlikely anyone reading this has missed his familiar iconography.

But what does it mean when Death makes an appearance in a videogame? Well, let us look at how Death has worked his digital magic through the years.

1984
Paperboy

Midway Games
Arcade

Throw some papersWhat’s happening here: Near as we can tell, the first appearance of an active Death in a videogame was in Paperboy. A grim reaper is one of the many, many obstacles that this young boy must face on his way to delivering newspapers to the least appreciative neighborhood on the planet.

Describe your Death: We have a traditional black cloak and scythe here, though it is difficult to tell if we are dealing with a legitimate skeleman. One would suppose this emphasizes the “unknown” nature of Death.

What does it all mean? 1984 was a time for “suburbs fear”, wherein parents were convinced razors were being hidden in Halloween candy, and a scary man in a trench coat was assumed to be on every corner. It was all total nonsense, but it does explain why one would expect to see Death out and menacing an innocent paperboy. Everything wants to kill our innocent young paperboy, why would Death themself be any different?

1985
Gauntlet

Midway Games
Arcade

BEHOLD DEATHWhat’s happening here: Death is one of the many monsters that stalks the world of Gauntlet. They will drain 100 health from a hapless adventurer, and is resistant to all attacks, save the mighty magic bomb. They are not a common creature, but they are a threat every time they appear.

Describe your Death: OG Gauntlet is not exactly known for its huge, expressive sprites, but Death at least has the ol’ black cloak here. If you were to claim this Death was a ninja, you wouldn’t have to change a single thing about their appearance.

What does it all mean? In 1983, Patricia Pulling founded Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (BADD), and significantly contributed to the myth that Dungeons and Dragons was seducing our innocent children to the dark side. This led to years of general concern over D&D, so it was only natural that Death would be haunting dungeons in 1985 videogames. It’s Death! They will kill you! Because of what you are doing! Stay out of fantasy realms, children!

1986
Castlevania

Konami
Nintendo Entertainment System

Sorry SimonWhat’s happening here: Death’s multiple appearances in the Castlevania franchise may be the most iconic in gaming, and it all started here. You can’t have a decent Castlevania game without Death! Eat it, Haunted Castle, you barely get a Frankenstein.

Describe your Death: Skeleton? Check. Scythe? Check. Black cloak? Well… Death has decided to go with something more fuchsia here, but we’re going to allow it. NES color palettes are not kind to classical iconography.

What does it all mean? We will address Death as a greater presence in the franchise soon enough, but this Death is little more than one of many “movie monster” bosses in his first appearance. Apparently he was just a dude in a pink costume going by the pseudonym of Belo Lugosi. That is almost a real person’s name!

1986 also had another familiar Grim Reaper…

FGC #567 BlazBlue: Centralfiction

This post originally appeared about two years ago on a forum post that… apparently no longer exists. Whoops! In the interest of my beloved words reaching as many people as possible, please enjoy this nonsense with the excuse that I am now playing the Switch version of BlazBlue: Centralfiction. Oh, and be aware there are spoilers for the entire franchise here, and it is super GIF heavy. I probably should have led with that…

Time to Blaze itWhat you have to understand is that BlazBlue could be so, so simple. At first glance, it’s a pretty straightforward story: 100 years in “our” future, but 100 years before the events of the game, mankind goes too far, and accidentally releases magic (good), and the Black Beast (bad) on the universe. The Black Beast nearly destroys the world, but six brave heroes rise up and seal away the ancient evil. Now, in the present (of the game), a terrorist in a red coat is running around wrecking stuff, and it is assumed he is trying to revive the ancient evil. Naturally, he’s misunderstood, and the real bad guy is hiding in plain sight within the current ruling government, so the wheel of fate is turning, action!

And were this a simple, traditional fighting game universe, that would be it. There would be a “new” gang of heroes, a few would have obvious or subtle ties to the previous legends, throw in a wannabe ninja or two, and you’d have a pretty straightforward fighting game universe. Everybody battles at first, they eventually join up, and the inevitable “return of the Black Beast” is defeated by friendship and mashing the jab button. It could work! It could work well! Perhaps in that universe, all would be joyful, and I wouldn’t be getting ready to explain how the pretty sorcerer lady had sex with a goddamn cat. Maybe that universe would be better for all of us…

This isn't realActually, speaking of universes, BlazBlue does something interesting with its overall plot. Were you around for the Mortal Kombat debates of the 90’s? I’m not talking about the silly disputes over whether Mortal Kombat was too violent for young eyeballs; no, I’m talking about the important arguments about things that mattered. I’m talking about the debates over which Mortal Kombat endings were canon. Did Scorpion really kill Sub-Zero? Did Kano really kill Sheeva, or did she kill him (and did Sonya watch)? Yes, we know Liu Kang won a tournament or two from that opening roll, but we want to know some details! Johnny Cage: Goro-slayer or conceited movie star? This is important to my fanfic, dammit!

BlazBlue does its best to sidestep all of that, and introduces some canon multiversal theory to the fighting game genre. All endings are valid. Yes, Ragna saved one world, and Arakune devoured everyone and everything in another world. Every single BlazBlue game has multiple endings for each of its characters, and every ending is equally canon, because the forces of good and evil at the highest levels are distinctly watching every universe to see the potential best outcome. And it’s a very distinct plot point in practically all of the games! All endings are canon, so, yes, that goofy finale where Dan wins the tournament and Zangief becomes a robot totally happened.

Unfortunately, it seems like the writers wanted to justify this conceit, and… things got complicated.

This story has no beginning and no end. It is a tale of souls and swords that, unfortunately, gets a little confused along the way. I guess we’ll start with the kids…

WW #12 Panty Party

Due to the subject matter of our posts this Monday & Friday, some items may be NSFW. Barring some terrible graphics, we’re sorta aiming for PG-13 screenshots here, but, given everyone has a different threshold, anything potentially offensive will be behind the “Read More” links du jour. And this time, we’re hitting the ground running, so just a warning that we’re “too hot for Smash” already…

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mai Shiranui

FGC #213 BlazBlue: Central Fiction

OuchI’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

UNBEATABLEThrow 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.

SHUTUP!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.

OwieIn 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 PainfulTaokaka 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? Look away!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 Good kittybehind 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!

AHHHH