It has been just shy of eight years since a BlazBlue game last graced Xbox platforms. However, after a long wait, the series makes its triumphant return to the platform with BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle Special Edition. This game, as it turns out, is far from the typical series installment. A crossover of the core BlazBlue series with Persona 4 (Arena), Under Night In-Birth, RWBY, Arcana Heart, Senran Kagura and Akatsu Blitzkamph, Cross Tag Battle brings together core fighting game mechanics with visual novel presentation in a fun way.
To be completely forthcoming, BlazBlue is not a series with which I hold a great deal of familiarity. Really, the same can be said for most of these series represented. So, it brings me immense joy to say that I’m hooked. Now, if you want an in-depth analysis of the ins and outs of this game or a review that brings a great reverence of source material to the table, this is unfortunately not going to be the article for you. However, if you are on the fence and saw this game in the Game Pass app and want to know whether it’s worth a download, please continue. You’re in the right place.
Now, to cut to the chase: is BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle worth a download? Abso-freaking-lutely.
Beginning with the gameplay, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is a 2v2 fighter that echoes the best of the 90’s Capcom fighters and refines it for a new generation. It’s accessible, deep, and fun. Easy to learn, super hard to master. With a deep roster of fighters to learn and a plethora of modes and content, Cross Tag Battle is a delight to pick up and play.
The game does a great job familiarizing players with the mechanics. An in-depth tutorial mode explains in great detail the ins and outs of the mechanics without bordering on overwhelming. Once you’re up to speed with the game, the real fun begins with a litany of extra modes and features.
Survival Mode, for instance, brings a true endurance test to the table. Two characters, health bars that only briefly recover between matches and unlimited rounds. A test of mettle to see how far you can get. If you want to challenge your friends, offline mode exists to bring back old memories of crowding the arcade cabinet at the local pizza shop. Or if you want the truly authentic experience of getting your butt whooped by far more talented players you’ll never match, online mode is here too.
However, by far the crown jewel of this game is the story mode. As is, the story mode is divided into two episodes: Episode 1 and Episode Extra (presented as 2 in the game). The first episode is further divided into 4 stories. A BlazBlue story, a RWBY story, a Persona 4 story and an Under-Night-In-Birth story. Of these, the BlazBlue story is the most complex with player choices and multiple elements. However, I had the most fun with the Under-Night-In-Birth story. A big takeaway from playing it is that I want that game on Xbox… tomorrow!
Each of these stories is told in visual novel style and is fully voice-acted by a team of many familiar faces. The stories themselves are not 100% accessible to those unaware of the source material but are still fun to play in their own right with fun character moments. The best thing I could equate it to would be the MCU, in that these stories are totally accessible and enjoyable for everyone, but will likely have that extra bit of impact for the converted. Each story is divided into several chapters in which you will meet new characters, fight and have a post-match conversation. In total, the BlazBlue story clocked in at around 90 minutes for me on the first playthrough, while the other three ran at about an hour each.
Episode Extra plays things a little differently. Instead of delivering multiple stories, it is a single contained story told over 15 chapters. It is a bit more slice-of-life, with many episodes having no fighting moments at all. In terms of pacing and tone, this episode didn’t really do it for me, but I suspect it will provide some big smiles for fans of these IPs.
Moving on to the presentation, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle Special Edition looks superb. A mixture of pre-rendered backdrops with 2D sprite fighters evokes Marvel Vs Capcom 2 in style but with a modern touch. The music is uniformly great, the CGs for the story mode are well-drawn and the voice acting is stellar.
Unfortunately, not everything in this game is positive. The achievement system currently is broken. I went without hundreds of Gamerscore points due to a glitch in the system. Moreover, online play is similarly wonky. While the matches themselves play great with rollback netcode, actually getting into a match oftentimes proves a hassle. However, these are small complaints with what is otherwise a truly superb fighter.
All in all, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle Special Edition is a welcome return home for the BlazBlue series on Xbox. An accessible, fun and deep fighter, this will delight fans of the represented franchises but also serves as a great calling card for new fans. If this isn’t in your download queue on Game Pass, or in your cart on the Microsoft Store, I would fix that pronto.