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Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma

REVIEW:  For those who might've lost count, Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma is the fifth installment to Arc System Works' famed 2D fighting franchise. While previous iterations were "minor" upgrades (and possibly became confusing thanks to ASW's infamous periodic DLC character releases), Chrono Phantasma actually comes off as more of sequel than the last few releases.

Chrono Phantasma updates include: new character selection screen & artwork, reworked movesets, a variety of new stages, new / remixed BGMs, and a slew of new characters, such as: Amane, Bullet, Azrael & Izayoi. The console version also includes some DLC and unlockable fighters: Kokonoe & Yuki Terumi are DLC only, whereas Kagura Mutsuki can be unlocked in-game (or purchased). Worth mentioning, the Oct. 2014 "2.0" update also adds Celica A. Mercury & Lamda-11 to the arcade version's roster (and it's a safe bet to assume they'll eventually end up as DLC on console).


Over the past 6 years, Blazblue has been acclaimed for its crispy 2D sprites, fast-paced / air-dash-crazy gameplay, and outlandish yet innovative "anime-ish" character designs. Even though it's a fighting game, Blazblue is also known for its notoriously lengthy and slightly hard-to-follow story presentation. Chrono Phantasma certainly won't disappoint Blazblue devotees hoping for a continuation, as the game packs 30+ hours of in-game story content. If you can stomach the typical anime tropes and 30-minute-long story segments, there's certainly a lot to take in.
 

Chrono Phantasma doesn't try to reinvent the wheel... (of fate). 

  
Chrono Phantasma continues the arguably incohesive plot of Blazblue, following Ragna and friends on their enigmatical adventures. For individual character storylines and unique character interactions, the game's Arcade Mode still delivers like few fighting games can. Taking place after Blazblue: CS Extend, the main story of Chrono Phantasma has been condensed into 3 main story scenarios (Chrono Phantasma, Six Heroes & Sector Seven) which lead up to the game's true ending. There's also a humorous "Teach Me, Miss Litchi!" mode, featuring ridiculous chibi versions of characters (and entirely too much talking), to help get players caught up with past events in the storyline.

If you plan to enter Chrono Phantasma's story mode and take in all of the content without skipping anything, plan to sit in the same spot for 20-30 minutes without even playing. Upon starting up Story Mode (without skipping anything), it took approximately 30 minutes before the first fight started (a fight that lasted about 40 seconds). Immediately afterwards, it's back to the slow pace of the storytelling. The "slightly animated" character artwork and charismatic voiceovers are enjoyable for a while, but for most fighting game players, this is likely to become a bit monotonous. Thankfully, you can press a button (triangle) to automatically play scenes without manually having to press any buttons to advance the dialogue... if you just want to sit and casually listen while you do something else (like I found myself doing). Story Mode also allows players to select "Stylish Type," so even non-fighting game players can just mash buttons, win, and look pretty awesome doing so.  

Personally, I was much more drawn in by the story modes of previous Blazblue installments. Perhaps that's because the series was "new" back then, and didn't require or suggest any previous knowledge of the story. No doubt you'll need to have a solid understanding of Blazblue lore up until now, or you'll be lost (and probably bored) within the many layers of Chrono Phantasma's story. At least there's a reward for finishing Story Mode... as Kagura Mutsuki will be unlocked upon completing it. He can also be purchased as DLC if you aren't patient enough to get through the story.
 

Unlock Kagura Mutsuki either by completing Story or purchasing via DLC.

  
As a 25+ year veteran competitive fighting game player (who enjoys many other gaming genres, including JRPGs), I still find it difficult to sit through hours upon hours of still pictures and dialogue. I'll admit I gave up trying to follow Blazblue's story a long time ago, but I can still appreciate Arc System Works' attention to detail and random humor. If you enjoy the art of the written word and "like" the character designs even a little bit, you'll enjoy the complexity of Chrono Phantasma's story. With such a text-heavy story, it's almost easy to forget this is a "fighting game"... but thankfully, there's a lot more to Blazblue than just the story.

One of the things I've liked most of Blazblue games are the plethora of modes. Like previous installments, Chrono Phantasma offers an impressive array of 1-player content. Besides the returning staples like Arcade, Training & Score Attack, there's Abyss Mode (
an RPG style mode allowing players to level up their character's stats in an effort to descend a pit of increasingly difficult opponents), and Unlimited Mars (pitting players against 10 powerful "unlimited" versions of characters). I particularly enjoyed Abyss Mode from the Vita version of CS Extend, and the updated Abyss Mode is just as addicting in Chrono Phantasma. Blazblue's comprehensive and fully voiced Tutorial Mode has also returned (with new voiceovers to keep you entertained), making it nearly effortless to learn basic and advanced mechanics of the game. Other new additions include "Glossary" or "Library Mode". This extensive mode covers all aspects of BlazBlue lore and provides a glossary of fighting game terms.
 

Kokonoe will open up a can of Mecha Tager on your ass.

 
Before Chrono Phantasma's release, the inclusion of "redrawn sprites" in Chrono Phantasma was mentioned and ended up being hyped up quite a bit. As it turns out, there really weren't many changes to most returning character sprites. While Noel Vermillion received a completely redrawn sprite due to her new costume, alterations to other character sprites are very minimal and/or barely noticeable at all (or the "sprite edits" were transformed into completely new characters). This isn't exactly a bad thing... since the classic Blazblue sprites still look excellent, but it makes me wonder why "completely redrawn sprites" is heavily advertised on mainstream websites with a Chrono Phantasma review or product page. I'm not making any official accusations here, but I am sensing some mild "false advertising" on this one. (And if I'm wrong about this, feel free to prove me wrong. P.S. New animations do not = redrawn sprites.)

Several returning fighters do feature updated stances & costumes, along with some new moves and Distortion Drives. For example: Noel has a different weapon and doesn't wear a barrette anymore, and Tsubaki is now a "darker" version of her previous self. Chrono Phantasma's engine also introduces a new Overdrive mechanic that serves as a counter to the more defensive Break Burst system. Overdrive powers up a character for a short period of time and also allows them to perform stronger super moves/attacks.

Chrono Phantasma's Online Mode introduces some interesting new features, including 64-player, text chat enabled lobbies. In the lobbies, players take control of chibi-style characters to "login" to various cities within the Blazblue world. Players can walk around with their chibi character avatars freely, and choose who they want to fight against on different arcade machines. Players also have the option to fight against CPU opponents while waiting for online opponents. Each player is assigned a "D-Code" (similar to a player card), which holds player info, ranking, titles, etc. There are also new Player Match options with various room types, including a friendly online training mode with no vitality loss. Overall, Blazblue's netcode is impressive on both PS3 and Vita, offering silky smooth match-ups the majority of the time.
 

In case you haven't become completely annoyed by Taokaka's antics...

 
The Playstation Vita version of 2012's Blazblue: CS Extend was a testament to the awesome functionality and graphical prowess of the PS Vita. It's nice to see ASW continuing their support for Vita with Chrono Phantasma, which plays and looks just as awesome on Sony's portable console. In addition, DLC content is cross-buy between the Vita & PS3 versions, making it ultra convenient for hardcore players who want to own both versions. The Vita version also includes an exclusive Island Storyline and even some hidden "gag" routes that players can discover. The comprehensive player lobbies of the PS3 version don't make the cut over to PS Vita, but the Vita port still features smooth netplay and Ranked & Player matches. 

In closing, there are a lot of things I like about Blazblue... especially in the aesthetic sense. I love how all the character color options are numbered and each one is easily viewable on the selection screen. Stylish stuff! The new soundtrack is also excellent, especially the remixes of classic Blazblue tunes. However, some remixes do give off a "rushed" kind of vibe and aren't as clean as the originals. New voiceovers also refresh the overall sound of the game, and the option to download new narrator voices is always cool. The personalized character-to-character dialogue in Arcade & Versus modes is still impressive... especially when fighting against the same character, or anyone really. No doubt it'll take a really long time to hear all of the dialogue in this game (not even counting the main story).

Page Updated: July 22nd, 2015
Developer(s): Arc System Works
Publisher(s): Arc System Works, PQube ()
Platform(s): Arcade, PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox One
Release Date(s): Nov. 21st, 2012      ( Arcade)
Oct. 24th, 2013
      ( PS3)
Mar. 25th, 2014    
( PS3)
Apr. 24th, 2014     
( Vita)
June 24th, 2014    
( Vita)
Oct. 9th, 2014       
( Arcade - Ver. 2.0 update)
Apr. 23rd, 2015     
( PS4/PS3/Vita/XB1 - Blazblue: CP Extend)
June 30th, 2015     
( PS4/PS3/Vita/XB1 - Blazblue: CP Extend)
TBA 2015                 ( PS4/PS3/Vita/XB1 - Blazblue: CP Extend)
Characters Ragna The Bloodedge, Jin Kisaragi, Noel Vermillion, Bang Shishigami, Iron Tager, Arakune, Rachel Alucard, Litchi Faye Ling, Carl Clover, Taokaka, Hakumen, Hazama, Tsubaki-Yayoi, Makoto, Valkenhayn R. Hellsing, Platinum the Trinity, Relius Clover, Nu-13, Mu-12, Amane, Bullet, Azrael, Izayoi, Yuki Terumi, Kagura Mutsuki, Kokonoe, Celica A. Mercury (Extend/Arcade), Lamda-11 (Extend/Arcade)

Featured Video:

Related Games: Blazblue: Calamity Trigger, Blazblue: Continuum Shift, Blazblue: Continuum Shift 2, Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend, Blazblue: Central Fiction, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, Guilty Gear X: Accent Core Plus, Battle Fantasia, King of Fighters XIII, Arcana Heart 3, Sengoku Basara X, Hokuto No Ken, Skullgirls, AquaPazza, Persona 4 Arena, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle, Chaos Code, Legend of Raven, Xuan Dou Zhi Wang, Under Night In-Birth, Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax
  

Gameplay Engine  8.5 / 10
Story / Theme  9.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  8.5 / 10
Animation  9.0 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  7.5 / 10
Innovation  7.5 / 10
Art Direction  8.0 / 10
Customization  9.0 / 10
Options / Extras  8.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  8.5 / 10
Replayability / Fun  7.5 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  6.5 / 10
Characters  8.0 / 10

BOTTOM LINE

 8.4 / 10

 Review based on PS3 / Vita version

 

Final Words: From a 6-year-old franchise, expecting "more of the same" is a given. Arc System works isn't trying to reinvent the wheel (of fate) in their latest installment. Clearly, Chrono Phantasma is primarily directed towards returning hardcore fans of the series, and does require some previously existing knowledge to enjoy fully.

If someone were to jump into the game now, I think they'd be overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters and "completely different" play-styles. That said, there's still quite a learning curve if you plan on playing competitively. The intuitive "Street Fighter style" attack commands are there, but the deep end of the pool is pretty deep.


Even so, if you're showing Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma to a green player... they'll no doubt be impressed (even though they'll have no idea what's going on). In that sense, Blazblue is still an easy game to get into for any casual video game player... but of course, very difficult to master. It can also be a pretty intimidating game when going up against an upper level player. Like in many other fast-paced 2D fighters, absorbing 2 or 3 lengthy combos from a skilled player will almost always result in certain death.  

While character balance in Chrono Phantasma is pretty uneven, and quite a lot of practice & study is required to relearn and enjoy the game competitively, Chrono Phantasma still manages to deliver as a sequel for players of all levels. My personal opinion of the new character designs is mixed... On one hand, you've got the badass (yet awkwardly colored) beast, Azrael, who attacks with ferocity; then you have the feminine, cross-dressing Amane, who attacks by transforming his kimono into different shapes. Indeed, most of Blazblue's cast is still incredibly random and off-the-wall.

In continuation, the latest iteration of Blazblue seems to have taken the idea of "ultra-sexualizing" females a bit too far... in my opinion. Bullet, for example, looked to me like a really interesting and cool character design at first glance... until I saw her in gameplay, with her ass awkwardly sticking out while fighting. Ohh, and then she removes her top to reveal her huge boobs when she wins. (What is this... DOA?) Considering other sexualized females in Blazblue (Litche Faye Ling & Makoto-Nanaya)... I'm starting to question the heart behind the direction of some of the new designs. Honestly I wasn't "inspired" by the new designs like I was in the first couple of installments.

Nonetheless, Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma is a quality 2D fighter and a worthy revisit to the series. There's enough new content to keep players busy for months, but if you've played the most recent prequels, there's also a lot you'll be familiar with already. 
~TFG Webmaster
 

 
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Click Here for all character artwork!
 

  
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