By: Matthew Striplen
From the minds of Arc System Works comes the fourth installment in the enigmatic BlazBlue franchise: Central Fiction. Like its predecessors in the main series, Central Fiction is essentially two games, a traditional 2D fighter and a visual novel.
For the fighter portion or the game, the controls are relatively unchanged, save for a few new moves. The old control scheme worked wonderfully, but the largest addition to the new game, Overdrive, takes some big thumbs to pull off.
Activating Overdrive, which I will explain later, requires players to press A, B, C, and D buttons simultaneously. Unless you have big hands/thumbs, using this function will hinder your speed a bit. Thankfully all sorts of shortcuts can be created through the input menu.
As for the visual novel segments, everything works fine, but the lack of an auto-play feature is notable.
Central Fiction appears to use the same graphics engine as its predecessors, going as far to copy the character models from earlier titles, too. While the graphics looked great in the original game, their age is beginning to show in 2016. Character models suffer from graininess. Plus, the flashy Astral Heats are almost always identical to the old games or only subtly changed.
The soundtrack falls in line with the previous titles as well. The fast-paced J-rock should be enough to get anyone’s blood pumping. Voice acting is Japanese only.
Let’s chat about the fighting section first. If you’ve played any of the BlazBlue series before, you won’t find any surprises or big changes. The important additions are the inclusion of seven new characters, as well as the return of all 28 characters from Chrono Phantasma Extend. Getting to play as Mai Natsume from Remix Heart and the powerful Nine the Phantom are special treats.
Overdrive is also a game changer. The Overdrive meter fills gradually with time, and when activated grants the user increased attack power and other character-specific abilities. Pressing the same activation input while Overdrive is in use launches an Exceed Accel, a special attack or ability, but immediately ends Overdrive. This function can also be used to escape enemy combos.
When caught in the middle of a well-timed combo, escape can be difficult, but Overdrive can break the combo and create a counterattack window. The Overdrive meter takes a while to charge, however, so be sure to save it for a critical moment. If you chose not to activate the Exceed Accel, Overdrive will still expire after a few seconds. Other moves and abilities are the same as previous series entries.
There are several options when it comes to actually fighting. There is an exhaustive tutorial portion, which I highly recommend for newcomers to the genre, as well as tutorials on character-specific moves. Plus, there’s a training arena to test out your new skills or try out a new character in a safe environment.
If you’re ready to jump into the game, even more options present themselves. The arcade mode is split up into three acts of eight battles each, progressively upping the difficultly. If you want to try something more unusual, try Grim of Abyss or Speed Star.
Grim of Abyss has players battling through an “abyss” of progressively more difficult enemies, all while earning points to spend on character upgrades. The introduction of some RPG stat management is an interesting direction for the series to take.
Speed Star is also unusual in that the player cannot take damage. However, the player has limited time to defeat the necessary opponents. All additional battle modes have multiple difficulty settings, and the game has an overall difficulty toggle function.
Central Fiction also has local and online multiplayer. This time, there are lots of online options besides battling. Players can customize a room, like the Secret Bases in the Pokemon series. If players encounter any problems or want to discuss any topic, an online forum is available.
If you need a break from the fast-paced battles modes, try out the visual novel in the story section. Like many BlazBlue games, the story is extremely complicated, especially since Central Fiction is the fourth main entry in the franchise.
While the game provides a refresher on previous events, its story is presented in such a disjointed manner than gaining a working knowledge of the fictional history is next to impossible for newcomers.
If Central Fiction is your first foray into the BlazBlue universe, doing outside research is the only way to understand anything. The author’s writing style presents information in ways that are difficult to grasp. Plus, the visual novel has tons of “filler” content.
For the lucky souls who haven’t encountered filler before, filler is an extra storyline that has no bearing on the main plot and usually incorporates attempts at lighthearted comedy. The main storyline stays pretty much in line with what we’ve come to expect from BlazBlue. If you enjoyed the earlier games, you’ll probably like this new one, too.
BlazBlue: Central Fiction is yet another 2D fighter/visual novel. The fighting sections are as solid as ever, with lots of new characters and a handful of new abilities. The novel portions are consistent with previous entries too, but the unusual nature of the story continues to prove that Blazblue is not for everyone. Come for the 2D fights, stay for the story… if you want.