The Wheel of Fate is Turning

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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Many years ago, the world was almost completely destroyed by something called “The Black Beast”. Leaking a toxic substance known as Seithr all over the globe, the Black Beast nearly drove humanity to extinction were it not for the efforts of the Six Heroes. Wielding weapons fueled by seithr called Ars Magus, the Black Beast was destroyed, the Six Heroes faded into history, and humanity began to rebuild from this event that would eventually be called the Dark War. Forced to settle in areas with low-seithr contamination, the Novus Orbis Librarium was formed to govern the world and handle the Grimoires that controlled Ars Magus. However, the N.O.L began to grow in power too quickly and started to abuse their power in the hopes of creating a monopoly on Ars Magus grimoires. A resistance was formed to combat them, resulting in the Ikaruga Civil War, but were ultimately defeated, leading the N.O.L to impose harsh restriction on Ars Magus to the point that only N.O.L’s own members can possess them, executing anyone else found with one. One day in 2199, several N.O.L branches were destroyed by a man known as “Ragna the Bloodedge”. In possession of the Azure Grimoire Ars Magus, also known as the BlazBlue, he declares a one-man war against the N.O.L, who in turn places the largest bounty in the world on him. With word getting out that Ragna has been spotted in 13th Hierarchical City of Kagutsuchi, numerous people ranging from N.O.L operatives to bounty hunters and other vigilantes head to the city in order to find Ragna for their own reasons. All the while, Ragna searches for the core of Kagutsuchi for a singular purpose…

The current flagship series by Arc System Works and the successor to Guilty GearBlazBlue is a series of fighting games noted for their high-intensity combat, lovingly crafted character models, and the most extensive story put in a fighting game series. The first game, Calamity Trigger, was released in 2009, followed by Continuum Shift the following year and receiving a couple of updated rereleases that added more content such as a few more stages, balance patches, and additional characters. The third game, Chrono Phantasma, was released in 2014 after ArcSys collaborated with ATLUS to develop Persona 4 Arena and also received a couple of updates that added more characters and whatnot. The fourth game and the final chapter in Ragna’s story, Central Fiction, was released this year and will actually not have an “Extend” edition as ArcSys stated that they wanted the finale of this story be as polished and complete as possible at launch. On top of the core games, there exists a number of spinoffs that explore the world both around the time of the games and even in the distant past.

The games has a large cast of colorful, eccentric, and sometimes downright insane characters. Among them, four stand out as the central cast. The main protagonist is Ragna the Bloodedge, a hotheaded and and short-tempered young man that despises the N.O.L and seeks to destroy the Cauldron in Kagutsuchi to prevent the resurrection of the Black Beast. Starting out as more of an anti-hero, he eventually performs more heroic deeds as time passes and becomes relatively more friendly and somewhat more patient. His younger brother and rival, Jin Kisaragi, has a somewhat psychotic obsession with his older brother and is a high-ranking member in the N.O.L, though he has his doubts about the organization. Serving under him is Noel Vermillion, a shy but talented (and VERY important) lieutenant assigned to track Jin down when he goes AWOL to chase Ragna. Finally, the one who helped save Ragna and acts as his protector (?) is Rachel Alucard, a young-looking vampire that is essentially the Gandalf of the heroes, though she prefers to work behind the scenes to prevent untold disaster from befalling the world. The other characters closely associated with these four include the eccentric and hyper Taokaka, the giant cyborg Iron Tager, the kind but misguided doctor Litchi Faye-Ling, the bombastic ninja Bang Shishigami, the young vigilante puppeteer Carl Clover and his sister-turned puppet Nirvana (Formally known as Ada Clover), and the mysterious swordsman of the Six Heroes known as Hakumen. More and more characters come into the picture in the following games.

The world the cast lives in is pretty grim and it is all thanks to some of the most vile and unrepentantly evil villains in fighting games. Yuuki Terumi, the world’s greatest troll, former member of the Six Heroes, and all around psychopathic sadist, is directly responsible for a number of tragedies, namely the creation of the Black Beast, instigating the Ikaruga Civil War, starting the fire that forever traumatized Jin and Ragna, and a number of other murders and assassinations, all for the sake of finding the Master Unit: Amaterasu and destroying it out of pure pettiness and spite. He hides all of this behind the affable and mild-mannered informant persona of Hazama, a simple worker in the N.O.L, though there are times where Terumi’s evil slips through the facade. He partners up with Relius Clover, the father of Carl and the one responsible for turning his daughter Ada and his wife Ignis into puppets, currently wielding the latter as such. While the two have a stable partnership, they scheme around the other to get what they want. Above them is the leader of the N.O.L. (and by extension, the world), the Imperator Librarius, who seems to be only a puppet head controlled by Relius and Terumi, but is eventually revealed to have plans of her own. Other antagonists that hound the heroes include the insane and gibbering Arakune, the psychopathic Nu -No. 13-, the Mad Dog of Ikaruga known as Azrael, and Terumi’s own mysterious puppet called Phantom, eventually revealed to be a mind-controlled Nine, another of the Six Heroes and the beloved sister of Celica A. Mercury.

While a number of changes or fixes happen with each installment, the core gameplay of the series remains the same. The player has access to a number of fighting game staples, such as dashes, blocking, Weak, Mid, and Strong attacks, and other familiar mechanics. With BlazBlue, there are a few unique moves, primarily the Drives and the Astral Heats. The former are a special attack action that is unique to each fighter, representing their own natures and having a number of effects, such as Ragna’s Soul Eater taking small amounts of health from the opponent to replenish his own or Terumi’s Force Eater that greatly increases his super meter while his opponent does not gain any when getting hit. As such, each character has their own unique play style that is essential to understand when trying to master each one.

Aside from the core games, the series does have a few spinoffs that further explore the setting and other characters, such as a small series focusing on Mai Netsume, an old classmate of Tsubaki, Noel, and Makoto, a light novel series that involves a young man named Naoto Kurogane and Rachel’s sister Raquel, and a couple of prequel visual novels that show the world before the Dark War and how the events of this story shaped that of the main titles. The current story has wrapped up with the fourth game, Central Fiction, but not without some controversy, namely that of a lack of an English dub. To ensure that Central Fiction was not delayed that far behind the Japanese console release, ArcSys decided to axe the English dub of the final game, much to the shock, disappointment and outrage of many series fans, including cast members Patrick Seitz and Cristina Valenzuela. It got to the point that publisher Aksys has decided to look into the matter and see if they would be able to add in the English voices as DLC.

BlazBlue is definitely one of the more technical fighters of the genre and it can be a bit daunting for newcomers to learn the intricacies of the game and the controls, but with time and patience, at least one of these characters will became a main for players. With a complex and fascinating story with excellent voices on top of tight and smooth gameplay, this is one fighter that should definitely be given a try.

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