Black Rock Shooter’s rise to fame is pretty interesting. One picture managed to spawn a song, an anime and manga series and, as you could most likely tell, an action game for the PSP. It’s a shame that the game itself isn’t as interesting as its history behind it.
In Black Rock Shooter: The Game, the human race has nearly been annihilated by aliens. The last remaining survivors have put all their hopes on the last weapon they have against the aliens: Black Rock Shooter, the titular arm-canon wielding girl the franchise revolves around. The game has a different plot to both the anime and manga, so newcomers will be fine, though that’s about all the narrative has going for it.
Black Rock Shooter’s set up is pretty interesting, but it squanders any chance it had at a decent story. The 12 remaining humans are mostly bland and barely get any screen time at all. In fact, it doesn’t take long before you wonder how they even managed to be the last survivors of the human race, with their bickering and general uselessness.
Black Rock Shooter herself is pretty uninteresting too. You find out quickly that she’s lost most of her memories early on. While this is a pretty generic character trait, it could have been used in some interesting ways, However, while you do find out more about her, many questions are left unanswered. This problem extends to the rest of the story too, with it, and most importantly the finale, being extremely uninteresting as a result.
The game even manages to mess up the one part that seemed to be interesting early on, the combat, though I’ll get to the reasons why later on. Enemies roam each environment and like many JRPGs, you switch to the game’s battle system when you make contact with them. Combat plays like a combination of a third-person shooter and Punch-out. While that may sound strange, once you start playing it’s easy to see why I used such a strange description.
During battle, BRS has a few different abilities at her disposal. She can fire her iconic arm-cannon, block and dodge. Firing is simple enough – you aim with the analogue stick, with the game locking on to the nearest enemy. Blocking reduces the damage you take, but does not stop it entirely, which is where dodging comes in. Dodging is only way you can move in BRS, with the player standing in place otherwise.
Firing or dodging fills up a Heat Gauge which causes BRS to overheat when it reaches 100% Your regular fire also gets weaker the higher the gauge is, preventing you from constantly firing and dodging.
During battle, you also have access to both combat and passive skills. BRS can set four combat skills to use while fighting, whereas an unlimited amount of passive skills can be equipped. Combat skills are mostly made up of different attacks, while passive skills generally boosts you stats. Combat skills have a cooldown period after they are used, instead of a MP system like more conventional RPGs, meaning that you don’t have to rely on items to keep using some of the stronger attack, with the only penalty being a longer cooldown time over weaker skills.
That’s not to say that you can’t use items. These can be used at any time, with battles pausing when you open the item menu. These can be used to heal, as well as reset the heat gauge and cooldown timers. Since battles pause when you are selecting items, and the fact that you can use another one straight after the first one, the difficulty of some of the harder battles is reduced greatly. Items are dropped fairly frequently by enemies, meaning that you’ll usually be fully stocked when you make it to a boss fight.
This leads on to the biggest problem with battles in BRS: they’re far too easy. At the start you may have some trouble, and a few of the bosses have some cheap attacks, but for the most part you’ll be unchallenged. The main reason behind this is that enemies are reused far too often, appearing many times later on with a simple recolour. Enemies will occasional gain new attacks, but for the most part they stay the same. Even when the game introduces a new enemy type, you can guarantee that you be seeing it again not long after, using the same easy to read tactics.
Environments also suffer from this laziness. Each of BRS’ stages is fairly linear, with only a few deviations or extra paths. The linearity is only made worse by the fact that each area in a stage looks far too similar to each other. The early stages are the worst for this, especially the first. Surely they could have done more than just reuse the same destroyed buildings over and over again? The second half fairs a little better, though there was one maze-like stage that was extremely bland and was the worst for re-using areas.
At least the character models are decent for the most part. BRS uses a similar design the original, though some parts look particularly low-res. The aliens mentioned earlier on look nice too, sporting some interesting designs and weapons. The human character don’t enjoy the same treatment though, since the only part that’s different between the majority of them being their faces, which look pretty lifeless. There are a couple of exceptions, but the majorities bland designs do no favours for them.
Overall, Black Rock Shooter: The Game had the potential to be an interesting addition to the franchise, but it fails in nearly every aspect. Traversing through the game is boring, the story is poorly handled and the battle system is far too repetitive to give you enough of an incentive to carry on. It even manages to feel like it drags on for too long which is crazy for a game that only lasts around 10 hours – there is extra content that you unlock after you complete the game, but there isn’t really enough incentive to go back. While the game may be fairly cheap compared to other recent portable titles, and it’s not completely bad, there are better games to spend your money on, even if you are a Black Rock Shooter fan.
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