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Review

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle Review - The Tag Team Dream

  • First Released Jun 5, 2018
    released
  • Reviewed Jun 6, 2018
  • NS
  • PS4

"Aha! Is this your chance?!"

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2D anime fighters like the BlazBlue series are often intimidating for their elaborate movesets and demand for precise execution. However, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle breaks from tradition by simplifying its gameplay systems, and bringing in characters from three other franchises to join the fight. By no means does the simplification make Cross Tag shallow--the dynamic tag system and the clever ways you can mix mechanics are where Cross Tag shines. Factor in the charm of these distinct worlds and you'll have plenty of reasons to consider this fast, flashy, and endearing fighter.

Across four mainline games, BlazBlue developed a complex fighting system, while Persona 4 Arena and Arena Ultimax distilled the formula and captured the charisma of the eponymous RPG. Under Night In-Birth (from developer French-Bread in collaboration with Arc System Works) had its own twist on a deep, yet accessible fighting game. The RWBY animated series makes its fighting game debut, and the cast's talents and flair make the transition incredibly well. Cross Tag Battle unifies all four series as a five-button fighter with two main attack buttons, a universal overhead attack that can also function as an EX attack, a tag button, and the partner skill. While it may seem a bit too straightforward, even the most historically complex characters on the roster remain true to form where it counts. By distilling classic fighting mechanics, the focus is shifted from performing elaborate directional inputs to creating openings for sweet high-damage combos through easy-to-execute attacks.

You'll recognize familiar moves with similar properties from respective games, but the conditions for execution have changed. Basic attacks, smart combos, and even Supers (called Distortion Skills) are easy to pull off, though the number of techniques mapped to the limited controls can cause some inadvertent activations of very different moves--particularly throws and Distortion Skills. Auto-forward dash on most characters may also be jarring to fighting game veterans. But it doesn't take much effort to adjust to this game's quirks and pace.

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Partner skills will take time to grasp; every character has unique back, forward, and standing assist attacks where they fly in from off screen to lend a hand. Cross combos take the tag system one step further by letting your duo pile on damage simultaneously; pulling these off will make short work of opponents if you can expertly control your tandem. These are key to maximizing the effectiveness of combos, creating openings, or pulling yourself out of a rut. With this in mind, you're encouraged to either experiment using different duos or form your own collaborative attacks with the pair you love most. It's chaotic and tough to nail down in live matches, and it's where the depth of combat comes from.

Most of your advanced moves require you to expend meters that charge during the course of combat and it's critical that you keep an eye on them at all times. Meter management requires you to think about using up the skill gauge for distortion skills, laying down EX moves, or saving up for back-to-back supers with your tag partner. Cross combos and tag counters to get out of combos use up the two-bar cross gauge. And when you're down a fighter, the Resonance Blaze (the comeback mechanic) kicks you into overdrive for 15 seconds by regenerating health, adding chip damage, automatically filling the skill gauge, and strengthening Distortion Skills--be sure to use that time wisely.

All the pieces of a fast, smooth, and endlessly fun fighting game exist within Cross Tag, but it truly shines by channelling and fusing the personality and charisma of each franchise.

Cross Tag Battle has a lot to absorb, and it'll take time to get comfortable with the fighting system and unravel all its intricacies. Thankfully, the onboarding process is top-notch. Tactics Mode walks you through the basic terminology, mechanics, and their use-cases, and each character has a tailor-made tutorial that gives you the opportunity to perfect specific combos. On top of that, there's a slew of missions in Tactics Mode that pit you in difficult challenges to build awareness of the more specific situations you'll encounter in matches.

All the pieces of a fast, smooth, and endlessly fun fighting game exist within Cross Tag, but it truly shines by channelling and fusing the personality and charisma of each franchise. Whether it's the stylish super moves, battle cries, or fluid animations, this large cast is bursting with charm. While many of the assets have been repurposed from previous games, this is the first time we see members of RWBY in 2D with anime-inspired models. Under Night's cast also gets redrawn portraits to better fit the BlazBlue aesthetic. Despite their differences, the combination of worlds works so well that each fanbase will find something to love about seeing their favorite characters in unexpected scenarios.

Mixing up teams brings about collaborations I've always wanted to see. Sure, Hyde, Ragna, and Narukami may play like the standard sword-wielding boys from their respective worlds, but having either of them work together makes for a badass team. As a die-hard Persona fan, having the Investigation Team reunited at Yasogami High for a hectic brawl while bumping the Arena mix for Reach Out To The Truth warms my heart. Especially smaller moments, like the unique chatter and interactions between two characters before fights commence, makes this feel like more than a rehash of multiple assets or collection of characters thrown together all willy nilly. When I'm hopping from Under Night's Riverside stage in one fight to BlazBlue's Cathedral the next, using my favorite duo of Chie and Ruby while listening to Hyde's battle theme, Cross Tag Battle evokes and amplifies the fondness I have for this roster.

The crossing of worlds primarily plays out in the Episode Mode, where the four factions of fighters are forced to fight in a fake realm by a mysterious, omnipresent AI that creates arbitrary rules. By obtaining color-coded keystones, and eventually uniting to fight this AI, they'll be able to return home. The overarching plot sounds ridiculous, and it's borderline nonsensical. Each of the four campaigns play out as a visual novel with static character portraits and fully voiced dialogue; actual fights are embedded within each chapter to keep you an active participant. It's all quite trite, sometimes eye-rolling.

Cross Tag Battle has a lot to absorb, and it'll take time to get comfortable with the fighting system and unravel all its intricacies. Thankfully, the onboarding process is top-notch.

Some character appearances feel shoehorned for the sake of making an appearance, but despite its absurdity, moments of cross-franchise fan service stick the landing. Ruby's obsession with fancy weapons permeates her encounters with the likes Ragna and Hyde. References to Chie's obsession with steak, and Yukiko's inability to make curry call back to the moments I first met them in Persona 4; even Noel gets caught up in the mix as she's completely oblivious to how bad it'll taste. And as each episode concludes, I was rewarded with heartfelt scenes that reminded me of why I'm invested in these characters.

Story mode highlights something odd, though. DLC characters take part in the story as opponents despite not being available in the playable base roster. Their movesets, character models, theme songs, and voice lines are in the game, but they're gated as add-on content. Half of RWBY's cast is offered for free, but to see several Persona, BlazBlue, and Under Night folks so obviously withheld feels unfair.

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Taking the fight online is where you'll spend most of your time after getting your feet wet in single-player. Cross Tag online component consists of multiple lobbies for different skill levels where players walk around as chibi versions of their favorite character. Customizing your player card with character portraits and familiar catchphrases is another avenue to express your love. It's cute and lighthearted, magnified by the adorable batch of emotes that often take the edge off exhilarating fights. And thankfully, jumping into matches works seamlessly. After hundreds of rounds online, both in the casual lobby and ranked matchmaking, we can say that netcode is solid and that latency is a non-issue with a decent connection.

Players that want a more competitive environment should be happy to know that we had little trouble finding a fair fight in ranked matchmaking. In both victory and defeat, memorable moments abound. Although it can be frustrating, I'm always taking note of how high-level players get the better of me. I'll also never forget making a comeback from being down a teammate, activating resonance blaze and perfectly timing both Chie's power charge and God Hand super while my opponent was in mid-tag to take them both out in one hit.

Whether playing through the story mode alone or against hardened opponents online, Cross Tag Battle is an absolute joy with a surplus of possibilities within its wide roster and versatile fighting system. Even with all the ridiculousness of the overarching plot, I reveled in the charm of my favorite characters and embraced the many moments of fan service. It's a masterful unification of styles and mechanics from four different universes that compels you to dig deeper and dedicate the time to getting the most out of the beloved members of this cast.

Back To Top
The Good
Wonderful unification of each franchise's mechanics
Accessible fight system that doesn't sacrifice depth
A roster bursting with lovable and exciting personalities
Robust tutorial with practical challenges and lessons
Top-notch soundtrack with hits from each universe
The Bad
Some weak writing and spotty presentation in Episode Mode
Future DLC characters appear as CPU-controlled opponents
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Michael threw hands in BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger and Chrono Phantasma, but pursued his true self in Persona 4 Arena and Arena Ultimax. Persona means the world to him, so seeing his best friends from Inaba brings him more joy than you can imagine. Cross-Tag Battle's story mode was completed to 100% across all episodes, and countless matches were fought locally and online with the PS4 and Switch versions. Arc System Works provided complimentary copies of the game for review.
34 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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lokar82

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At least they gave away 5 characters as free dlc over the last few weeks. Fun game but the obviously locked on-disc DLC deserves some negative points.

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Rwmgamer85

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Arc Systems nailed it with Dragon Ball FighterZ, and I had trouble getting into the mechanics of the other franchises within this game. I went ahead and got it and still feel it's a step back from DBF.

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Jag-T1000

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A 9? Seriously? This is no Street fighter or killer instinct. Those two are 9s. This is a 7.5 or 8 at best. Somebody paid ya to give it a 9.

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Dualmask

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I went ahead and grabbed it. Even without the DLC characters, it's a solid fighter with enough characters and content to keep me busy for a while. I'm not fond of the paywall idea, but I've enjoyed fighting games with less characters available than the starting ones here.

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Sakina

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I'm actually interested in this game but man...i really don't want to support all that dlc . I love Arc sys games but all this dlc is killing me.

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tingtong

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Fighting games are like my favorite genre but I just wasn’t feeling this 1.. all I had to do to destroy ppl & do combos was mash buttons & its way too flashy, even tho I like flashy! Thats alright tho, with Soul Calibur 6, Smash Bros, DOA6.. I’m all set.

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everson_rm

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And still no Persona 4 golden for ps4/switch.

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finalfantasy94

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another + should be that they brought the english dub back.

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Redblaze27

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While I can agree the game is a 9/10 in sheer fun factor, the lobby system and 20 DLC characters within its first three months (which are recycled visual assets BTW) drag it down a peg or two.

I'll say it earns the 9 once the game and 20 DLC characters come in at about $50 all-togther,

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GeneralBrownie

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@og_gamerzzz: No, don't be absurd. This isn't a bad game and it's ridiculous to imply that a small studio like Arc System Works is more likely to pay off reviewers for this than Sony is for their console-exclusive AAA game God of War, not to mention plenty of games from bigger studios that have settled with lower scores. Go find something reasonable to be mad about.

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bumpyface

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As far as gameplay I like it. It's rushdown, but you can still zone effectively unlike DBFZ. The soundtrack is F$%#%* amazeballs. The paid dlc stuff though is a turnoff though. I preorded and got the game day 1, but I feel like we should of got more characters at launch. Had Capcom made this game, it would have scored a 6 or less due to the content issues.

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TheDuskwalker

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Edited By TheDuskwalker

This game lacks a arcade mode, yet there is a arcade section on the hub that can't be interacted with unlike the rest of the hub. How is this not mentioned in the review? After the SFV single player backlash and it under performing this seems like a important to thing to mention for a lot of people. Not to mention having blatantly unfinished parts of a game at launch seems like something important to bring up regardless of how big or minor it is, especially when they have actually completed content locked behind a paywall.

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solid_snake1461

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I'm very interested in this game. But a number of paid DLC characters that's equal to the current roster down the line for future MTX? That's a big NO for me. Like hell I'm supporting a second EA Battlefront 2. Take Monster Hunter World as an example. All future additional monsters are completely free. I'll hold on to my purchase until they have released the "ultimate" version of this game that would include all the characters.

And where the heck is my favorite Door-kun? You can say goodbye right now to my money if there is no plan to include him.

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uninspiredcup

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Was looking forward to this, but the DLC was extremely off-putting. Bad memories from SF5 launch.

Hold off until later down the line.

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TheDuskwalker

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@uninspiredcup: Also like SFV, no arcade mode at launch.

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sakaiXx

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Edited By sakaiXx

This game has 20 character as dlc..... Some even already appeared in game as CPU oponent...

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StonerDemon

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Just wait for the inevitable Extend version to get all the DLC included on the disc, guys.

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agramonte

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Edited By agramonte

This was already a failure in JAPAN. Paywall nonsense will fail in States also - it is already at #72 on Amazon.

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No_one

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@agramonte: good, they need to stop the milking and go back to the days of unlocking stuff

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agramonte

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@no_one: exactly - it is a fighting game! that is what you do "unlock stuff"

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videogameninja

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@agramonte: Ouch!

-THAT'S GOTTA HURT NINJA APPROVED-

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videogameninja

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Edited By videogameninja

Despite being a pretty in depth fighter something tells me this game will get lost in a sea of controversy due to the DLC model implemented. That's really a shame because from this review (as well as a host of others.) it sounds like Arc System Works have done an admirable job of translating characters from various properties into one all out slug fest.

With that said I still think I will have a hard time prying my hands off of Dragon Ball FighterZ (yet another one of their properties.) but when the day eventually comes perhaps I'll give this a spin.

-CONTROVERSY TSUNAMI NINJA APPROVED-

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finalfantasy94

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@videogameninja: yea they kind of screwed themselves with the whole DLC thing. I'm holding off until the rest of the 20 characters are in the game.

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NSA_Protocol44

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"Future DLC characters appear as CPU-controlled opponents"

DAMN HAHAHAHHA

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videogameninja

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@nsa_protocol44: What a way to shove it in gamers faces, huh?

-VIDEOGAME TEASE NINJA APPROVED-

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SonictheHeg

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This is why publishers won't stop practices like this. Paid DLC characters appearing as CPU controlled opponents? And it still gets praised by reviewers :/

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SupaMasterGamer

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Edited By SupaMasterGamer

The game is on PC too

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freedom01

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Edited By freedom01  Moderator

@supamastergamer: yes it is. If you are saying, then why did not include that. Then that's because the reviewer played the game on the PS4 and Switch. The mention on what systems the game is released on, is located on the right side information box where you can see the Release date, rating, user rating, dev, pub, and genre

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SupaMasterGamer

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@freedom01: after all this year I never noticed that ... well now I know

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Renunciation

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@lonesamurai1: Yeah.

There's one line for platforms in the header (NS + PS4, in this example) -- and that line mentions which platform(s) the game was reviewed on, while failing to say so.

No description, label, or context: just abbreviated console names.

Not good.

Ought to be two lines, "Reviewed on (platforms)" and "Available for (platforms)".

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle More Info

Follow
  • First Released Jun 5, 2018
    released
    • Arcade Games
    • Nintendo Switch
    • + 2 more
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    A dream cross-over 2D fighting game is now available everywhere.
    7.1
    Average Rating16 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
    Developed by:
    Arc System Works
    Published by:
    Arc System Works, PQube
    Genre(s):
    2D, Action, Fighting
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence