Up until the release of Dragon Ball FighterZ, Arc System Works was the fighting game developer I wanted to love more than I actually did. Experts at making visually-luscious and mechanically-complex fighters, the former has gotten me to buy a number of their games, while the latter has caused me to push them away in short order. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place in this world for fighters with their level of depth, but it’s a bridge too far for me.
Maybe it was just the developer trying to cater to the Dragon Ball audience, but Dragon Ball FighterZ shows what Arc System Works can do when they attempt to tone down their core formula for something more accessible. While I think it went a smidgen too far with accessibility to the point where the game feels a bit too limiting in ways, it was the first of their games that I could really sink my teeth into and love on a deeper level.
It may be too much to assume that the impact of FighterZ influenced the development of BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, but based on my time with the beta on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, accessibility continues to be a focal point for the developer. At this pre-release juncture, I’m greatly enjoying what I’m seeing.
While the game bears the BlazBlue name on the box, it’s actually an evenly-divided crossover fighter featuring combatants from BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth, and the hit web anime RWBY. Fans of those respective franchises will likely rejoice, though all four of these IPs are fairly niche. Having little emotional attachment to any of these characters, I kind of stuck to Ragna and Jin because I could practice as them in the training mode largely uninterrupted. Will have to do some soul searching upon release to find a duo that best fits my style.
This is a 2v2 fighting game where you take direct control of one character on screen while having the ability to call in their partner for assist moves or team-up attacks. The player that ends the fight with at least one of their combatants standing is declared the winner. If you have played any of the Marvel vs. Capcom games or Dragon Ball FighterZ, you should have a base understanding of this game’s format.
Bringing in four distinct franchises into one roof has caused Arc System Works to streamline this package on a number of fronts. For one, the graphical presentation of Cross Tag Battle is a step backwards from what we’ve seen in previous BlazBlue games or the stunning Dragon Ball FighterZ. Not to say that it looks bad, but it certainly appears more muted in terms of details and visual flourishes. In particular, it’s clear that most of these characters have been built with pre-existing assets, as they don’t quite look as sharp as the RWBY characters that have been optimized for modern screens. This is particularly apparent on the Switch, where characters look oddly pixelated. That said, it still looks good enough and even the Switch version maintains its framerate. If you’re playing it on the go, the game looks about as good as it does on the PS4 with the tablet.
Mashing the four franchises together has also caused a streamlining of system mechanics. With Arc System Works games, they usually pile on character-specific mechanics to the point where playing a different character was like playing a completely different game. In Cross Tag Battle, every character’s unique attributes have been adjusted to fit one universal set of systems. This doesn’t immediately make for a pick-up-and-play experience, but as someone who is well-versed in fighting games as a whole, it didn’t take long to get a sense of how the game is played. The tutorial mode can make it seem daunting, but it’s not really doing anything you haven’t seen in another fighter before.
Where the depth comes into play is with its tag system. Unlike Marvel vs. Capcom or Dragon Ball FighterZ where each off-screen character only has one assist move, your buddy will have access to three unique moves that you can summon at any time depending on what direction you hold the d-pad or joystick. As such, every character can act as a worthwhile back-up with moves that can either extend combos, create pressure, or create space from a tight situation. On top of that, the game has a quasi-Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite style mechanic that allows you to switch control to the assist character while the main character is attacking. It’s a bit more limited, but you can string together elaborate sequences that require you to switch between characters mid-combo. This, combined with flashy moves and a lenient juggle system create a game that gives players a lot of offensive wiggle room. It feels like it hits a sweet spot between the overly-complex main games and the slightly-too-simplistic Dragon Ball FighterZ.
Once you get into the match, you’re air dashing and attacking at breakneck speeds. Your health bars will deteriorate at a similar rate, as matches end rather quickly. Even in the early days of the beta where players were mostly relying on auto combos, a 2v2 match of BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle would end faster than your average Street Fighter V fight. Let’s give it some time, but I think the game would benefit from either more damage scaling or a damage reduction all around so that fights last a bit longer.
Prior to the beta, I did not have BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle on my radar. Now, I’m putting my purchase of Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Edition to get BlazBlue on launch day instead. Still haven’t figured out which version though. PlayStation 4 version is obviously the safe bet, but I really enjoyed playing this in portable mode and the Pro Controller worked just fine for me. Maybe I’ll double dip?