There’s all kinds of gamers out there. There’s gamers that love to play sports games, and that’s their largest amount of gaming time they spend on. There’s gamers that love their fighting games, and they go so far as to play a select few fighting games until they’ve mastered it and play in fighting game tournaments. Personally, I’m a mix of several types of interests, but I have strong leanings to Japanese games.
So for people that enjoy Japanese games in general, they always have to hear about video games that never make it to English speaking territories, or the gap between English release is large enough that you can fully play the game if you went ahead and imported it. One game I’ve actually finished in Japanese before the English release is Black Rock Shooter: The Game. Keep in mind: this will be a review of the Japanese version.
The explanation of the history of Black Rock Shooter is a complicated story at best. So for the sake of this review I’ll summarize it. Black Rock Shooter started as an image made by an artist that got popular. It’s spawned into many things with many continuities since then. This video game was developed by Imageepoch, and is being published by NISA.
Black Rock Shooter: The Game is a unique-style RPG. You play as a girl named Black Rock Shooter. She gets awakened by a group of humans in a post-apocalyptic setting. It turns out the humans that awakened her are the last humans on Earth. The basic setting is that humanoid aliens have destroyed all of humanity except for a handful of humans. Black Rock Shooter, BRS for short, quickly decides to help the humans, and fights the aliens. While lacking in basic emotions and human concepts she’s a powerhouse that wields a giant gun similar to the size of Cloud’s infamous buster sword.
The gameplay itself is in real time, in a pseudo 3rd person shooter format. I say this because your basic form of attacking is your gun. She uses a sword as well, but it’s only used as skill attacks. Not like a typical shooter though is that you’re position is set. You don’t move in a 3D movement format. Instead you stand still, and you can dodge from left or right when an enemy attack is coming your way. In order to limit and balance the gameplay BRS has an overheat gauge for dodging and attacking. You build this gauge up every time you dodge and attack. If it maxes out BRS will stop and become a target until the gauge finishes a cool down period.
You can select items with the L button, and it freezes time when you do. The R button will bring up your selected skills, and they’re each assigned to a face button. They’re largely just basic attack and buff skills, but you can combine skills in whatever way you want. For instance, you can use the snipe attack skill that automatically paralyzes them once you hit them with it, and then follow it up with a skill that doubles your next attack and then follow that up with a power attack skill for massive damage that your opponent can’t dodge. This strategy works on regular enemies and bosses alike, but it’s ultimately up to you how you want to strategize your skills.
The story of the game is a mostly depressing tale. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic setting so of course the mood isn’t going to be most chipper of stories. You’re basically set in a no hope situation considering all the remaining humans are males and they’re all fighting for their lives on a regular basis. The focus on the story is of course on the protagonist, BRS. You find out about who she was through several flashbacks, and eventually meet another ally (she isn’t playable) named Nana Gray. She’s similar to BRS, but she’s a lot more cynical than the naive BRS because she’s seen her allies die while BRS slumbered. This consequently makes Nana outright hate BRS right from the start. So the main angles of the story are BRS, Nana, and the remaining humans in this world of no hope. The story is interesting, and BRS and Nana’s story will probably be the main draw for many people. The humans just felt like an excuse to extend the game. There’s only three main humans that get lots of story time, but the only interesting one is Rothcol, the only one really fleshed out.
Before you ask, I do understand some Japanese. I know enough to play a game, and understand a story up to an extent. I did indeed get lost at certain segments of the story, but for the most part I followed along just fine. Although a huge understanding of Japanese isn’t necessary for this game. The RPG menu is largely in English, and dungeons are largely one path affairs. So the chance of getting lost, or not being able to advance is very small. In fact, if the game wasn’t guaranteed an English release I’d strongly recommend this as an import title.
So the overall production values of the game are very high. I had played a portion of the game on my TV and it played and looked just fine. I’d equate the production level to something Square Enix has done on the PSP. Titles such as Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, or Final Fantasy Dissidia. Aside from one mission in the game it is fully 100% voiced. From start to finish you’ll be having voice acting in the game, and the developers even added a minor bike mini-game to change things up at a certain point in the game. The bike mini-game is easily one of the hardest parts of the game, but with no real penalty for failing it it’s not a deal breaker.
Of course the drawback of these high productions value from a company that doesn’t have the financial level as Square Enix is that the game is short. How short? So short that the game took less than 20 hours to beat twice. To the game’s credit, once you beat the game you can select any mission from the game that you want and it has its cutscenes fully intact. The game has one ending you’re forced to get on your first playthrough, but after that you get the option to change what happens in certain missions so that the ending of the game is different. So even though I got two endings I only replayed the missions I needed to play in order to get the second ending. So the second playthrough was probably an estimation of less than two hours.
So with everything said, Black Rock Shooter: The Game hits US PSN stores on April 23rd. The game will be $20, and at that price the game is a steal. It may be a short RPG, but it’s a highly enjoyable and fun one at that. The story that didn’t involve the humans was great, the gameplay was fun and satisfying, and the overall game was just well made for a portable setting. So if any of this review sounded interested to you then get your PSN wallet ready for the English release.