Having never played a mainline BlazBlue game, I came into BlazBlue: Entropy Effect wondering if I’d be able to understand what was going on. As it turns out, it kind of doesn’t matter, since Entropy Effect could possibly have taken the characters from any modern fighting franchise and pulled off the same exact game. Fans will likely get a thrill from playing as characters like Ragna, Mai, and Hakumen, but it’s hardly what you’d call required reading.
While Entropy Effect does use character models and voices from Arc System Works’ BlazBlue: Central Fiction, everything else is new. And arguably, everything else is superfluous. The meat of the game is split across 2D roguelike action levels called Training which you playthrough basically until you finish every section or, more likely, die.
Between these runs you play as an ACER, a cute little robot in a cyberpunk dystopia currently in the grip of the titular Entropy Effect. To survive the incoming apocalypse you must for some reason train fighters in a VR mind simulation called ACE, while navigating some intrigue and skulduggery involving rogue ACERs and other AI. It is, in no uncertain terms, total nonsense that l never becomes less than a drag.
As this little robot you’ll spend AP and EP (action points and exchange points) on permanent buffs and upgrades, while you earn new “Prototype Analysers” to unlock more of the ten available fighters by beating boss-rush style Mind Challenges. Contextually, the fighters are called Evotypes. They can be levelled up individually, and you can have multiple copies, but you can only use any fighter in a Mind Challenge once. Luckily, you can combine their powers to a certain extent, granting your chosen character extra attacks and abilities.
Progression follows a fairly standard path, though there’s a lot of it. Training areas, including boss rooms, are separated by special areas where you can spend currencies and unlock buffs. These include bonuses to your various abilities, and modifiers for existing skills. Some add elemental effects to your attacks, or conjure blade projectiles when you dash. Potential adds permanent upgrades to your skills, and the longer you survive the stronger you’ll become. Meanwhile, AP unlocks buffs that apply to all characters such as health regen or improved cool downs. There are even stackable resurrections that act like extra lives.
The coolest element is the line-up, though. The 10 launch characters in the 1.0 version may not rock their entire BlazBlue movesets, but they’re individual enough to make a real difference when you switch. Hakumen for example is slow and powerful, able to tank more damage, while Noel is weaker but attacks primarily from range, giving her an advantage. Entropy Effect’s 2D action platforming is incredibly fluid and satisfying, too, and is balanced enough that you’ll always be making some progress.
After a certain point you’ll unlock access to a new area called Omega, which randomly generates a larger world that feels more like a traditional MetroidVania. It isn’t that, exactly, but it’s a welcome break from the rinse and repetition of the main mode.
That said, the main mode is fantastic, with a great variety of locations, enemies and bosses, and tons of ways to reward your perseverance. It’s also gorgeous, with a mix of environments, and fast, brutal animations that really convey the necessary violence in each character’s movesets. My only real complaint is the audio. All spoken character dialogue is in Chinese, which is fine in itself, but characters repeat the same lines over and over again to the point of distraction, which I don’t like.
Even if you’re not a fan of the mainline franchise, BlazBlue: Entropy Effect will appeal if you like a good side-scrolling action game. The story isn’t why I’m here, but the real focus here is the superb 2D brawling and the balanced, rewarding, Meta-progression.
Story feels superfluous
Repeated voice lines