It’s become something of an obnoxious tradition for fighting game makers to release a game, add on a couple more characters and re-release the game, and then add on even a few more and do it all again. Arc System Works enthusiastically embraces this convention, each release extending the already-impenetrable storyline, and I have to admit I have no idea how many BlazBlue games there are now (I know I own three, and I was thinking about buying the most recent for the Xbox One that I bought but don’t really use very often, except I don’t know which one that is and I don’t know if another improved re-release is imminent). I guess even they don’t want to source everything from a single well, though, which is perhaps why they’ve branched out into, of all things, the visual novel genre. Xblaze is a currently two-part series which, somehow, is part of the BlazBlue universe; I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but it is. It’s seemingly incongruous for a visual novel to be tied into a world-renowned fighting game franchise, but then, I suppose it’s no weirder than spinning off into beach volleyball.
Arc Systems Works has been pushing the BlazBlue franchise hard in recent times. Notably, the fifth and most recent console iteration of the game – BlazBlue Chrono Phantasma Extend – is due for release in the North American market in just a few days. In addition, its ofttimes incomprehensible plot has been extended by a dizzying array of multimedia: spinoff games – including, rather incongruously for a fighting game series, some visual novels – manga, light novels, and a poorly-received anime series. Concomitant with this expansion is the sort of product push that the better-known Guilty Gear series never received, comprising a variety of wall scrolls, stickers, hugging pillowcase covers, and of course, figures such as this one. This isn’t even the first Mu-12 figure to hit the market – that distinction goes to FREEing’s version from well over a year back – but being that the last time Alter made a figure of an Arc System Works character turned out quite well, the redundancy is not at all unwelcome.
Arc System Works’s BlazBlue is the spiritual successor to Guilty Gear, and on the whole both series are quite similar. Both are fast-paced 2D fighting games; both feature a colorful cast of eclectic and memorable characters; both feature awesome instrumental rock and heavy metal soundtracks. However, there is one area where BlazBlue diverges from its forebear and that’s in how it has been marketed. Guilty Gear is by no means an obscure series but it has always been something of a niche game; furthermore, its popularity has always been keyed by the game itself. With BlazBlue, however, Arc System Works is evidently trying to expand its appeal beyond its core fanbase. The most obvious attempt is its recently-concluded anime adaptation, titled BlazBlue: Alter Memory. BlazBlue has also been the subject of a heavy merchandising effort, including the usual telephone cases, telephone cards (often depicting Noel being molested by Rachel, or vice versa), soundtrack collections, and dakimakura covers – Arc System Works released the first dakimakura cover of Noel Vermillion way back at Comiket 76 in summer of 2009, and apparently she’s getting another one next month, and several other characters (including Jin Kisaragi, which surely made the ladies happy) have gotten or will be getting immortalized on a pillowcase. And of course, BlazBlue has gotten a variety of figures, including one of protagonist-turned-antagonist-turned-protagonist-again Mu-12, which is what we’ll be looking at here.
Voice synthesis software and eroge company mascots get scads of figures but fighting game characters are mostly an afterthought in the corporate mindset of figure makers. Heck, I’ve got another Super Sonico on order and another one still in its box, and I’ve got an unopened Miku Hatsune figure sitting on the stack, waiting for me to build her machine of joy. If you’re looking for a figure of a fighting game girl, you’re going to have to look at Kotobukiya’s Tekken figures or Hobby Japan’s Queen’s Gate series, which is where this version of Noel Vermillion comes from.
2009 is a good year for fighting games, with Street Fighter IV released for consoles earlier in the year, The King of Fighters XII scheduled for later this summer, and now we have a spiritual successor to Arc System Works’s Guilty Gear X in BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger. Players of Guilty Gear will feel right at home with BlazBlue, as many of the basic game mechanics have transitioned to the newer game. I’m not very good at BlazBlue (or any fighting games, really), so I can’t speak to the more advanced fighting concepts. Thus far I’ve played primarily as Noel, the ever-polite, painfully shy grammaton cleric, but from what I’ve seen each character possesses his or her own unique moveset and quirks. This is a good thing since unlike other contemporary fighting games, BlazBlue’s playable roster is comparatively short at twelve characters.
The game uses character sprites rather than 3D models like Street Fighter IV, and they look superb. Even better is the game’s audio. The game features surprisingly good English voice acting; I usually prefer Japanese voices for Japanese games, but this time I’ve kept the language set to English. The music is awesome and is of the same theme as Guilty Gear – that is, the soundtrack principally comprises thrashing, churning operatic heavy metal. Oriental Flower – Litchi’s theme – is my favorite song, but the soundtrack is outstanding in general. Aksys Games has generously included a copy of the soundtrack with the first production run of the game.
I spent some time this holiday weekend reshooting some more old figures to replace some of my poor-quality pictures. Old and new pictures of Gwendolyn:
Gah. Jesus that looks awful. Newer picture uses the black background that is in almost all of my recent figure reviews:
Old and new for Sasara:
I wonder what I’m going to do with all that fabric. On a happier note, I think I’ve figured out how to get a decent white background without massively blowing out the highlights on my figures:
I’ve got a bunch of stuff due in on Monday. I hope the post office guy is driving a pretty big truck.