BlazBlue has seemingly always prided itself on strange titles, much in the vein of the completely nonsensical naming conventions of the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Big hair and daft names aside, one aspect BlazBlue hasn’t fully capitalized on yet is spin-off titles. But things are about to change with the Early Access release of BlazBlue: Entropy Effect on Steam.
BlazBlue: Entropy Effect is developed by 91 Act under license from Arc System Works. 91 Act is a Chinese company that previously released mobile titles for Dengeki Bunko and BlazBlue so they are familiar with the franchise and its kin, with Entropy Effect making the studio’s debut on PC. There has been no mention of console releases to follow yet.
It’s Confusing But It’s Not BlazBlue
BlazBlue: Entropy Effect is set in a cyber world where everyone is using “ACE”. ACE is something like a full-body VR, turning people into digital robot avatars and allowing them to experience MIND training. Of course, you just happen to have a strange reaction to the MIND training and find yourself falling down a rabbit hole of conspiracy and quirky robot characters in a confusing and out-of-place narrative for the franchise.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve played, read, and watched hours of BlazBlue making me slightly versed in the utter nonsense that the series pushes out as a narrative. But Entropy Effect lost me within seconds and never quite won me back during my time with it. Even after finishing the currently available content of BlazBlue: Entropy Effect, I am struggling to figure out how this has any connection to BlazBlue outside of the cast of playable characters, which to my understanding are just digital avatars and could quite frankly have been anything.
The story this game does present offers the usual cyber mystery you would expect from something involving full-body VR and giant corporations. You’ve got all the cliches you could expect. From people hacking into the system to help you, to you being cyber Jesus. It’s entertaining but never really gripped me and I ended up mindlessly skipping at one point just to get back into the action. This could be a “me” issue though as I wanted it to be connected to BlazBlue lore, as the name implied…
It’s Been 84 Seconds Since The Last Rogue
BlazBlue: Entropy Effect strays away from the series’ 2D fighting game roots to provide fans with a new way of blazing blue. This time we are going with the very rarely seen 2D Action Platformer with Roguelike elements. Yes, randomly generated rooms and abilities with snappy combat and permadeath. Sure it’s nothing original but if it isn’t broke then why fix it eh!
Before we talk about the good stuff it’s worth tackling the hub world in which you’ll be doing all manner of things. Story progression, talking to other ACE units, and buying your permanent upgrades; this all takes place in the hub before you head into the more action-packed bits of the game. Here you control a non-descript robot character and move from left to right speaking with other users or interacting with items within the hub world.
After you’ve been through the HUB you’ll enter the character select which initially only allows you to play as Hibiki. After you’ve defeated the first boss, you can start unlocking other characters from the following list of series favorites: Ragna the Bloodedge, Noel Vermillion, Hakumen, Kokonoe, Mai, and Lambda-11. Es is shown as coming soon, and Tao and Jin are in the trailers for the game meaning they should be making an appearance down the line.
The Wheels Of Fate Keep Turning
Each character has moves and sprites taken right from the series. They seem to have taken the sprites for the characters from BlazBlue: Central Fiction. This would make the most sense as that was the latest BlazBlue game. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be anything currently in terms of new sprite work.
Up until you beat the first boss the first world is always the same, when you vanquish that first obstacle everything starts to randomize a little more. Each world has a particular theme, be it a cyberpunk city, ruins, forest, or research facility. This determines what enemies you fight, the boss at the end of it, and general obstacles ranging from your ever-so-friendly flamethrowers to deadly spikes waiting to add a few more holes to your character.
The game flows in stages. Each stage is either a combat stage or an area where you can unlock abilities for your character, heal up, or rid your character of corruption. Corruption being an effect which slowly builds and gives you a negative effect, such as extending cooldown on moves. You are given a choice for nearly every room of what type of room you want it to be. It’s down to you to make sure you’re equipped enough to tackle what you want to do with that run, be it build enough currency to unlock permanent upgrades from the HUB world or get further into the adventure and solve the mystery of what an Entropy Effect is!
Rebel 1, Action!
Combat stages generally are just made up of generic rooms, which may or may not have traps to dodge while you take down “X” amount of foes before it unlocks and you’re off to the next one. The other rooms are just an open area where you’ll interact with a monitor and reap the desired effect. BlazBlue: Entropy Effect doesn’t want to waste time with exploration and mystery. Instead it wants to funnel you to its best asset as soon as possible.
Controls are simple and movement is fast, fluid, and responsive. Each character has iconic moves from the series that work in the same way, but rather than needing to know the fighting game input you can activate them with the press of a button and direction. You’ll be firing out Ragna’s Calamity Scissors with the greatest of ease while in the middle of juggling your prey made up of generic-looking ninjas, trees, or robots.
You have the genre staple “Dodge Roll”, as well as the ability to jump. You can unlock further special moves and a Health Kit which recharges over time; this is your emergency heal as not every character has access to a healing move. Being a “Roguelike”, the game doesn’t want you to survive without really knuckling down and displaying utter dominance over it.
Eventually, after enough rooms, you’ll come to the area boss. These are usually tanky battles that hit hard and can be run killers until you learn the patterns. Like any good boss battle they also have “desperation phases” where they mix up their attacks at low health to keep you on your toes.
You slowly start to learn enemy and boss patterns and you do have some abilities that get saved to characters after a run, meaning you can eventually start a run with a character already donning a poison build. Like most Roguelikes it’s down to you to figure out the best way to spec your character with the randomly offered upgrades.
Can’t Escape From Crossing Fate
Visually BlazBlue: Entropy Effect nails that 2D Cyberpunk aesthetic despite it at times feeling a little at odds with itself. Again, this boils down to the BlazBlue aspect. The characters feel like they have been ripped from BlazBlue: Central Fiction and forced to play here for relevancy and a quick buck.
That isn’t to say the game doesn’t do anything with the art. The lighting in the city stages creates a beautiful outline and shading to the characters which look amazing. And the HUB world has a brilliant consistency to the art direction. When the game plays to its original strengths it looks the best, it just seems to struggle when it comes to including something with a loud personality like the BlazBlue franchise.
The above also affects the audio side of things. You have a Chinese dub with Japanese voice work for the BlazBlue cast and music that frankly isn’t going to match up to the stuff Arc System Works creates. When you have two fighting game franchises and people know them for the in-game OST, you are going to struggle to produce music to even stand close to the source, and that’s evident here.
While everything with BlazBlue: Entropy Effect is fine, that’s all it currently is. The game feels very vanilla outside of how good the combat feels, and the Blazblue aspect is nonexistent outside of playable characters and one boss. It’s still in early access so there is time for it to find more of an identity. Ironically it so far it feels like an imitation of a brand with a much stronger identity at the moment, ala BlazBlue and Guilty Gear.
As it stands I’m curious about the future of this title’s full release. It could go either way off the cliff it’s currently teetering on. I’m hopeful the developers will go all in on this making it more of a worthy BlazBlue title. As of now though, I need to see more of that before I suggest the game to anyone.
WAIT FOR SALE ON BLAZBLUE: ENTROPY EFFECT
Thank you to 91 Act for providing a Steam review code for BlazBlue: Entropy Effect.
Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage
Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!
Pride of utopia & greatest thing ever, I found the One Piece, Collected the Dragon Balls & won the Mortal Kombat Tournament in one night, it was quiet for me that night! Follow me on Twitter @powahdunk