hands off the panda

A thorough discussion of a completely inane topic.

(I needed a filler post.)

For me, fighting games are like Chinese restaurants. They all have more or less a tremendous menu of either pork, chicken, and seafood or fighters. They all have the same moves– oh look, fried rice! Oh look, a special move activated with a 623! And both give you an obligatory terrible dessert at the end: the fortune cookie and the storyline. And we’re perfectly fine with this. I play Street Fighter and Tekken not for the plot but for the meaty fighting and the rage of losing and the thrill of victory.

But… once in a while, you’ll stumble across a Chinese restaurant that doesn’t give you a fortune cookie at the end. Instead, you get a warm bowl of sweet red bean soup. Ah, that’s just an extra tasty bonus. And that’s exactly what a good, interesting story is to fighting games– a tasty bonus.

And that brings us to BlazBlue.

A couple things to note before I begin… one, this post is really intended for the smallest of audiences: people who are familiar with BlazBlue and read a blog where bikinis with thighhighs, Luluko, and meido are celebrated. That’s not exactly a great proportion of the world, but it’s an important one. Two, I enjoyed writing about Guilty Gear. Come on. It had Bridget. How could I not enjoy writing about it? Three, this isn’t a gameplay review. Fighters are like vacation spots: some people like Cancun, Europe, Tahiti, Tokyo, Aincrad, Disney World, Yosemite, and Graceland. Everyone has their own preference. Just BlazBlue happens to be Vegas of fighting mechanics. Lastly, this season is so crappy, I am really stretching for things to write about.

My first exposure to BlazBlue was in an Toronto arcade a while back. I was looking for an Accent Core machine when I spotted it… Arc Sys made another 2D fighter? Wha? I mean, I had to try. You couldn’t keep me from trying. It was like keeping Shana from a mound of freshly baked melon-shaped bread or keeping Sasha from plump, juicy soma. Just unpossible. And as soon as I noticed that Ragna and Jin suspiciously resemble Sol and Ky, wild horses couldn’t tear me away. Honestly, then, I didn’t have time to reflect on who these characters were.

Fast forward a few months, and I got the 360 version. I ripped into it. I didn’t bother with story mode, and I thought that the arcade mode “story” made Code Geass seem like To Kill A Mockingbird. I talked in terms of 236236D and wasted way too much time on dustloop. I wasn’t getting enough sunshine. My anime blogging suffered. And my Ragna still sucks. (I think in terms of peak ability, it’s about 28-30 for the NBA. You’re just a tad beyond your physical peak, but you have that right window where there’s enough physical ability left but with a good amount of experience. In terms of fighting games, I’m convinced it’s 22-24. I think your physical ability peaks much earlier, and experience doesn’t count for as much. Plus, it’s a good age for having free time.)

You know what? That was a mistake. The story’s as entertaining as the fighting mechanics. Only now do I really appreciate the story. How?

1. 15,532. You know exactly where I’m coming with this one. Imagine Endless Eight, except replace Kyon with a Kyonko loli vampire. And that’ll be wrong. (Wrong figuratively and metaphorically.) The basic plot has all the tragedies of 100 years constantly repeating, only you don’t know which reboot you’re in. And each repeat can subtlety effect the next one. In that sense, it’s more like Higarashi. The same tragic scenario repeats, with Nii-pah desperately trying to fight against fate over and over again. However, she is able to at least subtlety influence the next reboot. And, really, only anime and videogames from Japan can milk the “Hey, let’s repeat the plot” mechanic this badly.

(Plus, loli who drinks wine smacking around a weak loli ghost… versus a loli vampire who drinks Darjeeling tea and smacks around a bat and that cat thing.)

2. Ragna and Jin. Greatest boy-boy couple since Lulu and Suzaku, surpassing Setsuna and Lockon. Arc Sys took the homoerotic overtones between Sol and Ky and multiplied it by ten. I’m convinced that during Jin’s story mode, after he beats up Ragna, he had his way with him, much like Chizuru and Aka-chan. I can’t understate Jin’s obsession with Ragna… you know how obsessive some otaku fanboys can be? As in wallpapering their room with Megami magazine foldouts, purchasing K-On! leg pillows, and have an endless array of plastic models? (If you’re reading this, and you can’t think of someone with a room like that… it means that you’re the one with the room like that. For Pete’s sake, you’re reading a blog that specializes in 2,000 word posts about K-On!.) I can imagine that Jin’s room is nothing but Ragna wallpaper, Ragna leg pillows, and Ragna plastic models.

3. The Japanese voice acting is superb, and the English localization is train wreck superb. My favorite has to be Ragna, whose English voice sounds like a 19 year old frat boy than a bad ass Heath Ledger type. (As in Brokeback, not as in Dark Knight.) I keep expecting Ragna to go, “Hey guys, anyone else want to go grab some brewskis?” My second favorite has to be Taokaka, whose Japanese seiyuu, I’ve heard, is excellent.

(And Taokaka’s lines… well… they’re awesome. Boobie Lady, “I’m going to rape you!”… come on. She’s on the short list of greatest and stupidest fighting game characters.)

(I thought Taokaka’s excellent seiyuu should have voiced every female character in Ghostory. She could definitely do Mayoi at the very least. She has the range, unlike, oh, Horie Yui… who has one A voice, but it’s still just one voice.)

4. I enjoyed all the quirky kinks of the Guilty Gear cast, and I’m glad Arc Sys brought the same personality highlights to BlazBlue. Everyone on Guilty Gear was weird to the point that Faust– FAUST!– seemed boring by comparison. Let’s see… a girl who talks to her hair, a girl who talks with dolphins, the Sol and Ky bromance, the one-armed yet double-boobed samurai, and Bridget. Even a seemingly normal character is broken. Let me put it this way… Johnny leads a pirate gang of underaged girls. You know what? It’s one thing to be a pirate… it’s another when you only accept underaged girls as your shipmates. Just a plethora of characters. The Guilty Gear freakshow is kinda like the pig blood soup you might find in Hong Kong dim sum. Street Fighter would be more like beef with broccoli.

Honestly, nothing tops Guilty Gear, but BlazBlue brings some strong arguments. Taokaka, Ragna, Jin, Rachel… they all could have been in Guilty Gear’s cast. Everyone’s broken. I enjoy Carl’s beyond freaky siscon, I enjoy Litchi’s irrational love for Arakune, I enjoy Bang’s FRKZ, I enjoy Nu’s attempts to “combine” with Ragna, and I enjoy how Noel is so timid and useless unless she’s defending the honor of her bosom. Then she becomes Jin Kazuma after he discovers that Heihachi double crossed him. (Ha! Make that people who play BlazBlue, watch Seitokai no Ichizon, understand the lack of different Horie Yui voices, and suffered through Tekken’s fortune cookie-class plot.) I definitely enjoy how Noel’s alternate story is her trying to avoid getting costume raped by Litchi. Yes, if you’re keeping score, so far we have an uncomfortable bromance, a Higurashi rip-off plot, a Kanbaru prototype, an abusive loli vampire with Belldandy’s tastes for refreshments, a siscon, a SaiKano rip-off who wants to mate with a 19 year old frat boy, and a costume rape side story. How many tropes is that?


Love Me Love Me Say That You Love Me

5. Teach Me Ms. Litchi gives me a great idea for an anime series. You have a seemingly normal doctor (with a hawt body, of course) getting visited by various freaks. Every episode, it would be a different freak with a different problem. It would be Teach Me Ms. Litchi crossed with House. Like this wouldn’t be an improvement over B Gata H Kei, Ladies vs. Butlers, and Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou.

(Of course, you could say that this concept of a well-meaning but never turns out that way doctor exists already: Frankenfran. Honestly, as much as I appreciate Fran, I think I rather go for the comedic fanservice angle of Teach Me Ms. Litchi. I can only handle so much traumatic, moralistic gore.)

6. My biggest complaint about the story has to be Gonzo handling the 2D animation scenes. Why? Why?! WHY!!! Yes, there’s not a lot of 2D animation, but, really, let’s not sully ourselves with Gonzo. As Rachel said to her bat after Arakune vomited the bat up, let’s not stand within five yards downwind of said bat.

(Rachel is an awesome immortal loli vampire. So much better than Mina.)

7. I like how the official BlazBlue online store is selling prepaid phone cards… and half of them feature Rachel x Noel scenes. I think this is Arc Sys’s way of trying to balance out all the Ragna x Jin uncomfortableness. Out of curiosity, who uses phone cards these days?

8. It’s a story that seems really trivial at first, but, when digging deep, it’s not bad. It’s an acquired taste, maybe not like a durian, but not that far off either. The initial feel I got from the story really didn’t matter (again, plot for fighting games is like sense and sensibility in anime blogging– totally a dessert). But as I started getting into story mode, it got better. Much better. To the point where I find the story highly underrated, much like Final Fantasy VIII.

So there you have it. Even more reasons to enjoy an already great game and hopefully Arc Sys will bring Continuum Shift stateside. (Really, nothing would make me happier than either a Guilty Gear vs. BlazBlue game… or a Code Geass and Gundam crossover. I might explode from experiencing either.)

19 Responses to “hands off the panda”

  1. This post me look around my room and voice a small sigh.
    I have now resigned and placed that order for the 6×8 ft. poster of Mio.
    Who am I kidding.

  2. Hmm looks interesting, and I see that there is PSP version that was released just a couple of days ago as wel. Even though Im not that familiar with guilty gear, I’ve been looking for a good PSP game for a while now.

  3. All I’ve gotten from this post is, I still need to play you in a match.
    But yeah I agree I love the Blazblue storyline, I’ve been playing Aksys fighting games since GGXX #Reload, such as Basara X and Battle Fantasia (which was so bad no one in the west coast fighting game community picked it up even remotely). After getting 100% on every story in BB:CT I can’t wait to do it again for storyline purposes in BB:CS, of course that and to play Tsubaki online against people. She’s so much fun… Sorry Noel, loss of throw whiff loop = loss of fun. But she can still 214a me anytime, if you know what I mean.
    Oh and if you haven’t seen this yet..
    Gogo Kotoko

  4. Any fan of BlazBlue must own the 6B t-shirt (found at http://www.aksysgames.com/wp-c....._shirt.jpg). I mained Hakumen because of how satisfying it was to stomp opponents flat (and because I suck at long combos and need a character with high damage output). And I agree with everything about the story. I think Rachel’s story is the most tragic and best because you can only imagine how many time loops she has been through and being constrained to essentially allow them to repeat. The next favorite is Jin/Hakumen’s, the tragic hero story. I especially want to know more about the days of the six legendary heroes. Do I smell a prequel game where the cast is made up of them and some of the other characters like Valkenheim, Nirvana’s previous master and Rachel’s father (Dracula)? The story is so rich that this is entirely possible.

    @Ginko, BlazBlue is a very solid fighter with lots of modes and depth. You won’t be disappointed unless you hate games like Guilty Gear or Melty Blood (very Japanese 2D fighters). My only issue with the PSP version is the low res because BlazBlue was originally designed for HD and it is stunning on my PS3. It’s pretty cheap now also.

    So Jason, going to preorder the Japanese version of CS for the Noel Nendroid? I gotta say that I am tempted.

  5. Which is a problem. Everytime I hang out with my friends, and they decide to go to an arcade, I’ll go “Awesome, I wonder if they have a Blazblue machines.” And then they give me that face like they’ve just seen Luluko and they go “Blaze-what?”

    The best thing about Blazblue is how commited they are to world building as much as developing a great fighter. It’s true, characters make or break a fighter, and you can’t ask for a better cast than Blazblue or Guilty Gear. Also great is how they exploit their girls for fanservice, but that’s probably for someone else to comment on.

    Anyhow, I’m maining Noel (like a thousand other DFC loving Mio wallpaper hanging otakus are…no I’m not one, cough cough, I’ll settle for a simple Miku Mug) and I can’t wait for console Continuum Shift. You get to unlock/play as mu-12/Noel-gone-batshit-pissed-off, and damn she is hot.

    I mean, yeah I can’t wait for more episodes of Jin/Ragna bromance. That’s why i visit this blog right? for the bromance, right?


  6. Oh yeah, and what the hell did they do to the announcer’s voice in CS? Why couldn’t they keep the old announcer? Been listening to Rachel’s vocals to her theme (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biTX5vUOi8Y). Reminds me of Rozen Maiden. And poor Gii.

  7. Heathen. If you want bromamce without self-conscious awkwardness, try later chapters of Dance in the Vampire Bund or Baka to Test.

  8. @Jounin: That announcer is SO HYPE, every time you hear the match is about to begin your blood begin’s to BOIL.
    No matter how silly it sounds I think it’s hilarious, it’s like GGXX #Slash announcer to GGXXAC announcer, but 10x funnier. Oh and Noel is a mainable character for more than just her DFC and delicious thi- nevermind I main Tsubaki now I can’t cheat on her like that.

  9. You have a seemingly normal doctor (with a hawt body, of course) getting visited by various freaks. Every episode, it would be a different freak with a different problem.

    Change it to a freakish doctor getting visited by various nearly-normal people, and you have Kuuchu Buranko…. Even comes with a therapeutic hot body.

  10. Should also mention that the bromance is also incest… and also the end couple is ALSO incest… noel x nu could even be considered twincest

  11. @Chumara: Ehh, that announcer is more grating for me. The first announcer had an elegant air to her voice while the second announcer is just ridiculous. Although you have to agree with me on this, the opening part of Tsubaki’s theme gets me pretty hyped for a match.
    I also sympathize with tidal. My cousins come over often for a gamenight and I can’t get them interested in BlazBlue.

  12. Those phone cards were AFAIK put in an artbook.
    Pool of high-res scans: http://danbooru.donmai.us/pool/show/1010

    Enjoy in moderation! ;)

  13. @ Jounin: Thx for the advice, unfortunatly I don’t have a Ps3 or xbox 360 so I’m stuck with the PSP version :( Luckily I can get a ‘free’ version working’ on my PSP to try it out at least hehe

  14. >>>My first exposure to BlazBlue was in an Toronto arcade a while back. I was looking for an Accent Core machine when I spotted it…

    I don’t remember there are arcades THAT new in Toronto. Can you remember where is that place?

  15. So it is a warm day in California and I am testing out this saying where you drink something hot to stay cool–heard it from two different places (one being Railgun) and I thought to try it out. Can’t tell you the result right now because my drink is too hot. How does this refer to BlazBlue? Because Noel mumbles in Taokaka’s story about hearing how having a boy “massage” her chest would increase her bust size. I hear that alot in anime. If my hot green tea latte solves my problem, maybe I can help Noel with hers?

  16. Sorry, J, I cant find you a crossover between Code Geass and Gundam. I, however, dug up a Gundam crossed over with K-ON!


    I really enjoy playing Blazblue, but the PS3 network community seems to be a lot smaller than XBOX live, which makes me regret buying this version (that and I’ve already destroyed two controllers in attempts to master Rachel). However, I think 40% of the population being Jin 214CB spammers is universal to both versions, so I guess its not that bad.

  17. http://kotaku.com/5497723/blaz.....his-summer

    ^______^ I’m sooooooo very excited.

  18. Hey Jason! Glad to hear that you’re also a BB player.. except that you’re on the 360 and I’m on the PS3. If you ever get the PS3 version, hit me up (Cy-rene).

    If you haven’t tried Tager yet, try him~ :)
    And I personally also love the “Teach me! Boobie Lady!” series of the game.. it really brings out the personality in all the characters.

  19. I’ll give you that Blazblue’s story mode can be very entertaining, and the characters fun. But I wouldn’t in go so far to call the overarcing storyline “good.” It commits the same sin that a lot of anime (and western tv shows like Lost) does: Make everything needlessly complicated, with time loops and dimension-hopping and a bunch of spooky shadow people that hang out in ghost chairs. It’s impossible to understand what’s going on off the bat, but the mystery intruigues you so you figure it must be something cool. It keeps you guessing.

    But when you finally see it all explained, it turns out there’s no substance behind any of it. Yes, it turns out that all of that mysterious dialogue signifies that these three people are these other three people from the future, but does that enhance the story in any way? Does it make the story resonate emotionally? It’s complication for complication’s sake, and when the story’s laid bare, explained in a straightforward fashion by some fansite, you’re left asking “So what?”

    I get the distinct impression that the purpose of this sort of convoluted storytelling like this is to fill up as many hours as possible without coming up with anything substantial.

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