Thursday, May 2, 2013

Black Rock Shooter: The Game (PSP) Review


One of the last games being released on the PSP, Black Rock Shooter: The Game has made its way to the Playstation Store.  This unique action RPG has fans play as BRS, a super powerful warrior that players will discover more about during the course of the game.

So what makes this unique?  The battles.  When you encounter an enemy on the map, you will enter battle (no that's not the unique part).  You don't select an attack or move your character like other RPGs.  You can block, dodge, attack or use a skill.  The block does what you would expect.  I found it much more reliable than dodging, but you will still take some damage.  When dodging, you basically move between two positions.  Therefore, mashing the dodge button can actually put you back into the attack you were trying to avoid!  In games, I prefer to dodge than block, but I tended to misjudge a lot of the dodging.  Different attacks come at different speeds, so it can be trickier than you would think to dodge them.  Plus, when there are several enemies attacking at once or close intervals, it can be all but impossible to come through unscathed.  Blocking is more useful earlier in the game, while learning to dodge will be better for the stronger hits.

To properly aim your attack, you actually move around a reticle.  When it's close to an enemy, it will lock-on to them.  The lock-on holds pretty well, unless the enemy moves behind another, zips around quickly, or is one of the few who uses a technique that blocks lock-on.  Shooting while moving the reticle is possible, and can be really helpful on the faster foes.  You shoot with the square button, and the number of shots is determined by your equipped weapon and the amount of heat you have.  The higher the heat gauge, the less shots per attack.  Basically, each attack will give you 10% heat, as will each dodge.  Blocking will not increase heat, but it will not decrease while you hold it.  Standing still will lower your heat, which gives the longer battles a kind of ebb and flow of action and patience.  It's a fairly good system, since you don't have lots of fancy options, it's up to you to use them when they are the most beneficial.  As mentioned before, you can equip and use a variety of skills from buffs, to healing, to a stun snipe and a few attacks.  Some challenges will even upgrade them to a more powerful version.

There's also lots of RPG elements mixed in with the action.  Winning battles gives you experience, and your level determines your maximum HP.  You also get several healing items to use in battle, but you can only hold a max of 5 of each type.  This limit is a bit low for my tastes, but enemies tend to drop lots of healing items, so you can use them regularly and still be fine.  There are also challenges for each stage that award you with a stat boost or skill when completed.  Most of them come from just killing all the enemies you run across, but there are a few you have to try for, like completing a certain timed mission in 5 minutes or taking no damage on a certain section.

This is your battle perspective.
Most fights in Black Rock Shooter are not too hard.  A few of the bosses can be difficult, especially in the later half of the game.  Most bosses have two health bars, and change tactics and attacks from one to the next.  As long as you practice and learn when to dodge and attack them, they can be taken down without much trouble.  If that's taking too long, you can always chug a few healing items to fudge the last bit.  For me, the most frustrating parts were the boss of stage four and the motorcycle riding parts of stage two (tip:  there are parts where you can drive on the walls)  While the main game isn't too stressful, the extra missions unlocked after you beat the game can get downright brutal.  Completing the game takes some skill, pattern recognition and determination.  Getting 100% in the game takes even more.

The story is told through several cut scenes that all have the original Japanese voice track.  Usually I prefer dubbing, but since the action pauses when there is dialogue, you are not trying to read while dodging enemy fire.  The plot is fine, not the best but not terrible.  The main plot focuses on BRS trying to defeat the aliens that have all but hunted the human race to extinction.  There's a twist or two, but the fate of the 12 surviving people of the human race (all men for some reason) is fairly predictable.  Well, at least for the normal ending.  After the first playthrough, the dialogue options presented at certain points can affect the outcome of the story, giving a reason to go through it again.

The first run of the game can last between 9 and 12 hours, depending on how much you need to grind or redo the harder fights.  That's basically just doing the story missions.  There are six stages, and the first five have five story missions each.  After you defeat the boss of a stage, you unlock the "hunt" version of it.  The hunt level is just the entire stage with no breaks or save points, and there are special enemies to find and kill that unlock pictures and music tracks in the gallery.  You also have to fight the boss again at the end to unlock the movies of the stage.  I would usually do these after beating the boss so I could get a little extra experience (they state you get less during the hunt missions) and because I like to unlock stuff.

I have not seen the anime that Black Rock Shooter: The Game is based on, but I was still able to follow the story.  It's a pretty fun game, and the battles are something new and sometimes frantic.  It is certainly a PSP game, and you can tell by the graphics.  They aren't bad, but they aren't great (it is an almost two year old game after all).  If you are looking for a unique RPG to play on your PSP (or Vita), go ahead and try Black Rock Shooter: The Game.

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