Black Rock Shooter: The Game Review
Black Rock Shooter had always been an extremely huge and established franchise, sparking off illustration, figures, OVA, TV series and a game, which was just released last two years ago, and was localized by NIS America sometime earlier this year.
Black Rock Shooter: The Game, features an apocalyptic world, where the Earth was invaded by a group of aliens. Being a superior fighting race, mankind dwindled not too long after that. Nineteen years later, the whole human race was reduced to a mere dozen. Seeking assistance, they awaken “Black Rock Shooter” – a living weapon which had been lying dormant all this time, and becomes the only hope in mankind’s resistance against the alien invaders.
I find the basis of Black Rock Shooter’s story to be a bit weak and vague – it is more of a settings created specifically for Black Rock Shooter to do battle. Unlike the anime’s where there were more contents than meets the eyes, you can definitely see that the game’s settings is a warzone, literally. In such a world full of despair and anguish however, the last twelve humans are awkwardly merry and strong-willed for some reason, even though they are the remaining humans alive on Earth. There’s also the case with the stale gameplay. In any case, the rough foundation of Black Rock Shooter makes playing the beginning parts of the game pretty difficult. The story itself isn’t the most original nor riveting either. Worst of all, it can be quite draggy – you are asked to simply move from point A to B, from point B to C for almost one full quarter of the game.
The characterization however, picks up a little later. Instead of just fending off aliens, the normally naive and emotionless Black Rock Shooter gradually develops along the game; she understood happiness, loneliness and then despair. The plot twists following all those helps one to empathize with Black Rock Shooter – the game really focuses on Black Rock Shooter alone in terms of characterization. There is one other significant character however, Nana Gray, but I find her to be more of a catalyst in improving and developing Black Rock Shooter as a character.
Gameplay of Black Rock Shooter leave a lot to be desired. If you had seen Black Rock Shooter’s illustrations before, you will notice she possess a huge arsenel of weapons: a black katana, a huge cannon, chains and so on. I personally think Black Rock Shooter will do great as an action genre. The game however has an odd gameplay mechanics, and is unfortunately, bland.
Black Rock Shooter: The Game is more of a RPG/rail shooter. Like classic RPGs, you explore around a particular area, and fight monsters which may roam around the place in a separate screen. In combat, you had to attack by aiming and shooting your enemies, and to guard/dodge enemies’ attack at the right timing (when enemies are about to attack, they will always be flashing). Additionally, you can also equip 4 skills to use in combat, from defensive to supportive, from supportive to offensive skills – there are a wild array of skills, and is one saving grace behind Black Rock Shooter’s overly stale gameplay.
When looked further however, there are more problems I find within the game. I find the dodging itself to be quite an annoyance – you can only dodge to two specific spots, the original spot where you start the battle, and the other specified spot. Because the dodging spots are so fixed, accidentally pressing dodge twice will dart Black Rock Shooter back to the original spot she started the battle in, and chances are, you will be suffering damage from the enemy’s still ongoing attacks. Restrictions in dodging also makes fighting multiple enemies troublesome, especially for the stronger ones. I also find some skills to lag quite a bit during the aftermath of their animation sequences, and as such, makes dodging even more difficult.
My next pet peeve about the game’s gameplay isn’t about the way it is executed, but rather, it’s very foundation. Aforementioned, I personally think Black Rock Shooter would do much, much better as an action game but in contrast to my expectations, the game uses a strange RPG/rail shooter gameplay that seems to focus the cannon more as a primary weapon. Her sword however has it’s uses, but only in some very few skills and during motorcycle chase mini-games, which in my opinion, doesn’t even have much of an impact for the game. Overall, I think I may come to love the game much more if it actually had a smooth high octane action-orientated design.
As for graphics, it pales in comparison to some older PSP games released some time ago. The world looks repeative and monotone, especially in the very beginning, though this does improve over the course of the game. It looks quite bad when close-up – undetailed, unclear and jaggy lines. Aside from that though, the base designs of the characters are definitely modeled in a great aesthetic appeal. The colorful and detailed designs of Black Rock Shooter and the Seven Apostles – extremely powerful aliens and Black Rock Shooter’s main adversaries, show the designer’s focus on them – as such, the drab visuals is ironically a great contrast to them. In the end however, visuals in this game could certainly use some more polish.
Luckily, Black Rock Shooter is satisfying audio-wise, offsetting it’s almost average visuals. Music comes in different variety as well, ranging from mellow tunes, to some excitement-instilling music. Some of the boss fights of the apostles are definitely noteworthy – a Huke illustration of both Black Rock Shooter and the apostle will always be shown before the fight begins, and the rhythmic trance music in the background gives the impression as if two cyber beings are fighting – in this case, Black Rock Shooter and an apostle – two colors clashing with each other.
Black Rock Shooter: The Game isn’t the best PSP game per se – it’s simple gameplay can feel stale and boring quickly, and it’s mediocre visuals and weak story certainly doesn’t help either. Pick it up and have a try, if you are curious about how our lovely scantily-clad, gun cocking Black Rock Shooter, would appear in video game form; but of cause, don’t expect some high-octane action in it either, as you will be immensely disappointed.