Black Rock Shooter: The Game review
After two years of waiting, NIS America has finally released, Black Rock Shooter: The Game for the PSP, via the PlayStation store. Now it is time to see if the game lives up to the hype.
Black Rock Shooter (BRS) is a rather interesting franchise. The franchise dates back to 2007 with an original character illustration titled ‘Black Rock Shooter’ by illustrator Ryohei ‘Huke’ Fuke. The illustration proved to be popular with Ryo of the J-pop music group, Supercell taking a particular liking to it. The illustration inspired Ryo to create the song ‘Black Rock Shooter’, the song was created using vocals from the popular Vocaloid singing synthesizer Hatsune Miku. In 2008 a music video of the song was released with Huke providing the illustrations used in the video.
BRS popularity didn’t end with a song however. In 2010 a 50 minute original video animation based on BRS was released. Two years later an 8 episode long anime series called Black Rock Shooter was released.
Now enough backstory let’s talk about the game.
First and foremost going into this game I wasn’t expected much, especially after reading what the game was supposed to be about. The game is set in the year 2051 – Earth is almost a barren wasteland after 19 years of nonstop war with an alien race. The last hope for humanity, BRS, the ultimate battle android, is finally awakened. Unfortunately when she wakes up she find there are only twelve humans left alive.
Not exactly a riveting sounding story. When I eventually finished playing BRS, I found myself enjoying the game’s story. The story was well told and I found myself getting somewhat attached to the characters, when characters died I felt emotionally attached their deaths. The death scenes were well done with BRS talking to most of them right before they died which I found rather heart warming. While the story was successful at bringing out some emotion, it was well honestly the only thing it did right. The game had some great memorable moments, but the surprise moments in the story were easy to see through with obvious betrayal moments and changes in character attitudes being all too easy to see.
The Character, Black Rock Shooter is well done and while at the start of the game she seems like a dull lifeless character, she does slowly begin to change as she shows emotion. While the character does grow she does feel dull. This is because there is no emotion in her voice, everything sounds flat, from when she is happy to when she is sad.
Moving on from the story we have combat. Combat is best aspect of this game, with a great mixture of action and RPG style combat. When you head into battle you must be ready straight of the bat because you and your opponent can attack, guard and dodge at any time. At the start combat can be rather difficult as you have to manage when you attack, guard and dodge, because every time you attack or dodge your heat bar rises and when it hits 100% BRS overheats and cannot move or attack for several seconds. If you are worried about managing your heat bar, you can attack using weapon skills which operate on a cooldown timer. BRS has access to a wide array of weapon skills which you unlock by completing various challenges, but while there is a large number you can only bring four of them into battle. There are also passive skills which you unlock via challenges, these increase your stats and give you a chance of boosting a stat when you enter combat.
In combat knowing your enemies movement is vital to winning the game. Knowing the right time to dodge or to stand your ground and guard an attack is important. Knowing your enemy’s movement is especially important in boss battles, as bosses have far more dangerous attacks and defensive moves then your standard enemy. In boss battles heat management and a good selection of weapon skills is key to survival.
After several battles, I found combat became easy, not because the enemies weren’t tough, but because I learned enemy timings etc. I learned when to dodge and when to attack. To make it better I found a list of skills which suited my style of play. By the end of the game boss battles which I dreaded became easy, not because the enemies got weaker, but because I finally learned how to fight effectively. Even if you master combat a simple mistake against a boss can be costly, dodge at the wrong time or fail to guard and you could be dead in one hit.
Well I’ve talked about plot and battle. I think it is time to talk about the levels. There are a total of six stages, each with about five missions. At first glance the stages appear pretty large, but the truth is the stages are rather linear. The game offers very little exploration apart from ‘free hunt’ missions which are additional missions which allow you to play through the stage again completing challenges you may have missed. While the stages are pretty linear and don’t offer much exploration, stage 2 offers a great bike mini-game which has you dodging alien attacks while you ride a motorbike. This mini-game is a nice addition, but unfortunately it doesn’t stick around for too long.
Graphics and sound wise, BRS the game isn’t bad. The PSP does show its age graphically, especially when you play the game on the PlayStation Vita. Sound wise the game is really good, the music does a good job at setting up the mood of the game, at times it found the music reflected what BRS was feeling especially in stage 4.
It took me just over 13 hours to finish Black Rock Shooter: The Game.
BRS: The Game is an enjoyable experience. While the story isn’t brilliant, it does a good job of getting you emotionally attached to the game’s characters. Combat is tough to learn, but you feel like you have earned something after mastering it. If you are JRPG fan, I would highly recommend this game.
Black Rock Shooter: The Game Information
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PSP (can be played on PS Vita) only available via PlayStation Store
Release date: out now