Portable Review

Black Rock Shooter

I never watched the Black Rock Shooter anime prior to playing the game. I didn’t know what to expect, so going by the name alone, I thought it would be a bad first person shooter with a generic anime paint job. By playing the game, I discovered the show, and now I’m hooked. I’m also a bit hung up on the game. I started the game with only the intent to review it, but as I played it, I got caught up in the gameplay. I really don’t know how to review this. Is it an RPG, an action game, or a 3rd person shooter?

BRS is both none of those and all of them at the same time. Most of all, it’s a decent game that does the show justice. I would go so far as to claim it to be a good game, but it could use a few more coats of paint and a good polish. The graphics are muddy and below average for the PSP. Animations are also hit or miss. The very worst offense the game makes is the spotty “action” button cues that appear when you need to jump onto a platform or down off a wall; they activate only when you stop moving, and often disappear when you get to them. These don’t happen too often, but when they do pop up, it’s annoying as hell.

Sub-par visuals and glitchy gameplay elements abound, so why can’t I put the damn thing down? Because the battle system is something unique. It requires a decent level of skill, but isn’t terribly difficult. I should probably explain what goes on with the battles. Enemies roam around the environment and will slam into you, triggering an encounter. This is a shooter, but it’s not what you might think. Instead of moving around, the main character holds her ground and you aim with the analog or d-pad. When your reticle gets near an enemy, it snaps onto them. The Square button fires your rifle, Cross blocks, and Circle dodges between your two standing positions. After a fashion, you will learn special skills that are assigned to each of the face buttons while holding down the R button. These special skills are on a recharge and will probably only get used once per fight except for on boss fights. As I said, BRS stands her ground like in an RPG, but the action is very real time. It’s almost like an old arcade shooter where the enemies advance towards the screen. When they’re ready to attack, they flash for a split second. It’s best to dodge, but that increases your heat. Likewise, you need to conserve your shots as each blast increases your heat meter. When you overheat, you can’t shoot, dodge, or block until the meter depletes completely.

Each battle usually consists of three enemies. In the beginning, they’re all on the same timing, but later on, they each have their own timing, making dodging and blocking much more difficult. Boss fights are even more difficult as they have more than one pattern and don’t flash like the minions when they attack. Instead, they telegraph each move differently. While there is a bit of trial and error involved, it’s rarely to the point of having to start over. You have a bunch of healing items, and at least one skill that regenerates your health. The only time I died was the first time I fought a bigger enemy, and it was before I even discovered healing items or skills. It’s really hard to describe the battle system any more than I already have, but it’s the main draw to the Black Rock Shooter.

The pace of the game is very good. The way the level progression and skill system works, there is a constant feel of getting better and always something to work toward. The story also moves along at a nice clip. Purist fans should be happy to hear that the dialog is Japanese only and some of the cast from the show have reprized their roles here. The translated dialog isn’t censored either. I have to say that I was fairly impressed with voice acting. I mentioned before that the battle system is addicting, and that’s true. So true that I have to finish this review so I can go back and play it.


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