It’s taken two long years for Black Rock Shooter: The Game to find its way to the West. The PSP title was released in Japan back in 2011 and since then we’ve seen the release of the powerful PS Vita. Black Rock Shooter: The Game is playable on the PS Vita but unfortunately the speed at which technology advances means those two years have been pretty unkind to the game.
Black Rock Shooter: The Game is a action RPG adventure video game based on the manga/anime series of the same name. If you’re a fan of the series then you’ll probably fall right in love with the game overlooking the many shortfalls and hiccups along the way. However if you’re not then it may be safe to assume that you’ll struggle to find much enjoyment here.
Black Rock Shooter: The Game takes place in a derelict future where Earth has been attacked by aliens and left in ruins. Humanity is down on its last legs and the only chance of survival is a girl codenamed Black Rock Shooter (BRS). After being awoken from her slumber she uses her unique technological abilities and her enormous cannon to help save Earth.
The first thing you’ll notice about the game is the extreme lack of emotional connection between the characters - the plot is pretty hard to follow and the actions of the player never really feel warranted. Basically the whole game features the setup of guy asks BLS to do something, BLS does what is required although she never seems happy about it and then everyone celebrates before the cycle begins again. The story may also have been easier to follow if the developers had translated the game to English instead of dubbing the japanese game with subtitles, that being said as the game appeals to a select market of hardcore BRS fans the lack of a English translation is probably what many Black Rock Shooter fans may have wanted. Nevertheless, reading endless amounts of text can make it hard for the player to understand everything the game wants you to.
The markets itself as a traditional JPRG and it certainly doesn’t feel like a Western RPG, it’s nowhere near as deep as the likes of Fallout or Skyrim but more like Final Fantasy XIII. However even as a JRPG the number of elements you would expect to find are severely lacking, yes you level up and earn XP by defeating enemies; gaining health and new moves along the way but the amount of customisation available is small and each increase in level is so small that you could miss the whole thing completely. Instead the game seems to plays and feel more like an action adventure title, and in the process it seems to lose itself by trying to appeal to both audiences.
During missions you’ll naturally be expected to pick off enemies and this is one of Black Rock Shooter: The Game's better attributes. The battle mode has a strong Final Fantasy feel about it; you’re set up on a battlefield but the only thing you control are the attacks. You guide your attacks to whatever enemy you wish and as you progress through the game you can unlock numerous extra abilities to use such as a powerful charge shot. These extra upgrades can be assigned to a button on the d-pad for quick access during battle. However during battle you need to keep an eye on your heat meter: if you spam the attack button it’ll overheat and you’ll be left vulnerable until it cools down, attacks also do more damage the lower your heat meter is. You can also block and dodge attacks but again this will raise the heat level. All this means battles require you to be strategic and some of the boss battles can be quite tough if you’re not on top of everything. Once overheated some bosses have the ability to kill in one to two hits.
Unfortunately after a couple of hours you’ll soon realise that battles become quite tedious as the variation of enemies is pretty low. You’ll know the weaknesses and strengths of every common enemy which makes boss fights something you’ll crave, simply to find out something new! It isn’t just the variation of enemies that is also lacking, as you explore the game world you’ll notice that it’s quite a drag. Missions take you through the same levels with the same bland locations and they’re not very interactive. You cannot just go wherever you please as the game only lets you jump and interact with the environment in certain locations and the game has a pretty easy to follow navigation hint throughout which forces you to go in the correct direction. Thankfully later on in the game you’ll be able to take control of some vehicles such as a motorbike which have the ability to kill enemies instantly! However, like the majority of other aspects in the game, the fun recedes quickly as they all become very repetitive and the game starts to feel more like a series of chores.
As Black Rock Shooter: The Game is a PSP title the graphics are not PS Vita quality as to be expected, saying that they’re not particularly brilliant as PSP visuals. Character models are blurry and textures tend to blend into each other but that’s to be expected with a two year old PSP title with outdated resolutions. The character models would feel more at home in a nineties Metal Gear Solid rather than a more modern title and what’s worse is that the environments are just as garish and dated, feeling dull and monotonous and all so familiar throughout. You could be forgiven for feeling as if Black Rock Shooter: The Game has thrown you ten years backwards into gaming history!
While the game is rather poor, it’s not completely without it’s high moments. Mercifully for the most part Black Rock Shooter: The Game has a decent soundtrack, the music plays softly in the background and is reminiscent of the techno music found throughout the Metroid Prime series. During battle sound effects are pretty bland but the tunes do help portray that feeling of power along with uneasiness even if the game isn’t particularly difficult. They also help drown out the Japanese voices which unless you speak Japanese soon become an annoyance.
At around ten to twelve hours the campaign isn't particularly challenging or long but it will feel like twice that. The challenge is whether you can sit through twelve hours of Japanese dialogue with English subtitles, garish visuals and pretty bland game mechanics. There's also no multiplayer mode to extend the lifespan, although that’s probably a blessing.
If you’re a fan of the series then you’ll probably be able to overlook the constant issues and find enjoyment in Black Rock Shooter: The Game. If you’re not a fan then stay away as you’ll struggle to get into the story and seldom bother trying. Its poor visuals and dreadful animations along with its expensive price tag means Black Rock Shooter: The Game is a title not worth your time and effort.