As the mainstage Evo lineup selection seems to become more challenging with every year, in a market burgeoning with fighting games, some choices have to be made. It felt like a controversial decision to some members of the fighting game community to include such a recent title at this year’s Evolution Championship Series. Even within the BlazBlue/Arc System Works sphere, there was a worrying sentiment regarding the fading of the more traditional 1 vs. 1 BlazBlue: Central Fiction. And yet, the numbers top over 1,100 for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle — the highest in history for an ASW game that doesn’t have Dragon Ball in its name.
Post the game’s May release, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle‘s path has been a little strenuous. Initial announcements teased 20 base characters, the DLC cast doubling that number to 40, which felt like starting off on a wrong foot. Furthermore, ASW played it coy with the RWBY girls, not letting us know from the start that Blake and Yang would be free, forever. Lastly, it turned out that only 31 out of 40 fighters will be available to play at Evo 2018.
Considering how complex (and sometimes buggy) the 2 vs. 2 game can get, it’s unsurprising that the company drew a line at a certain point. The skill difference between players can be so huge, matches can range anywhere from 30 seconds (where both characters fall into an enemy combo and die quickly) or close to running its 180-second timer, due to regenerating health and good defense. If time permits, the latter matches of the tournament might play out in a 3/5 round format, which seems to be preferred by the community. Who knows — maybe this Evo will confirm which format the game should follow.
Indeed, this is a big test for Arc System Works’ newest venture. Even if it’s not shown as a Sunday finals game, there’s a huge audience for this title. ASW’s games aren’t always that well balanced in their first “season,” and the top-tier characters have been rather universally agreed upon; many tier-lists emerged, including ones from American player PG|SKD and Japan’s top player Kubo.
Many anime and Central Fiction players jumped into BBTAG. Kubo is considered the best player, but other than him, we’ll also see Abegen, GGP|Kazunoko, CAG|Fenritti, Ho-chan, and Dora, among others. They’ll surely clash with PG|SKD, the herald of BlazBlue; but other than him, we might see high placements from UYU|BeautifulDude, Method|Flux, Eshi, PAG|Fame96, KidViper, Echo Fox|Punk, CLE|NecroUndine, and many, many others. Personally, I’d love to see Uri make it far, as he posts seriously crazy combos on Twitter. Though many other people also get creative — surely we’ll get to see some hype, technical showcases. Maybe a lesser-known netplay warrior will make it to the top?
Seeing 1,181 players from many countries compete in BBTAG for the first time surely will give ASW plenty of data for their inevitable balance patch (unless they already have one in the works). It’s also probable to expect some new character announcements — which, unfortunately, have been spoiled by datamining. Though it’s sad to have them spoiled, at the same time, the nine additional characters seem like just the right choices to round out the fairly diverse cast. Time and time again, series producer Toshimichi Mori reiterates that the growth of BBTAG is highly dependent on support from the fans.
With such a high number of entrants, it should be obvious to ArcSys that there is indeed a big interest in the game. I can’t wait to see what kind of teams, strategies, and techniques will rise to the top (hopefully it won’t be only Ruby/Hyde pairs). With more characters coming, the game will only get deeper and more interesting.
Fates will cross, and no one can escape from them.
Additional sources: Arc System Works America