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Black Rock Shooter The Game Review


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On 08/01/2013 at 10:00 AM by Matt Snee

This exciting shooter might not be for everyone, but it's still pretty fun and has a big heart.
RECOMMENDATION:

For fans of action-packed Anime games.

The PSP localization gods are fickle beings.  Sure, they bless us which such cool games as Gungnir, Class of Heroes, and God-Eater Burst.  But at the same time they deny us such pleasures as Final Fantasy Type-0.  It seems no mortal can understand these deities’ mysterious ways.

And so it goes with Black Rock Shooter, released in the states this April. 

Based on a Japanese IP created by artist Ryohei Huke, the game features a mysterious black-haired, blue-eyed girl with incredible powers, known only as “BRS”, or “Black Rock Shooter”.  In Japan, BRS has her own TV show and Manga series, but now she has finally reached our shores through the magic of Playstation Portable’s digital marketplace.  As beautiful as she is naïve, as powerful as she is quick, BRS becomes a fascinating character the more one gets to know her, and the game can be equally entertaining.   

Few here would have cared had it never been released.  It doesn’t help that the PSP is on its way out – while the Japanese install base is huge and still thriving, most Americans have forgotten about this system, or at best, traded it in for a 3DS.  The PSP was a great handheld, with a thick, diverse library, not to mention the PSONE classics available on it.  With the 3DS and Vita around, though, one can logically admit that the PSP is now a system of a previous generation.

So, I have to remind myself that I am reviewing a game on the PSP–an almost obsolete system, with certain limits to its hardware that we’ve kind of grown out of with the 3DS and the Vita.  Black Rock Shooter is by no means a great game, but it isn’t bad, and I can’t help but wonder if it would have been more popular had it been released earlier, and at retail.

The premise is simple: it’s the end of the world.  Aliens have invaded to reduce humanity to a measly dozen survivors – all men – except for the inactive BRS, a living weapon and clone they hope will dispatch the alien hordes.  When BRS awakens, the game begins. 

Like the story, the game play is simple, though it has varied permutations. It’s basically a 3rd person shooter, except you can’t maneuver around in combat, other than to dodge from one side to the other.  BRS can also block and use items as well as special moves that you’ll unlock along the way, but her key action is to shoot her gun, which fires in bursts, and, if used to too often, causes BRS to overheat. 

Dodging also contributes to BRS’s rising temperature, so you’ll have to be careful while you evade and use your gun together, as overheating can be quite easy. Luckily, blocking does not raise your temperature, and neither does using your special moves.  However, blocking doesn’t cancel out all the damage of an enemy’s attack, and your special moves need to recharge after use. 

It’s an efficient and elegant system, and allows for a good amount of variety with the enemies and combat strategies.  Each enemy has its own attacks and weaknesses, and it’s important to learn how to react to them using your special moves and items while not overheating.  Over the course of the game, which lasted about six hours, the battle system kept me entertained with its arcade-like attitude, as I dashed between attacks and let loose volleys of energy at opponents. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only aspect of Black Rock Shooter’s game play, which also includes painfully dull motorcycle parts, which you will play over and over until you get right.  During these sections of the game, BRS must swipe from left to right across the screen as she avoids obstacles and gunfire, which slow her down to a crawl when hit.  The worst part is these sections depend on rhythm and timing, and can be mastered, but hit one object and your speed and reaction time is ruined -- and if you hit one enemy, you’re bound to hit more.  This is only one section of the game though, consisting of a couple of levels in succession.  Once you finish them, you’ll be glad they’re over. 

The story doesn’t make a lot of sense, which I blame mostly on the localization.  A lot of details could be explained better or made more clear.  Ultimately though, the game does have heart, and at the end of it, you might find yourself moved by the fate of BRS and the world.  Needless to say, it’s up to BRS to succeed where the rest of humanity failed: she must destroy the aliens if there is to be any hope to repopulate Earth, and the odds are seriously against her. 

While frustrating in some parts, it’s ultimately a rewarding game when you master the combat system, fighting against enemies that change things up just as they start to feel repetitive. Failing a section can have benefits since you can level up BRS and carry over experience points when you die and restart a level. This allows you to grind and increase your chances of success should things get too difficult.  Items you use won’t be replenished, however, so you will have to collect them again.  It’s a good leveling system that I took advantage of to get past some tough enemies. 

I personally wouldn’t replay the game in its entirety, but I might replay certain levels to conquer challenges and open up new powers for BRS.  There are a lot of these challenges available, ranging from the easy to the downright insane – giving anyone who really falls for this game plenty to master.   

There is a lot of game here for an action title, and it’s really sort of fun sometimes, but it’s obviously a treasure from a previous generation.  Despite its technical limitations, it does have heart, and it is challenging and exciting to play though. The PSP localization gods may be unfathomable, and we may not understand their motivations for giving us Black Rock Shooter, but for some it will be a real blessing.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Dandichu

08/01/2013 at 09:36 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I was debating picking this one up. Although I probably won't (I don't really dig mega-action, I'm a turn-based girl myself) I really enjoyed your review! Cheers! :3

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/02/2013 at 08:42 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

thanks, Dandi!  It's a fun game, but I would wait for a price drop if you're not sure.  I think you would like the story though even if you didn't like the action. 

daftman

08/02/2013 at 08:43 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

So would you liken the combat to Sin and Punishment? I'm just a little comfused on how it actually plays. Sounds like I'd enjoy it, though I hate paying retail-level prices for digital-only games Frown

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/03/2013 at 06:47 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I'm afraid I haven't played Sin & Punishment.  But the combat is basically pretty simple, like a 3rd person shooter, but you can't move around except to dodge to the left side or right side, so you're stuck in place mostly. I didn't understand what it was until I actually played it either, but once you do it makes sense.  It's hard to describe though.  Kind of like a rail shooter in some ways, but you're not moving in any way. You move the cursor around to where you want to aim/shoot. 

Overall, I liked that game, even though some parts were frustrating.  I would have reviewed it more highly if it was cheaper though, like if it was a mobile game.  I would wait for a price drop and then jump on it if you're not sure. 

daftman

08/03/2013 at 07:57 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

You gotta play Sin and Punishment! They're both good and the Wii one is quite long for that kind of game. Anyway, I'll definitely watch BRS for a price drop or sale.

BrokenH

08/06/2013 at 02:36 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

BRS a great game to play when you have time to kill! However, I'd still recommend Gods Eater Burst & 3rd Birthday over it.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/08/2013 at 02:22 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

yeah, I mean, it's cool, but there's definitely better games for the PSP. 

Vice's Assistant

08/09/2013 at 04:16 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Nice review Matt. I'm fascinated at how BRS proliferated so quickly as well as how the heck it got over to Western shores as well. It's not my type of game but maybe if its on sale I'll check it out.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/09/2013 at 10:01 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

thanks, man.  Yeah, I liked it more than I thought I would.  It's surprising it made it over here though.  I liked the story a lot.

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