Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: April 23, 2013
ESRB: T for Teen
A download code was supplied by the publisher for this review
As an aficionado of odd Japanese game titles, I have often been able to keenly guess at which games are likely to never see an overseas release. A simple glance at something like Black Rock Shooter: The Game on the seemingly forgotten PSP platform definitely seems like an easy example in this regard.
One of several varying adaptations of the Black Rock Shooter franchise in Japan, from anime, manga, and in this example, videogames, it's a series that kicked-off in Japan based on concept art from a Hatsune Miku (very popular vocaloid software in Japan) rendition of the popular Japanese song: Black Rock Shooter. Chances are, if you aren't knee-deep in Japanese anime media then that made absolutely no sense to you, further proving my point.
However, despite an unsteady release timeframe, NIS America has finally brought over this obscure PSP title for an overseas audience. Does Black Rock Shooter: The Game shine brightly or is it a faint blue ember?
In the year 2032, mankind faces the brink of annihilation after a continuously losing battle with a mysterious alien invasion. The twelve remaining humans make a last stand and forcefully awaken a female humanoid weapon by the name of Black Rock Shooter to fight at their side. It is up to the young girl (her name shortened to BRS), to more or less single-handedly push back to alien invasion and keep humanity alive.
Despite what sounds like a somewhat generic apocalyptic premise, the narrative is actually a little bit more interesting than it leads on to be early in. Storytelling gets surprisingly dark and there is some intrigue hidden as it progresses. Still, the delivery isn't particularly good, and certainly has some pacing issues like the main game.
The main game is straightforward and broken up between various stages with separate missions to complete. Usually it has BRS go from point A to B while killing monsters in between, with the exception of the occasional motorcycle mission. This makes BRS feel mostly familiar from start to finish with very few exceptions, for better or worse.
Combat is probably one of the game's strongest points. It is a pseudo real-time action RPG which has the player attack, dodge, and block based on enemy attack patterns. Timing is pretty crucial for evading attacks in particular and I would maybe draw a comparison to something like Punch-Out!!, but with a bit more depth. It takes some time to show its colors but as BRS acquires more abilities to play with as she levels-up it can have an engaging flow. At its best, some of the game's bosses show off some pretty varied tactics and combat skills. But at its worst, the frequency of normal encounters don't hesitate to recycle enemy types, and aren't nearly as varied.
Outside of the main story missions, there are other missions to play through. 'Free missions' allow players to obtain unlockables like art, music, and the ability to rewatch in-game cutscenes while serving as an alternate means to level-up. Upon completing the game the 1st time, it also unlocks even more missions. These new missions can help progress towards an alternate ending as well as allowing much more challenging missions. Black Rock Shooter's main campaign isn't particularly long, and can take less than 10 hours to complete, but players can probably be held over by trying to gather optional content for a fair bit longer.
Visual presentation of BRS is pretty unimpressive and I don't think it would be too far off to compare it to stuff I've seen back on the PS1. While the 3D character models aren't exactly terrible, animations arguable, some of the environments kind of are, with some of the worst examples appearing later on in the game. In terms of audio, BRS actually has some solid musical tracks with some catchy techno battle themes in particular. In terms of voice acting there is only the Japanese dub to work with, which is understandable. Despite having some Japanese VA's I like, none of them really seem to stand out, which probably goes hand in hand with how the story is paced.
Unlike the unkind words I would use to describe different BRS's independent adaptations, like the anime, I didn't regret my time with Black Rock Shooter:The Game. Aside from certain character's disregard of clothing (BRS), it doesn't really offend and does some interesting stuff as a game. Storytelling plays somewhat intriguing but underutilized themes and the combat does have its fun highlights.
Honestly, with better pacing and variety for both combat and storytelling, I think the experience could've easily been more noteworthy. Still, because of a very much samey feel throughout, I can't really think of too many reasons to recommend Black Rock Shooter: The Game to many others who didn't already have their fiery gaze upon this title
+ Unique real-time battle system that shines in certain boss fights
+ Various unlockables and extra content
+ Some solid musical tracks
- Lackluster presentation, especially for environments
- Standard battles and enemies will quickly become routine
- Relatively short main game overall, lasting under 10hrs
- Black Rock Shooter really should dress more conservatively...
Overall Score: 6.0 (out of 10)
ImageEpoch created a solid template with the Black Shooter Licence, but in terms of actual execution it doesn't make for a very memorable action-rpg to recommend by itself.