Despite its run-of-the-mill narrative, Black Rock Shooter: The Game is a compelling action RPG that’s entertaining to play and pretty to look at.
Without a doubt, there’s a popular fascination with post-apocalyptic settings. We are all familiar with these stories: the human race is on the brink of extinction due to an external threat, such as an alien race whose in need of our precious resources, our vast planet or maybe our women. One way or another, we can’t deny post-apocalyptic settings represent an inviting background to create a story. At first, Black Rock Shooter: The Game uses the post-apocalyptic narrative in some intriguing and thought-provoking ways. Unfortunately, the great premise is poorly executed and some simplistic ideas make those compelling concepts fall flat, making Black Rock Shooter: The Game an entertaining action RPG that could have been better.
The year is 2051. Almost two decades ago, aliens decided to invade Earth which caused a large-scale war between humans and the galactic invaders. Now, the human race is almost extinct and its last chance of survival is a female android known as Black Rock Shooter (BRS for short.) At the beginning of this adventure, there are only fifteen survivors on our planet and it’s the BRS’s duty to protect those humans from the fierce intruders.
In terms of gameplay, Black Rock Shooter: The Game is an action RPG that puts you in control of a female android who fights aliens. You move across an overworld map and when you come into contact with an enemy, a battle initiates. When the battle begins, you have access to three basic actions: you can shoot, dodge and guard. The heat gauge increases as you shoot and dodge enemies and when the meter is full, you’re incapacitated for a short period of time, which leaves you vulnerable to attacks. The lower the heat meter, the more damage you make and soon enough, you’ll realize that managing the heat gauge effectively is a significant part of the combat. Finally, pressing the R button and one of the face buttons let’s you use skills (these are powerful attacks or special moves that assist you in battle.)
Regular battles quickly become repetitive. First, you move the reticle until you lock the camera on an enemy and shoot. Then you dodge and keep shooting until you defeat each enemy. Once you do so, you’ll have access to a new place where you have to repeat the same process. Luckily, boss battles represent a welcome change of pace, since they encourage you to combine skills in creative ways. Each boss behaves completely different to regular enemies and studying their patterns of movement is a must if you want to defeat them. Nevertheless, these encounters rarely become tedious or stagnant. It’s worth pointing out that the design of each boss is pretty distinct and while you’ll probably find the look of the regular enemies unexceptional, the bosses are uniquely designed.
Apart from defeating enemies in 3D environments there are sequences where you control a futuristic motorcycle. In these sequences, you dodge incoming enemies by changing lanes. If you dodge at the precise moment, an indicator appears on the screen, allowing you to automatically destroy the enemy in front. If you manage to defeat five enemies, you’ll have access to a shotgun of sorts that destroy all enemies in your lane for a short period of time. Since the only action you do is change lanes, the sequences where you control a motorcycle are pretty straightforward. Still, they represent a nice change of pace and prevent the rest of the game for growing stagnant.
Something I think is worth mentioning is that Black Rock Shooter: The Game is one of the most portable games I’ve played on the PSP so far. For the most part, there aren’t many loading times interrupting the action and when there are loading times, they are barely even noticeable. Furthermore, missions aren’t that long and each of them has several checkpoints, preventing you from losing a lot of progress if you have to turn off the console.
Regrettably, various quirks put a barrier on your enjoyment. First of all, the 3D environments are extremely linear and you can’t deviate from your path. What you can do is go back to previous chapters to try to complete extra challenges, but that’s it. But the most serious problems can be seen in the character development (or the lack thereof.) At the beginning of the game, there are only fifteen survivors and BRS is their last hope. Eventually, men start dying one by one and since the main characters don’t seem to pay too much attention to their death, why should you? Think about it! There are only a handful of people left in the planet, so if at least one of them dies, that would be a real tragedy. Then again, no one really cares about the character’s ultimate demise.
The story has other issues though. While the dialogue tries to create emotional poignancy and certain intimacy between the characters, it ultimately falls flat. Furthermore, some sequences allow you to select responses to certain questions, but they don’t affect the game in any way, so I can’t understand why they were included in the first place. Finally, the game presents some really intriguing themes (such as the effects of cloning human beings or what the last man on Earth is thinking,) but never expands on them. As a consequence, I can’t help but to think that the story had a lot of potential, but never really goes anywhere. It also doesn’t help that each character fulfills a stereotype commonly found in anime series.
Finishing your first playthrough should take you around 9 hours, though there are some reasons to go back and replay some levels (there are extra challenges, sidequests and so on.) In the end, Black Rock Shooter: The Game is a pleasant surprise, especially for PSP owners who are looking for a vibrant action RPG that’s visually unique. Despite its run-of-the-mill story, Black Rock Shooter: The Game is a compelling action RPG that’s entertaining to play and pretty to look at.