Originally conjured up on Japanese art community Pixiv, Black Rock Shooter has extended far past its humble roots and adapted into everything from songs using famed vocaloid Hatsune Miku to a dedicated anime series. With the level of fandom it has gained, its 2011 PSP adaptation was an inevitability. Though it’s been a long wait for western gamers, the title has finally made its way here and it does not disappoint.
Interestingly, Black Rock Shooter: The Game does not follow the same story as either the anime or manga of the same name, though it features the same protagonist. It may seem off-putting, but it’s certainly satisfying to see an IP put to good use with new original content written for the game. The story is set in a post apocalyptic world where there are apparently less than a dozen humans left alive, who have awoken Black Rock Shooter from her slumber in an effort to fight back against the aliens who have pushed man to the brink of extinction. Along the way, players will see her grow as a character from her original amnesic state, slowly picking up on social nuances and even learning to eat. It’s the type of cute helplessness anime fans will typically love.
With the post apocalyptic setting, the game definitely looks generic. The environments make up some of the least creative designs players will ever find, though the game’s focus on the scantily clad protagonist means players will hardly notice this. Despite the attention to detail in her animations and myriad of weapons, which look great regardless of how much skin Black Rock Shooter is showing, the technical limitations of the PSP are painfully obvious here and it’s a shame that the visually stimulating source material could not be done justice. Thankfully, however, the original Japanese voiceovers, included as in all NIS America games, and some of the game’s tracks are sure to satisfy.
Staying true to its namesake, Black Rock Shooter features a real time battle system with an emphasis on actually shooting enemies, with some slight aiming involved, rather than traditional turn-based JRPG battle systems. After encountering enemies and being taken to a different battlefield, players can aim at different enemies to shoot them down in real time. Rather than relying on fickle dodge or defense stats, players will have to manually dodge and block attacks as they come in, adding some much needed skill and excitement to the action JRPG genre. However, the game still limits players with a heat gauge that, once filled, will render them immobile, preventing players from shooting and dodging constantly.
Outside of general attacks, players will also have access to an arsenal of abilities, used in battle by pressing a shoulder and face button at the same time. As players unlock more of these, they’ll naturally develop their own combos that can be unleashed in quick succession, instead of browsing through tedious submenus. Certainly, with only four face buttons and attacks to choose from at once, players’ arsenal will be more limited than in other JRPG titles that feature entire submenus of acquired attacks, it is a worthy sacrifice for the game’s faster pace and emphasis on ability loadout.
Even after the game’s campaign is done, players will still have plenty to do. There’s still plenty to do in the game. Each stage comes with a series of challenges, usually consisting of defeating a certain amount of enemies or following general mission objectives. Many of these can’t even be finished the first time around simply because there aren’t enough enemies spawned. It’s hardly necessary, but most of these will reward dedicated players with more abilities or gallery items for dedicated Black Rock Shooter fans.
Considering the PSP’s dwindling life, it’s definitely great to see a title like Black Rock Shooter be released. The game is even compatible with the Vita, which is certainly refreshing for a system with such a bare library. NIS America has done a great job bringing this title over, which should already be on most fanboys’ radars but is still worth checking out for anyone else.
Available on: PSP; Publisher: NIS America; Developer: Imageepoch; Players: 1; Released: April 23, 2013; ESRB: Teen; MSRP: $19.99: Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.