With most of the JRPGs I have reviewed, there is little to no need to explain the history/background of the game. This is due to either the game already having established itself as a game that everyone knows about, it’s a brand new IP or a reason that I have seen people give a lot as of late: "It's from Japan, it's weird so no need to explain." With this game, Black Rock Shooter, I think a brief history of the franchise is needed for those who are not familiar with the otaku culture.
Black Rock Shooter first started as a drawing from the Japanese artist by the name of Ryohei "Huke" Fuke who posted the image on Pixiv, an online artist community website. It was when Ryo from the musical group Supercell decided to use Black Rock Shooter as inspiration for the group’s next song. Supercell brought on Fuke to help create the art and the animation. Using his art, Ryo's lyrics, Supercell's team of talented artists and animators, and thanks largely to the super popular vocaloid Hatsune Miku, BRS became an instant hit.
The video was a mash hit, spawning off a 50-min single anime released online, a short anime series, a huge line of figures and of course video games. Which brings us to this review of Black Rock Shooter: The Game for the PSP which itself had some issues trying to get released, and was delayed several times.
SHOOT DEM ROCKS
Meet BRS - For a spin off, Black Rock Shooter has a pretty decent, albeit simple sci-fi story. It’s the year 2032 and the Earth is under attack by an alien force. Nineteen years later, the last twelve remaining humans make a last stand in San Francisco and awaken the female cyborg soldier, Black Rock Shooter or BRS for short. But the way that they woke her up (a human leader of the military force trying to escape shoots her containment trailer, followed by an enemy missile) has caused her to lose her memories. So she fights alongside the humans for their survival while trying to regain her past memories.
As I mentioned earlier this is a pretty simple but decent sci-fi story, nothing too philosophical or overly complicated. For a game that is based on a media property that has its own self-contained stories, simple is probably for the best to start off with. For the hardcore fans this might be a turn off, but for new fans who want to get to know the character but haven't seen the music video or anime, this is a really good starting point.
Simple Battle System - The game has a pretty basic and simple battle system that players will be able to pick up right away. When BRS encounters an enemy, she has five different attacks. One is her basic shooting attack while the others are skill attacks that are mapped to the face buttons when pressing the right shoulder button. She also can dodge and block attacks. While it may look obvious to just spam her main attack, dodge or block moves, doing so will cause her to overheat. Players will have to find a balance of attacking, blocking and dodging in order to keep from overheating and still be in the fight.
New Artwork From Huke - Series creator, Huke, created brand new artwork for the game. The artwork ranges from character art and background designs to unused art that is unlocked as you play through the game. This has no effect on gameplay but is more fan service and it’s always nice to see artist give something back to fans to encourage them to play more.
Looks Dated - While I do appreciate that more Japanese PSP games are making their way over to the West, when played on the Vita the game's graphics look dated. Yes I understand that graphics don't make the game less enjoyable, but take a look at the original BRS artwork that Huke has done. The art looks amazing and when he did the art for the Supercell music video, it looks even better in motion and it was in HD. Of course gameplay is very important, but when your game is based on a really distinct image/art style the graphics should be taken into consideration as well.
Delay Has Weaken Interest - Now this might sound a bit out of place in a review, but thanks to the multiple delays that Black Rock Shooter faced coming to the West, interest in the game has weaken. The game was announced in 2010, then came out in Japan in 2011. NISA announced that they will be bringing the game to the US and the UK later that year. Then it got delayed to 2012. Then it got pushed back to 2013.
Between 2011 and 2013 saw the release of several good games from both ends of the spectrum and the launch of the Vita. In the early part of 2013 we saw both AAA and niche games released, with the biggest one for the Vita being Soul Sacrifice. Now with Muramasa Rebirth coming out next month and Dragon's Crown in August, my attention is now turned on to those two future releases instead of BRS right now. Now that's saying that Black Rock Shooter is a bad game, far from it. It just so happened that the game fell into a period where niche games will be ruling the summer months on a console that is outdated.
Black Rock Shooter: The Game is a pretty good introduction to the character, and is also a pretty decent JRPG for the PSP. Its battle system is simple, has really great artwork from the original creator, a decent and simple sci-fi story and is only $20. Not bad of a deal. Though some might be turned off by how dated it looks and others, as I mentioned, just lost interest and started playing other JRPGs that came out during the same time. Still for $20, Black Rock Shooter can be worth it if you're looking for something different from the norm.
*This review was based on the PSP version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*