Black Rock Shooter is a Fun Handheld Romp

Black Rock Shooter: The Game

Rating: T for Teen
Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
Developer: Imageepoch, Inc.
Console: Available now for the PlayStation Network (PSP, PS Vita)

Description: Earth has been ruthlessly assaulted by extraterrestrials, and nineteen years of nonstop battle now threatens the very existence of humanity. The last hope for human survival is BRS, a heroine created solely to save planet Earth; she is the ultimate battle android. But when she is awakened to end the battle once and for all, there are only twelve human beings left on Earth…

brs_key_artI first became aware of the Black Rock Shooter franchise sometime in 2009 after someone showed me a music video by the J-Pop music group Supercell on the Nico Nico Douga website. Enthralled by the video, which you can view below, I decided to find out as much as I could about the franchise. Interestingly, it all started based on an original illustration by illustrator Ryohei “Huke” Fuke that kind of took off on a world of its own. With just a simple illustration of Black Rock Shooter, or BRS – a young thin girl with two ponytails, one longer than the other, clad in black shorts and a jacket with a flaming blue eye – an entire franchise was built from that. I don’t blame the fans because when you take a look at the original illustration it does look epically cool.

Anyway, the franchise really took off and it wasn’t before long that a game was made about BRS that had fans all abuzz – at least in Japan. You see, Black Rock Shooter: The Game was released in Japan in August of 2011 with no announcement of a North American release. So while Japanese fans of BRS got to enjoy an action RPG featuring BRS American fans were pretty much SOL unless they wanted to buy an import version of the game. Since my Japanese is more than a little rusty (I believe even my conversational Japanese has all but failed me now), I forwent purchasing the game hoping that it would eventually be localized for fans here. That’s when NIS America stepped up to the plate and announced a localized port of BRS:The Game for fans here. So all I needed to do was be patient for a little while longer and I would finally have a copy of my own.

Looking at that illustration, it is easy to see why fans of BRS fell in love with it right away.

Looking at that illustration, it is easy to see why fans of BRS fell in love with it right away.

Personally, I would say the wait was well worth it. BRS: The Game is not the prettiest doll on the market, but she has a lot going for her that really makes her a great buy. Her graphics remind me of a late PS2 style game and are not nearly as polished as they should be. One look at the game and most modern game fans would probably pass it up. But they would be committing a great disservice to themselves, especially if they are action RPG fans. What BRS lack in polish it more than makes up for in its unique gameplay style. While the game is described as an action RPG, it is a little deeper than that. It has some elements of the shooter genre mixed in, as well. Think of it as a cross between Kingdom Hearts and Gears of War (minus the heavy violence) with some Parasite Eve thrown in for the heck of it. You can move BRS along a single axis while encountering enemies and have to lock on with your weapon to shoot at them. When not in combat, you move along a linear path towards your next objective while deciding to engage or ignore enemies you see in your path. Should you choose to engage, you then enter the aforementioned single axis battle screen. After each battle, you can then customize or upgrade BRS with available parts, programs and weapons.

I am simplifying the description, of course, but you really do have to see it for yourself to know what I mean and appreciate its delivery. Some fans may be turned off by it, but those willing to give the game a chance are in for a fun story as well. Those familiar with the franchise should know that the basic gist of the game is that BRS is a weapon designed by humans as a final defense against all out annihilation by an alien race. Each BRS incarnation of the series follows a different story, so for the sake of the game, that was the story chosen. In the year 2051, with humanity basically being driven to the point of extinction with only twelve humans left alive, BRS was awakened to help them survive – but to do so, she has to face the villainous White Rock Shooter whose sole intent in the complete eradication of the human race. All the while, pieces of BRS’ mysterious past will come to light to the surprise of everyone around her. Sounds cool, right? Well, I thought so – and I’ll take story and substance over styles and visuals any day, and BRS definitely has story.

Graphics aside, BRS: The Game is a fun and stylish action RPG.

Graphics aside, BRS: The Game is a fun and stylish action RPG.

Playable on both the PSP and Vita (thankfully), Black Rock Shooter: The Game is well worth the $19.99 you will spend on it. Though it runs a little on the short side, the story and voice acting (all in Japanese) are spot on and incredibly well presented. Some people are going to bitch about the visuals, but action RPG fans should have no qualms about playing this game. Even casual shooter fans should give it a try, though keep in mind that the game is decidedly Japanese in taste and delivery. I give Black Rock Shooter: The Game a solid B for keeping me thoroughly entertained during those one hour train rides to and from work.

The Original Black Rock Shooter Music Video:

 

The Black Rock Shooter: The Game Trailer:

Richard Cardenas

Created in a lab in Tijuana, Mexico, or cloned in a test tube in Torrance, CA, depending on which story you think is a better origin story, Richard is, if such a thing exist, a second generation nerd. The son of a man who loved sci-fi, comic books and horror, and a woman who loved making costumes, reading sci-fi novels and watching cartoons, Richard was exposed to all this and more since a very young age.

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