Lost in Review: Black Rock Shooter THE GAME (PSP)

Imageepoch’s Black★Rock Shooter THE GAME for the PSP will be our first game previewed in what I call “Lost in Review”, where we showcase games that aren’t targeted for an English-speaking audience.

Black★Rock Shooter THE GAME (BRS) is based on the anime of the same name but takes place instead in post-apocalyptic Earth. The protagonist here is a different build of BRS and is humanity’s last hope in defeating the invaders who caused this mess. And, yes. BRS is a humanoid weapon, taking the form of a flaming blue-eyed girl in a jacket wearing nothing but a string bikini. Kinky.

The game is a slightly different take on your regular Japanese role-player.  You fulfil missions like any good RPG, usually involving your trekking to one side of the map to defeat enemies or check things out. Your enemies take in various forms, flying or grounded and all with different attack techniques. Like other similar RPGs, they lie in wait for you in the semi-linear open world to arrive before rushing towards you and starting the battle sequence.

Most of the action involves you shooting your primary weapon in the form of a giant cannon in real-time (no turn-based strategy here). BRS is capable of moving and dodging around her side of the fight, though it’s best you start aiming and shooting first, which are down with the D-Pad and Square, and guarding yourself against enemy attacks with X. Unlockable special abilities can be assigned to the face keys and used when held together with the R shoulder. These abilities range from a strong burst shot from your cannon to skill or defence boosters. Battle is pretty straightforward, until you notice the other meter under your health bar.

The Heat meter warns you when you start to, well, overheat. The higher the meter climbs, the less effective your attacks get and constant gunfire will rid you of your inability to function and cool down, leaving you helpless and vulnerable to attacks, thus adding in a bit of a strategy element to the battle, without mindless button bashing.

Winning your battles cause you to gain experience points and eventually, to level up and have your stats heightened, you also get items, such as health packs (numbered by the hundreds to how much HP it applies) and other useful items Defeating a certain amount of enemies or completing certain tasks will also unlock achievements and special abilities. Save points (blue) and HP refill stations (yellow) are graciously all around the map, so you shouldn’t have any problems getting yourself together before a big boss fight.

Boss fights are essentially bigger enemy battles, but they tend to move around much more than regular enemies to dodge your aim, as well as having a host of attacks at their disposal. Bosses also have special abilities they can use, much like yours. So it’s pretty much down to common sense, timing and strategy to take them down. These shouldn’t be confused with miniboss fights, which start off in a similar fashion, but end pretty quickly.

Black★Rock Shooter is a fine blend of a third-person shooter, real-time strategy and role-playing. Fans of the anime shouldn’t be disappointed, and neither should fans of JRPGs. The game has a decent soundtrack and the graphics aren’t too shabby for a PSP game. I’ll admit here that having no knowledge of what’s going on in the game has may have adversely affected my gameplay. I probably made some wrong decisions on the way, but considering the fact I’m still in the game, it can’t be all that bad. You can get around the menus and gameplay without a good knowledge of the language, but you’ll need it if you want get to know the storyline better.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 8
Lasting Appeal: 6

Overall: 7/10

Black★Rock Shooter THE GAME is developed by imageepoch for the PlayStation Portable. The Japanese version doesn’t include English voices or subtitles, although the main points of the in-game menu are in English. A localised English version for the Western market has been announced, helmed by Nippon Ichi, with no release date announced as of yet.