Good sweet lord, PSP games are still coming out… Sure the PS2 had a long tail but it was one of the best gaming systems of all time, I mean the PSP is cool and all but it certainly wasn’t that kind of powerhouse. But what the hell, we’re here and the game in question, Black Rock Shooter: The Game, works on the VITA so we may as well give this one a look-see. This is another title coming to us from NIS, this one based on some well-loved anime that I have never seen and most likely will never see but there was apparently a rabid fan demand to bring this over so take that as you will. While-as I have said-I have no particular feelings towards the original anime this was based on, this game this seems pretty okay even it if gets a tad dull, though realistically that kinda comes with the territory.
So the premise here for those unfamiliar with the source material is that in the future a race of aliens invade earth and just absolutely ruin it to the point that only twelve human beings are left on the entire planet, all male because hope is for assholes. For some unknowable reason those remaining twelve continue to fight against a massive alien empire despite the fact that even if it was 50/50 men and women remaining twelve people still wouldn’t be a large enough breeding pool to create a society not made of inbred freaks after only a few generations. The non-viability of their race aside they do have a secret weapon in their fight, BRS, a human clone/hybrid thing that is super powerful and looks like a 14 year girl because y’know, anime. From there the story starts getting pretty navel gazy, lots of talk about what it means to be human and the futility of man but it all feels reminiscent of first year philosophy at a bad community college. This is especially apparent as they do little to characterize the humans and BRS, the character you play, is practically a non-entity when it comes to personality. There is some development with her character but when she starts to discover herself we all get to find out she’s not very interesting at her core either. Also the game has this weird fascination with this term they made up called “neblading”, as far as I can tell it’s just killing someone all fancy-like but despite using the term constantly they never explain it, not game destroying but annoying nonetheless.
So let’s move onto the gameplay which is essentially a JRPG slammed into a third person shooter. The outside structure of it is the standard JRPG style of customizing skills and running into enemies which will cause the game to flip to a battle sequence outside of the main map. Once you get into that battle though things get a little different, it becomes facing off against your enemies in a third person shooter sort of thing. In battle you’re rooted to the ground but are able to aim and fire your gun wherever you want as well as guard and do a quick little dodge move that will move you back and forth about 10 feet or so. It’s a pretty simple system but it’s very adaptable with the skills I mentioned earlier and when you get deep into it the enemies move pretty quick and attack pretty viciously; it makes for a fun gameplay dynamic. All that said like any JRPG it does wear on itself eventually and stops being fun, you can only shoot the same enemies in the same way so many times before it starts getting a little boring. At the very least though that core combat dynamic never gets insufferable and it’s nice that it actually requires you to pay attention and can’t be beaten by just mashing the [X] button ad infinitum.
Presentation-wise everything does what it’s supposed but it’s nothing fantastic, it is a PSP game after all. You travel to a number of locations which span the globe and look appropriately destroyed though they didn’t really take advantage of their settings. Really why even go to post apocalypse San Fran or New Jersey/York if you’re not going to show the Golden Gate Bridge or Statue of Liberty looking all fucked up. Voice acting is all in Japanese, which realistically is what this game’s core demographic would want so no complaints about that but there are few lines said as battles start that they don’t subtitle so it does feel like you miss some context. Aside from all that the overall design of the game just feels more fit to an anime than a game, again rightly so but it does give everything the kind of hectic overly contrasted feel endemic to that style of media which personally I’ve never enjoyed.
This game doesn’t really feel worth dragging the PSP out of the attic for but if you’re still carting one around or have a VITA in your pocket then this might be worth your time. It definitely feels like you’re not going to get too much out of it if you’re not a fan of the source material but there is a decent game here at the okay price of $20. So for a maybe overly niche but still pretty fun bit of anime nerd love, Black Rock Shooter: The Game gets a 3 out of 5 stars. One last note and that is the fact that if you are not from the US of A then you’re going to have some trouble grabbing this one as it is only on the US PSN store (at least for now), so keep that in mind. I personally had to go out of my way and gin up a fake account just to review this because I live in the frozen backwards wasteland that is Canada.