With releases like INJUSTICE 2 and MARVEL VS CAPCOM INFINITE, 2017 has been a good year so far for fighting games. And next year, with games like DRAGON BALL FIGHTER Z (DBFZ) coming out, looks even better. However, DBFZ wasn’t enough. Arc System Works (ASW), who’s also helping Namco develop DBFZ, kicked it up a notch with its reveal of a 2v2 dream crossover fighter. Enter BLAZBLUE CROSS TAG BATTLE (BBTAG).

The protagonists of BBTAG as seen from the teaser trailer. | Courtesy of ASW.

BBTAG’s announcement at EVO 2017 certainly surprised everyone, especially when they revealed who and which series were crossing over. Slated for a release in 2018, BBTAG will feature characters from its own BLAZBLUE (BB) series, Atlus’s PERSONA 4 ARENA, French Bread’s UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH EXE LATE[ST], and Rooster Teeth’s RWBY. Currently, there are seven characters — three were announced last month — with more on the way. Here they are, in order of their respective series and reveal:

  • BLAZBLUE: Ragna the Bloodedge, Jin Kisaragi
  • PERSONA 4 ARENA: Yu Narukami, Yosuke Hanamura
  • UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH: Hyde, Linne
  • RWBY: Ruby Rose

As you can see, BBTAG’s announcement was pretty extravagant. I love ASW fighting games for their characters and gameplay, but a crossover of this magnitude? Nope, didn’t see it coming. Despite this, it makes me want to play BB and the other series even more. However, a problem persisted — I was unfamiliar with RWBY. Also, it didn’t have an established fighting game title as the other three series did. So I decided to dig deeper to find out what RWBY was and how it fits as a fighter in the crossover.

Note: This article mainly focuses on RWBY and BLAZBLUE. As such, I won’t be mentioning P4A or UNI at all! Similar concepts, however, from this article may be applied to those two series as well.

Now Hang on Just a Minute — What is RWBY?

rwby
Team RWBY as featured in Vol. 3’s opening. Notice the colors?

RWBY (pronounced Ruby, just like its main character) is a 3D American “anime” web series created by the late Monty Oum (rest in peace, you brilliant man) and produced by Rooster Teeth that debuted in 2013. Set in Remnant’s future-fantasy world, the story follows the journey of Ruby and her friends’ training at Beacon Academy to become Huntsmen and Huntresses. They do so to fight the “Creatures of Grimm,” which are monsters in animal forms that feed off negativity.

The show primarily focuses on the growth and struggles of its four main heroines: Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long. The four of them band together and form team RWBY, hence the series name. Volume 1 establishes this and introduces us to the girls along with other characters. Unbeknownst to team RWBY and friends is a sinister evil that plans to plunge Remnant into despair. It’s up to the girls to save Remnant and stop this evil. Currently, four volumes of RWBY are available, and the fifth one will premiere on October 14.  

Why RWBY Critics Should Give It a Second Chance

So there you have it! RWBY is mainly about four girls’ journey to become monster slayers and fight evil to protect humanity. Obviously, there’s more when you get into the series. This, however, is the easiest way I can sum up the series without spoilers. You’re probably wondering, how is RWBY even possible in the crossover fighter? Well, that’s where ASW’s BLAZBLUE series comes in. There are other influences, but I’ll be going over those after.

This Looks Interesting — What is BLAZBLUE?

BLAZBLUE’s world is a futuristic-fantasy like RWBY’s. However, it’s more focused on the sci-fi elements of space and time. Because of these elements, it’s also the perfect setting for a crossover to take place. Nonetheless, before I dive more into this point, let’s see what BB is all about. BLAZBLUE is a 2D anime fighting game series that started in 2009. It has since spanned four main fighting game titles that follow its main character, Ragna the Bloodedge. As of 2016, the fourth and final title, CENTRAL FICTION (BBCF), marks the end of Ragna’s story.

Ragna's Blazblue
“I’ll show you the power of BlazBlue!”

Starting with CALAMITY TRIGGER, Ragna in 2199 AD sets out to destroy the Novus Orbis Librarium (NOL), or BB’s government. He, however, is destroying Cauldrons or time travel “gates” located beneath each NOL branch. To destroy them, he must tap into the power of his magical right arm, the BlazBlue. The Cauldrons must be destroyed to prevent the creation of Murakumo Units. These are special artificial human weapons that lead to the world’s destruction. For this, the NOL has issued a large bounty on his head. Thus, various characters from the series go after him.    

So there you have it, that’s how BLAZBLUE began. Just like RWBY’s synopsis, there’s much more to the story. To sum it up, the first title is a time loop where Ragna falls into the Cauldron infinitely with one of the Units. This results in the Black Beast, fused by Ragna and the Unit that almost wipes out humanity in the past. It only gets crazier in the sequels with the time and space shenanigans. Nonetheless, these are the same shenanigans that make the crossover fighter possible. Let’s get back to that point!

Immersive Storytelling: Balancing Narrative and Gameplay

Mind if I Join the Fight? — World of “Possibilities”

One word: possibilities. That’s how BBTAG happens. It’s also the word Ragna utters to his brother, Jin Kisaragi (pictured below), at the beginning of the trailer before the craziness begins. No doubt, what he implies is time travel. As mentioned in the previous section, Cauldrons used to produce Murakumo Units are also time travel “gates.”

If you put two and two together, then Cauldrons are basically portals for these “possibilities,” which are essentially possible worlds or timelines. I did also mention that Ragna falls into a Cauldron and winds up in the past, albeit tragically. That in itself is a “possibility.” The same goes if he didn’t fall into it.

Blazblue crossover
Ragna says the keyword in the trailer. | Image courtesy of ASW.

Still, Cauldrons act more as a transportation method. It doesn’t explain the creation of “possibilities.” Rather, what is found inside Cauldrons explains this. Inside is the Boundary, a vast dark empty space that acts as a border between worlds or “possibilities.” You can even say it’s a parallel universe. Somewhere deep inside it exists Amaterasu, the “god of creation.” She oversees the creation of “possibilities.” Thus, she probably created the “possibility” of BBTAG’s existence.

Of course, I could be wrong. ASW could use the Continuum Shift (CS) event from BB’s second title to explain the “possibility.” The CS event allowed for multiple “possibilities” to shift into the main timeline. It’s all theoretical anyway. We won’t know how ASW will handle the story until BBTAG releases next year. However, one thing is certain: there exists another possibility as to how RWBY fits into the crossover.

The Collision is Inevitable — A Common Interest

That possibility, besides the story, comes from a shared interest between two individuals. They are the ones who helped shape and define what their series was capable of. Furthermore, they were both fans of each other’s work. Because of this, BBTAG was able to come into fruition and honor both individuals’ dream. Here’s how it all started:

BB and RWBY creator
Toshimichi Mori (left) and Monty Oum (right).

Toshimichi Mori, the BLAZBLUE creator, is a RWBY fan. Certain BBCF character color palettes hint toward him being one. Furthermore, he did express interest in creating a RWBY fighter when Forbes interviewed him last year (it’s near the end of the article). Mori also wanted to spearhead the project if possible. Thanks in part to Rooster Teeth’s collaborative efforts, Mori did so, and BBTAG was born during EVO. Perhaps this was Mori’s way of honoring the late Monty Oum, RWBY’s creator, and his vision for “the most awesome fighting game ever.”

Red vs Blue and its Genre-Swapping Success

Before he passed away in 2015, Oum wanted to create a RWBY fighter. He even went on “The Gootecks & Mike Ross Show” (skip to 27:00) in 2013 to talk about the possibility of making one. On the show, he cited possible design examples like Mori’s BB — it wasn’t until this year that I found out Oum was a BLAZBLUE fan. Furthermore, he also reached out to Lab Zero Games (SKULLGIRLS) for a possible collaboration to create a RWBY fighter. However, tragedy struck Oum, and he perished. Thus, I very much believe that BBTAG was what Oum would’ve wanted. I also think it is Mori’s way as a fan to honor him.

Now that you know both major possibilities of how RWBY fits into BBTAG let’s take a look at how it may work as a fighting game.

The Impact Will Be Unavoidable — RWBY VS. BLAZBLUE Influences

RWBY vs BB
Believe or not, Ragna’s sword is also a gun scythe. | Image Courtesy of ASW.
Translating Design

As a fan of Mori’s BLAZBLUE, Oum possibly saw some inspirations that he could have used in a RWBY fighter. These inspirations could range from a character’s moves, a certain mechanic, a unique playstyle, etc. It all has to do with idea and design, two elements that made Oum into a gifted animator. They’re also the elements that made the fights in his animated works, like DEAD FANTASY and HALOID, visually stand out. As a martial arts film, anime, and fighting game fan, he’d take certain ideas from those mediums and design something out of them. The result would be his signature combat choreography you see in his works, namely in his RWBY trailers and the show itself.

Similarly, Mori has to watch RWBY to effectively design and portray each character to be as close to its show counterpart as possible. This means he has to take certain attacks and apply them to the respective character model. Compared to 3D, it’s a lot more work, but this follows how Oum uses the same design concept. With RWBY’s choreography, it’s simpler for Mori to draw source material from the show. It certainly beats creating a whole new character, though. As such, let’s watch and analyze a BBTAG designed Ruby Rose in action.

Ruby Rose Speeds Into Tag Battle

Thanks to Rooster Teeth’s Gray Haddock, we finally see some gameplay footage of BBTAG. It features none other than miss Ruby Rose herself in action along with BB brothers Ragna and Jin. Also, I can’t believe her second theme song is playing — I’ll be talking more about music as an influence later.

As expected, Ruby has the range game down. Her Crescent Rose, or sniper-scythe, attacks already control half of the screen. Additionally, it looks like Ruby can enter a gun-stance to zone out opponents. Yes, RWBY weapons are also guns. So far the video only shows her firing two rounds while in the stance and only horizontally.

Furthermore, it looks like she can teleport, even in conjunction with a unique recoil shot move she uses. Ruby blasts in front of her before teleporting backward. The blue-colored Ruby executed a variation of this attack, where she teleport blasted herself diagonally downward. This is a nod in RWBY where Ruby and other characters can use their weapon recoils as movement abilities.

Scatter
Gotta go fast!

Speaking of abilities, Ruby can teleport because of her Semblance. It’s pretty much a unique ability that every RWBY character has. Speed is Ruby’s Semblance, which allows her to travel at high velocities. However, in recent RWBY volumes, Ruby travels so fast that it looks like she can teleport. She looks more like a red spiraling vortex.

You can see this during her super attack against Jin, whom she spirals past quickly to deal multiple hits. It’s a reference to the RWBY food fight scene, where Ruby uses Speed so fast she starts spiraling for the first time. However, it’s possible the teleport idea hints that she can go beyond Speed. It’s mainly the reason why Ruby leaves behind rose petals.

eSports Should Be In The Olympics

The Drive System

As you’ve read and watched, Ruby fights with a combination of scythe and gun attacks along with her Semblance. Compared to the show, I’d say ASW did a good job at portraying her in-game. Regarding character playstyles, Ruby looks very well-rounded.

She’ll possibly be that type of character from RWBY’s ensemble. However, what intrigued me the most was Ruby’s recoil shot movement. It’s a similar concept Oum pitched on “The Gootecks & Mike Ross Show” when he cited BB as a design example. The concept was to use BLAZBLUE’s unique Drive mechanic for the recoil movement.

Drive and Semblance Comparison
Hibiki’s Drive (left) and Blake’s Semblance (right) look very similar, but it was Blake who came first.

Drive is a one-button ability mechanic that every BB character has. It’s a simplification of a character’s ability into one button (D button) for easier commands. You can even design a RWBY character’s Semblance around it. Let’s use Hibiki‘s Drive “Double Chase” as an example to translate Blake‘s Semblance into a Drive.

Starting off, both characters have similar abilities: summoning shadow-clones. This similarity already makes things easier. Blake will basically teleport and attack with her clones just like Hibiki does in-game. This all depends on the Drive inputs. By pressing Drive and a direction, Hibiki will send a clone or teleport to that direction.

Essentially, Oum’s idea for Ruby’s Drive is similar in concept. It’s highly likely that if Drives are implemented into BBTAG, then her Drive is a combination of her directional recoil shots and Semblance. Ruby can quickly zip away defensively depending on the direction her Drive is pressed while firing shots at an enemy. It’s the only plausible explanation for how her recoil movement works as seen from the video in the previous section.

Similar Characters & Possibilities

Since Hibiki and Blake share similar abilities, there’s no doubt that there are other character similarities between RWBY and BLAZBLUE. These similarities may decide who gets into the crossover or not. Take Hibiki and Blake for example again. Despite similar abilities, Blake was created first when RWBY began in 2013.

Hibiki barely made his first appearance in BB’s third title, CHRONO PHANTASMA, as a story-mode only character roughly the same year. However, since he was not playable until CENTRAL FICTION in 2015, we don’t know his Drive yet.

Blazblue RWBY Comparisons
BB’s Nu-13 (top left) & Bullet (bottom left) vs RWBY’s Penny (top right) & Yang (bottom right)

Furthermore, Hibiki is a side character. In BB’s story, he only serves as a captain’s secretary and protector. This doesn’t compare to Blake. She’s a major character as she’s part of team RWBY. Her character importance combined with the fact that she was created first makes her appearance in BBTAG more likely than Hibiki. The same can be said for certain other characters that share similarities between the two series.

BB’s Nu-13, a Murakumo Unit, and RWBY’s Penny Polendina both use flying swords and are artificially built. BB’s Bullet and RWBY’s Yang both utilize gauntlets as weapons and have a very fiery temper in addition to some “assets.” While Nu-13 and Penny may fight similarly, Bullet and Yang do not.

The major difference is that Bullet fights with throws while Yang mostly punches you. Both, however, can power-up their attacks, albeit differently — Yang’s Semblance draws strength from hits. As such, Yang will possibly have boxing attacks while her Drive revolves around some power-up mechanic.

So, despite similarities, who do you think out of these four will make it into BBTAG? Yang is a given as she’s part team RWBY.

Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Mythology, Oh My! Is the Symbolism in RWBY Overkill?

Influences in Music

You know what I’m more worried about aside from possible character reveals? It’s music, specifically character themes. I’m the type of person who requires it to play a fighting game. It just wouldn’t be the same without a heart pumping song to get you into the mood. This is especially true if you want to get that confidence to beat your opponent. Furthermore, music helps you to feel more connected to the character you’re playing.

The tracks from RWBY just have that “oomph” I feel that blends well with BLAZBLUE’s epic rock music. Just give Yang’s “I Burn” theme above a listen. Doesn’t it make you want to play Ruby’s powered-up “Super Saiyan” of a sister? Yeah, just dish all that damage you took as Yang (how her Semblance works) back to your opponent while you “burn.”

What about Ruby’s Red Like Roses II” theme? Thanks to Rooster Teeth’s Haddock, again, you can now zip around as Ruby annoyingly while her theme plays. This also means songs from RWBY are a possibility in BBTAG! I wouldn’t mind fighting people while listening to this.

The same can be said of BB’s music. While most of its songs may lack lyrics compared to RWBY’s, they are still reflective of its characters. Ragna’s theme, “Rebellion,” really gives off that rebellious delinquent personality and anti-hero status he exudes. The guitar shredding and beating drums feel like he’s about to kick some doors and take some names. If anything, his second theme, “Rebellion II,” amps up the drums and guitar shredding. It’s louder and more rebellious but signifies how much Ragna has gotten stronger. Also, if you don’t like vocals or just don’t like RWBY songs at all, you can rock out to BB music instead.

Can’t Escape From Crossing Fate — Afterword

Heiress to Schnee Family
“Drat, why is Ruby in this and I’m not?”

So what’s next concerning BBTAG? Well, according to Arc System Works during a Tokyo Game Show panel last month, BBTAG will have playable demos internationally at these locations and dates:

  • New York Comic Con (US) – 10/05 to 10/08
  • RTX London (Europe) – 10/14 to 10/15
  • South East Asia Major @ GameStart 2017 (Singapore) – 10/14 to 10/15
  • Arc Revolution Cup 2017 (Japan) – 10/21 

So pretty much if you’re in New York or if you’re already attending NYCC, you can catch some BBTAG action there this weekend. If not, then you could always fly to the other locations if you’re willing to do it. As for me, I’ll just be looking up more news and possibly writing up an anticipated character list for this game. Ta-ta for now! BBTAG October news

Featured image screenshotted from debut trailer. Courtesy of ASW.

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