Black Rock Shooter: The Game – PSP/Vita
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Image Epoch
Release Date: Feb 26, 2013
Genre: Action, RPG
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 3.5 of 5

First, let’s be clear that Black Rock Shooter: The Game is for the PSP; something that escaped me when I signed on to do this review. Thankfully, it works just fine on the PS Vita, which is the system I’ll be reviewing it on. With that out of the way, Black Rock Shooter: The Game is a frantic third-person shooter that blends intense action with some unique RPG elements that surprisingly sucked me in for several consecutive hours of gameplay.

Black Rock Shooter is one of the newer manga/anime franchises out there that really hasn’t made its way to U.S. shores yet, so unless you are importing your anime the source material may be lost on a lot of you. Basically, the series revolves around a mysterious girl with super powers and a big-ass gun. Rather than encroach on any of the established canon the game takes place in the future; 2051 to be exact. Our lovely gun-toting heroine has been in cryo-freeze for a few decades, but when the 12 soldiers escorting her capsule get into trouble our girl wakes up and gets right into action, leveling the invading monsters with unholy amounts of gunfire.

Apart from this third-person turret sequences there is a surprisingly rich JRPG lurking behind the scenes with abilities and special attacks that can be added and leveled-up and a vast assortment of potions, etc. Our nameless girl works alone, at least in the sense of gameplay. I did enjoy the opening levels and all the sexist comments being made by the leering soldiers. I was just waiting for her to turn the gun towards them.

The game is broken down into several missions, each in a new location and map with primary and side missions that will help you in leveling up your character. Actual gameplay mostly consists of moving around the level until you trigger a fight then standing there and shooting until they are all dead. You’ll need to monitor your weapon‘s heat gauge as well as dodge incoming attacks and unleashing the occasional special attack. It’s a pretty slick mix of combat that slowly evolves as you build your character and earn new abilities, which often allows you to revisit previous areas of the game that may have been too challenging to complete the first time.

While the levels are varied the enemies sadly aren’t; with only the same half-dozen creatures appearing time after time for you to gun down. The end-level bosses are fantastic however; each with a unique look and style that requires some careful thought for each boss fight. These boss battles are easily the best part of the game. The lack of variety also extends into weapons, as you pretty much just have the one big gun. Your only ways to upgrade your character are in extended health and new special powers, which can detract from the whole RPG experience. Personally, I found this simplistic approach rather refreshing in that I wasn’t constrained by normal RPG tropes of gathering worthless crap to sell at shops, so I could buy something I needed. Grinding and looting have been replaced with pure action.

Not surprising, Black Rock Shooter: The Game looks pretty much like a PS2 or PSP game, but playing it on the Vita will give you a slight boost in clarity and framerate, but compared to titles created for the Vita you can’t deny the bland and almost boring environments and repetitive textures. The detail on the girl is pretty cool as is her smooth animations. Music and sound effects are pretty good but the dialogue is entirely in Japanese (and there is a LOT of dialogue) so be prepared to read a lot of subtitles. Honestly, I prefer this over a poor English dub any day.

If you happen to be a fan of Black Rock Shooter then this game was made just for you, otherwise if you are looking for a fresh action-shooter twist to your JRPG then Black Rock Shooter: The Game could be the portable game you are looking for whether you are clinging to your PSP or want to test the genre waters on your Vita. The game can get a bit boring and repetitive near the end, but the story is extremely interesting and will easily carry you through to the end.