The BlazBlue franchise has quickly become one of the biggest 2D fighters in gaming. Since its first release in 2008, the series has seen multiple sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations that continue on the mythos. The latest addition comes in the form of BlazBlue: Clonephantasma, a 3DS eShop release that replaces the 2D fighting the series is known for with 3D arena combat.

The first thing you’ll notice about Clonephantasma is the art style. In place of the detailed anime characters, you’ll now be in control of cute, adorable, chibi versions of the BlazBlue roster. The artwork is fairly charming and each character is cleverly switched into a tiny, deformed, version without losing their own unique characteristics. Though I’m not personally a fan of chibi art, I can admit it was pretty entertaining seeing Ragna and the rest of the gang in these forms. Sadly, the rest of the game didn’t entertain me as well as the artwork.

Ragna, Rachel, Platinum, chibi

While the core BlazBlue titles rely on deep, robust, fighting systems, Clonephantasma keeps things basic. Really basic. Every character has a normal attack they can string together into a single combo, a Drive attack which is basically each character’s special move, and a Blast Drive that will launch opponents out of the ring. These attacks are always the same, and there’s no strategy in using them. That’s because all you ever do in BlazBlue: Clonephantasma is knock hordes of mindless enemies out of the arena you’re fighting in. There’s no defensive mechanic. Enemies circle in around you, trying to smack you out of the ring, and you’re left to try and smack them harder and faster.

The variety in your move-set (or lack thereof) is pointless because they’re all doing the same thing. The only system to speak of is your special bar at the bottom. If you get hit, or use your Blast Drive too often it will reach level 3, allowing basic attacks to do more damage, but using a Blast Drive will stun your character. In essence, it felt more like a meter I didn’t want to fill up as opposed to every other fighting game I’ve played. To mix things up, items will occasionally spawn on the stage to pick up. These act as stat boosters but don’t change things up enough to really have any effect on game. Some will allow you to run faster, one stops you from getting dizzy, but none of them really help vary things. Oh, and you can jump. But there’s no reason to.

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The gameplay of Clonephantasma makes for a repetitive experience alone, but with only two modes of play, it’s barely playable for more than an hour. The Story Mode is a joke. Where the mythos of Blazblue is deep and completely over-the-top insane, Clonephantasma is as shallow as the morning dew. Each character fights through six Rebels (rounds) blasting away as many enemies as needed before coming across a couple other main characters. After brief, poorly written dialogues occur, you continue the same, monotonous fight until the credits roll, rewarding players with a lazy conclusion, and a pretty picture. If you can do this with every character in the game, you might need to see a doctor.

Challenge Mode does even less. No, this mode doesn’t give players specific objectives, or change up the mechanics of the game, it simply puts you in an arena and tells you to knock out as many enemies as you can without dying. Some players might get a kick out of chasing their own high score, but the repetitive and shallow combat did little to keep me coming back.

One of the most disappointing things about Clonephantasma is the lack of any type of multiplayer. A fighting game without multiplayer is like and RPG without customization. Challenge Mode leaderboards could easily make for some type of enjoyment, or a Versus Mode where you can play with a buddy and laugh about what you’re both playing would do nothing but help this game.

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BlazBlue: Clonephantasma is nothing more than poorly conceived fan-service. The characters are there with their own unique moves, the concept is initially present, and even the music is undoubtedly “Blazblue”, but by simplifying the game, Arc System Works took out all the substance. The combat is dull, the story is dull, and the game itself is dull. Whether you’re a fan of the series, or someone just browsing the eShop looking for something to play, I would have a really hard time recommending BlazBlue: Clonephantasma even for the relatively cheap price of $5.99.

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