BlazBlue: Chronophantasma is the third installment of the series by Arc System Works, fresh off from their fighting game collaboration with Atlus.Ragna the Bloodedge approaches the city of Ikaruga, once the focal point of a civil war that cemented the NOL's tyrannical rule over the world. Accompanied by vigilante catgirl Taokaka, he hopes to find the answers to the dark conspiracy revealed at the end of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, connected to the actions of his arch-nemesis Terumi and his missing sister Saya. Meanwhile, Noel Vermillion and Makoto Nanaya seek to rescue their friend Tsubaki Yayoi, who has fallen under the control of Terumi and become a Knight Templar.But complicating matters is the loss of one of the god-like entities of the BlazBlue universe, which has escalated a precarious stalemate into all-out war between the remaining sides. Each shot fired in this conflict tears a hole in the fabric of time and space itself, pulling material from Alternate Universes through the wounds and creating temporal impossibilities called "Chronophantasms." If nothing is done to end this, then Ikaruga may collapse under the sheer weight of paradoxes before Ragna or any of the other vigilantes can accomplish their goals.This new sequel does away with many of the old systems and adds in new mechanics. The Guard Primer system, originally modified from the Guard Libra system, is nowhere to be found, replaced by a new attack for each character known as a Crush Trigger, which allows the character to instantly break the opponent's non-Barrier Guard at the cost of 25% heat, making them equivalent to the Force Breaks (or EX Attacks) of Guilty Gear.The most drastic change, however, is the Burst system. Defensive Bursts remain, but Gold Bursts have been removed and replaced with a brand-new technique for each character: Overdrive, a Super Mode that increases a character's power and enhances their Drive, its effectiveness increasing the lower their health is. The effects of each Overdrive are different for each character, and can sometimes enhance their supers as well. Upon activation, Overdrives also freeze the timer for their duration.Each character also has new moves and balance changes, and their sprites have been totally redrawn from the ground up. Some characters also wear new outfits, such as Noel, who has discarded her military gear completely, and Tsubaki, who now wears her previously story-exclusive black uniform.In addition, the roster introduces three brand-new characters (and one new boss):
Amane Nishiki, a Camp Gay travelling performer who fights with a scarf that can change into various forms, like a drill for piercing attacks or a prehensile arm for distance throws.
Bullet, a member of a mercenary corps that was slaughtered by Sector Seven, leaving her with a serious grudge. She uses Good Old Fisticuffs, with a combat style focused on grapples and throws.
Azrael, a mysterious Blood Knight of Sector Seven. He was sealed away by Sector Seven due to his uncontrollable power and violent rampages, but has recently been released from confinement. He uses a beatdown style that adds "weak points" to enemies for extra damage.
Izayoi, the form that Tsubaki Yayoi takes after awakening the true power of her weapon, which was originally a prototype for the Murukumo Units. It is referred to as "Tsubaki's true form" and is very much to Tsubaki what Mu-12 is to Noel. She uses a Stance System, building up her "Zero Weave" gauge in her long-range stance to power up her moves in her short-range stance.
Three more console-exclusive characters have also been confirmed, two of which are DLC:
Yuuki Terumi: The true form of Hazama, our resident Troll, taking his form during the Dark War as seen in flashbacks and the Phase Shift 1 novel. Possesses a different Drive than Hazama, and is heavily meter-reliant like Akuma of Street Fighter. He is a pre-order DLC bonus.
Kokonoe: One of the head scientists of Sector Seven, the organization Tager works for, and the woman responsible for his creation. She was confirmed as a playable character via the September 2013 issue of Famitsu. She is a space control-oriented character who fights using a wrench and hammer as her weapons, utilizing both science and magic to overwhelm her opponents. She's a DLC character, like Terumi, and was made available to Japanese users about a month after the PS3 release.
On July 15, 2014 it was announced that Celica A. Mercury, the younger sister of Nine and protagonist of the Phase Shift series, would be playable as apart of an update to the the Arcade cabinets in Fall of 2014While the Murakumo units were believed to be excluded due to their fates in the previous game and their exclusion in the debut trailer, this was changed with the next announcement stating that both Nu-13 and Mu-12 are confirmed to be in the game, and about a year and a half later, Lambda-11 was confirmed to return as well.The story this time is split between three different (albeit interconnected) scenarios, each with their own set of playable characters and bosses. Chronophantasma's plot focuses heavily on Sector Seven and matters of the past, particularly the Six Heroes, whose subplot is concluded in this game.The game arrived in Japanese arcades on November 21, 2012. The game was released on the PS3 in Japan on October 24, 2013. Aksys Games is once again the publisher, and it was released in the U.S. on March 25, 2014, also only for the PlayStation 3.
Rebel 3, ACTION!
Anti-Frustration Features: In the console version, the Abyss mode has been remixed, with the statistics no longer resetting to 0 on each character, with only the three temporary boost slots being still purchased regularly.
Artifact Title: The Jin vs. Noel theme from previous games returns, remixed and named "Imperial Code II"... despite both of them already cutting ties with the NOL at the end of Continuum Shift.
Bechdel Test: It passes due to a scene in the Sector Seven storyline that involves Makoto and Celica discussing their academic history while visiting a pastry shop.
Bittersweet Ending: Some good things happen, but it's more on the bitter side this time around, even if the heroes succeeded in defeating Take-Mikazuchi.
Saya relinquishes her title as the Imperator to Homura, meaning that the entire NOL will pull a Heel-Face Turn and stop being a jackass, dictatorial organization. However, the relinquishment by Saya is done on purpose: either she has other plans, or she just plain doesn't care since she has other authorial power, which makes sense if you read what happens below.
Terumi is Killed Off for Real by Hakumen using the Time Killer skill, meaning that he probably won't be back. Unfortunately, he managed to give one last middle finger to Hakumen by killing Platinum the Trinity as he died.
Saya abandons both Terumi and Relius to their fates, and Relius does not take it well along with his plans coming utterly crashing down, causing him to have a massive breakdown. He's put under the mercy of both Carl and Litchi, only being kept alive until he "restores Ada." In the meantime, Litchi is now free from his manipulations and can't be called a "villain" anymore, but her hopes for the cure are completely dashed due to Relius' failure and breakdown, with Izanami's emergence shortening her time even further. The realization that in her quest, she ended up hurting her friend (Bang) and, at her lowest, attempted to sacrifice many innocents for her own desire, isn't going to do any good for her good-natured psyche, meaning Litchi is still very screwed. The consequences of her obsession hit her and Litchi's chances of falling into depression are high, but on the bright side, Carl's there to possibly help her get over it.
Speaking of Bang Shishigami, he finally fulfills his duty as the apprentice of Lord Tenjou Amanohokosaka by using the power of Phoenix: Rettenjou/Kushinada's Lynchpin and thwarting Relius' plan (see above), along with enabling Ragna to score victory against Take-Mikazuchi (see below). However, along the way, he becomes a Heartbroken Badass as he sees both Litchi and Carl siding with Relius (even if only temporarily due to his victory and even though they apologized beforehand) and his perfect fantasies about what perfect "wife material" Litchi was and what a perfect "apprentice" Carl was are shattered. Nobody knows where he went after he succeeded in his mission, nor if it would affect his normally boisterous persona.
Lastly? Nu-13 forcefully merges with Ragna after looking like she would be redeemed for good, and Saya, revealed as Izanami the Goddess of Death, manages to brainwash Ragna and turns him into a beastly form that attacks both Jin and Noel. Ragna's fate is unknown but it looks like he left to God-knows-where, while Noel ends up with light wounds and Jin is bedridden for days due to his wounds, an act that renewed Tsubaki's hatred towards Ragna even if she has been freed from the villains' influence. Rachel reveals that with the seithr levels in the world lowering, Ragna is slowly dying and he must be killed before that happens. And if that fails... Rachel asks Tsubaki to kill her. Meanwhile, Izanami stands prepared to create the true BlazBlue to bring about her ideal "world of death."
Furthering that and ending on a Cliff Hanger, Izanami immediately starts the creation of BlazBlue Embryo in which all humans will be reduced to seithr, unless they are one of the "Qualified Ones." As of the moment, the new NOL just lost its whole soldiers squadron (meaning they just become a good, but utterly weak group) and the heroes are seriously understaffed while they have to go around and prevent more people from suffering the same fate.
Break Meter: Averted. This is one of the only modern fighters without some form of "guard break" meter. Instead, the new Crush Trigger attack uses 25% of the character's meter in order to shatter the opponent's standard defenses.
Character Development: The game's story mode is a good source of this for most of the cast. Ragna becomes more heroic, vowing to find a way to use his Azure to protect people as opposed to using it to destroy (which makes what happens to him at the end even more tragic), Jin is less of a Jerkass to others (even around Noel he's simmered down a bit), and Noel herself is far more confident than before, even being able to harness her Mu-12 form at will. Even Hakumen seems to have cooled down as he speaks less harshly to others, and isn't as hostile to Ragna as he was before. Carl is also shown to have made use of his cooling down by Litchi in CS, and took a detour from his goal from solely saving Ada and adds "saving Litchi" to his goal list. On the other hand, Litchi's darker sides were shown more, but done without completely trampling her good side or Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, making her development into a Tragic Heroine clearer than it was in CS. The climax also opens up possible development for Bang as he received his Jade-Colored Glasses by force about his idealized fantasies about Litchi and Carl...
Comeback Mechanic: In the manner of X-Factor, Overdrive lasts longer the less health the player using it has. Combined with the fact that the enemy cannot Burst to throw someone out of an Overdrive combo and we get some serious One-Hit Kill nonsense with certain characters, who can flatline average health enemies with a single Level 3 Overdrive combo.
Curb-Stomp Battle: In Chapter 12. Between the Black friggin' Knight sprinkling him onto the nearest wall, Celica crippling him by proximity, and Ragna and Makoto willing to join in if things went sour, Arakune didn't think his cunning plan to eat Noel all the way through.
Kagura handily thrashes Ragna in his first on-screen battle. By the end of it, Ragna is barely managing to stay standing, while Kagura is Trash Talking him with an air of boredom. This was entirely intentional.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: The giant screens inside the Colosseum stage alternate between showing the fight (read: exactly what you're watching on the actual screen) and a cut-in of both competitors. If players who use a NESiCA card are fighting against each other, the screens even display their account name and various other information, just like you'd expect from a place where bets are made on the best fighters. This translates to PSN info in the console versions.
This actually goes a bit further if you re-watch fights in Replay Theater. The screens will show their health meters and character portraits, but if you use the option to turn them off during Replay Theater, they will vanish from the background screens as well.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: Three characters have two different playable (and storyline-wise more powerful) forms. Aside from Noel and Mu-12 returning from Continuum Shift, albeit the latter no longer brainwashed and a regular transformation for the former, we have Tsubaki and Izayoi, the true form of her Ars Armagus, as well as Hazama and Terumi.
Speaking of the former. Despite the fact that Terumi is his own separate character now, and that he and Ragna have their own special intro. Nightmare Fictionnote Ragna & Hazama's theme does not play in any match between the two should you pick the "Auto" setting in the music select. Strangely, Terumi fighting any of the other Six Heroesnote including Hazama, the Six-Heroes theme is always present.
Graying Morality: Sort of zig-zagged and subverted at the same time. On the good guys' side, Character Development improved Ragna, Jin and Noel's standings as they're more confident (Noel), heroic (Ragna), and less of a prick (Jin), with Ragna and Hakumen's case also improving beyond what it was in the previous games. However, Kokonoe, while helpful, sunk to a new low and seemed quite ready to sacrifice her own aunt Celica in order to stop Terumi or Take-Mikazuchi, although she did eventually find out her mother is alive, which means she might probably tone it down a bit. Plus, Kagura, the guy who is working to improve NOL, is on their side. On the bad guys' side, Litchi shows herself to be a Type IV Anti-Villain instead of Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, but she's still unable to switch to the good side, and Carl threw his lot to the bad guys for Ada and Litchi. They eventually go neutral after what happens to Terumi and Relius. New guys like Amane and Bullet are also pretty much hanging around the neutral zone, though the former has plans for Rachel. Then, the Wham Episode happens: Hazama and Relius are rendered dead and ineffective respectively, Ragna gets yanked onto Izanami's side by being Brainwashed and Crazy while retaining some of his sentience, and a recently Heel-Face Turn'd Tsubaki still gets pissed at Ragna for what he did to Jin and Noel. Even Rachel was in support of "killing Ragna before he dies of seithr sickness" but if that falls then apparently killing Rachel would also help. And Izanami? Her proposition is Kill 'em All, good or neutral!
Lazy Artist: Thankfully averted. The sprites have all been redrawn to fit new character designs (Noel's for example) and gameplay changes.
And now the entire soundtrack, which is already awesome, is being completely remixed. And guess who's doing the rearranging? Yuhki of Galneryus fame.
Mirror Match: A notable variation of this trope appears in Chapter 9 of the main route ("Chronophantasma"). Jin goes to find Hakumen for answers and the two have a duel, with Jin noting how similar Hakumen's moves are to his own. The Mirror Match theme "Blood Pain II" even plays for this special battle. After the fight Jin deduces that Hakumen is indeed himself from another timeline brought to the present.
Mythology Gag: BlazBlue characters now receive a palette swap of the Persona 4 Arena characters that also had a palette swap of theirs (with the exception of Carl). Ragna gets Yu, Jin gets Yosuke, Hazama gets Naoto, etc (see the Persona page for details on who gets who, it goes vice versa). For the characters that didn't receive colors in the aforementioned game:
No Campaign for the Wicked: The bad guys MAY get some "focus," but you'll never fight as them in the Story Mode, so you'll never play as Hazama, Terumi, Relius, pre-Izayoi Tsubaki, Litchi, Nu-13, Azrael, or the Imperator (and to some extent Arakune) in the Story. However, Taokaka and Amane are also unplayable (Taokaka isn't even fought anywhere), but they're not villains.
Double-subverted for Litchi, though. Due to her status as an Anti-Villain and Token Good Teammate, part of the Sector Seven story is dedicated for her Sympathetic P.O.V.. However, she's still not playable despite being a focus and the game railroads you to use those who provoke her into combat while she's not being malicious.
Out of Focus: In previous games every single character had their own story route, but Chronophantasma opts for a more streamlined method of storytelling and has only three main routes, including the true ending. As a result, a significant portion of the cast have largely reduced roles aside from the main characters (Ragna, Jin, Noel, etc.)
Shoo Out the Clowns: The main story becomes really dark over time, with the humor less and less frequent. Bang evolves into a more prominent and serious character (despite still being bombastic) and has his perfect fantasies about Litchi and Carl shattered during their time siding with Relius. Taokaka very much disappears from the plot in the middle of the story. Amane, the most light-hearted and humor-prone of the three brand new fighters due to his Camp Gay-ness, has a very reduced role, and in those reduced role, focuses more on the implications of his immortality and mystery. Platinum appears less as the usual Luna/Sena combo, with Trinity taking most of their screentime. Then they're killed by Terumi. The only thing that could count would be Kagura's Chivalrous Pervert tendencies and even that doesn't appear very often. Thankfully there's the Gag Reels, but as usual, they're not canon.
Super Mode: The new "Overdrive" that replaces the Gold Burst system seems to take this effect. Rather than serving as an out-of-combat burst attack, it now serves to set the player into an Install-like mode that enhances their unique attacks. Some moves, like, Ragna's previous Distortion Drive, Blood Kain, and Bang's Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan, now fall into this mode.
Time Crash: Several temporal disturbances occur throughout the many Arcade modes, resetting and overwriting various timelines, due to an all-out war between Takamagahara (controlled by the Imperator) and the Master Unit.
Too Long; Didn't Dub: Rather infamously, Library Mode (wherein one can read up on the BlazBlue lore and learn what various story terms mean) was removed from the US version due to Arc System Works US handling localisation themselves this time around and fearing they couldn't translate most of the terms featured there correctly.
Unexpected Character: Continuum Shift's new player characters were both NPCs in Calamity Trigger. Continuum Shift II and Extend continued the tradition by making 4 more NPCs playable. Bullet, Azrael and Amane hadn't appeared in any previous BlazBlue games.
Your Days Are Numbered: By the end of the game, it turns out the only ones who have limited time in the world aren't just Litchi and Arakune. The Beast inside Ragna is slowly devouring him from the inside and it's only a matter of time before he's completely devoured. Hakumen, after raising the bar a bit just to kill Terumi (and by the nature of time paradox of being in the same world with Jin), is slowly vanishing from existence due to overexertion of using a bit more than 20% of his power. And due to the nature of Celica being a time anomaly/Chronophantasma yanked from the past, she doesn't have much time to live as well. And the world itself also has limited time due to Izanami's actions.