Not as well-known in North America as it is in Japan, the origins for Black Rock Shooter can be traced back to a single illustration, which spawned a song, Manga and Anime; which is still ongoing in Japan. Originally released in 2011, Black Rock Shooter: The Game has stealthily made its way to the West (only two years late) and on Sony’s last generation handheld: the PSP. Oddly enough, every incarnation of Black Rock Shooter can be thought of self-contained narratives, unrelated to anything else sharing the same name.
After the human race finds itself on the brink of extinction at the hands of an invading alien race, the heroine (who is actually called Black Rock Shooter) has finally awakened from a deep slumber with the sole purpose of protecting the few survivors that are left. Seriously, there are literally only a handful of humans left alive. Unfolding through character interactions, the narrative is revealed through codec style conversations, reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid.
The real-time combat system feels fresh, featuring analog-style aiming and a cool down system forcing players to play strategically. Once engaged in battle, enemies make their way in straight lines towards BRS. The inclusion of an overheat meter prevents any sort of spamming as managing attacking, dodging and guarding becomes a necessity. Overheating prevents any further actions to be taken for a short amount of time, leaving you vulnerable to attacks without a way to defend yourself. The additional unlockable skills keep battles moving with both defensive and offensive abilities, but their usage doesn’t affect the overheat meter. Instead the skills include their own cooldown timer.
As a two year old PSP title, Black Rock Shooter: The Game visually isn’t much to look at. Character models and the environment are comprised of sharp angles and low resolution textures which exacerbates the dull post-apocalyptic setting and character designs. Featuring six different missions, each one containing a handful of missions, backtracking becomes a common occurrence as you traverse through the environments. Objectives will often repeat, having you chase a character around the environment or kill a set number of enemies. Outside of a few scattered treasure chests, there aren’t many reasons to explore the linear environments. At certain moments, you will also be able to ride a motorcycle and slice your way through multiple enemies, but the repetitive nature of doing the exact same thing again and again makes the entire experience tiresome after the first couple times.
While not a well-known series, at least here in the West, Black Rock Shooter is easy to get into, even if you aren’t into Manga or Anime. The narrative is fairly deep, providing twists throughout the short experience, which roughly lasts ten hours or so. Boss battles add a bit of challenge to the combat with one-hit kills and thrilling last second dodging.
Note: The Black Rock Shooter: The Game review was written based on the PlayStation Portable version of the game, played on a PlayStation Vita.