Black Rock Shooter is a newer manga and anime franchise that hasn’t really seen a ton of exposure to the North American market. The series is unique in that each form of media the series has taken place in has had its own story and universe. But each of them focuses around a mysterious girl with a glowing blue eye, a huge gun, and super powers. Black Rock Shooter: The Game on the PSP does in fact feature that same mysterious girl with the glowing blue eye, but it sets itself apart from previous stories in the franchise by taking place in the year 2051. The main character wakes up after being asleep for several decades and true to JRPG cliché she has lost her memory. Don’t let that fool you though, for the most part Black Rock Shooter is anything but your typical cliché driven Japanese Role Playing Game.
The game itself is broken up into several different missions with their own location and map. Once you complete the main story in each mission area you will be free to go back there and complete side missions as you please. BRS does level up throughout the game giving her more health, but her special abilities all get unlocked by beating a set amount of bad guys in each level. So if you haven’t unlocked a new ability by the time you complete the main story mission you will definitely need to go back and play the side missions if you want access to new abilities.
The fact that there are really no humans left alive also means that Black Rock Shooter sheds the RPG convention of traveling into town to sell off gear, shop, repair and sleep. There is none of that here, in fact there aren’t even any shops, let alone towns to speak off. You travel from one mission objective to the next with very little down time in between. This does highlight a problem with the game though. There are literally no new gear or weapon upgrades to speak of. The only sense of character progression you get comes from earning new abilities and gaining more health. It’s not a deal breaker but it is different.
Black Rock Shooter does feature a lot of in game dialogue, but it is all spoken in Japanese. Everything is subtitled in English, which worked for me, but people who like their English voice actors may be disappointed. I can understand this decision though since the game is only $19.99 on the PSN.
Ultimately I would recommend Black Rock Shooter: The Game to anyone who likes JRPGs but is getting tired of the same old formula. The combination of standard RPG and 3rd person shooter is fresh and it does work. The game also presents a decent storyline and I found myself invested in seeing the last of humanity take on the alien conquerors. There is also a decent side plot where everyone is trying to figure out exactly who and what the main character is, is she a clone of one of the alien lords or is she something more? On the downside, the lack of enemy unit types leads to stale combat about half way through the game and the sense of character progression isn’t that great. For only $19.99 though the PSP has one last RPG that is worth playing.