BlazBlue: Alter Memory is based on the popular 2D fighting franchise of the same name. BlazBlue was one of the most important new IPs that emerged in the previous console generation. It shook up the quality and presentation of 2D sprites to bring the fighting experience as close to an anime production as possible. The visual ecstasy was wonderfully complemented by the silky smooth fighting system that made every fight a joy to behold and experience. One of the great things about the BlazBlue series is its emphasis on single player content and a heavily fleshed out premise, something that is becoming increasingly less apparent in the fighting genre. BlazBlue has spared no expense in providing players with an incredibly deep and lengthy story mode, an experience that is part fighting game but mostly a choice-based visual novel experience with a ton of text and dialogue to sit through. Import a copy of BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend (we’re still waiting for that official PAL release, by the way) and you’ll be greeted with the entirety of BlazBlue’s story mode with additional visual novel episodes to boot. The BlazBlue lore is great (and also very confusing), but it certainly demands a lot of dedication and patience given that fighting games are meant to be instant gratification. Which is why the anime series, BlazBlue: Alter Memory, is a nice little companion piece to your BlazBlue collection. This anime series comes from the very same studio that produced the cutscenes for Chrono Phantasma.
BlazBlue: Alter Memory may have a strong connection with the video game, both in terms of lore and the studio behind it, but at the end of the day what passes as an impressive production for a fighting game cutscene doesn’t necessarily come across as appealing when it’s a full-fledged anime series. In terms of visuals and animation fidelity, Alter Memory is a very simple and bland production. The animation is jerky with no fluidity, the colour tone is dull, and the amount of detail feels bare minimum. Alter Memory doesn’t complement the true artistry of the stellar character designs featured in the BlazBlue series. In fact, the character artwork featured in the games have a ton more flair than what you’ll see in Alter Memory. The only thing that shines about the ambience is the music, with most of the tracks ripped straight from the video game, but given the exceptional quality of the series’ soundtrack that’s not a bad thing at all.
BlazBlue: Alter Memory is an abridged retelling of the events in BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger and BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, focusing on the main characters to nicely summarise the major events with effective simplicity. The anime never departs too much from the source material, which is refreshing as most adaptations take far too many liberties. That being said, Alter Memory doesn’t do justice to the amount of care and effort apparent in the story mode featured in the games, but at the same time the anime is probably a commendable reader’s digest for those unwilling to dedicate the 20+ hours (and that’s putting it lightly) to experience the entirety of the story in any of the BlazBlue games (with Chrono Phantasma Extend featuring the longest story mode you’ll ever sit through in any fighting game). Alter Memory, like I said earlier, does a decent job of presenting the general gist of the lore, and focuses on the important characters.
As a viewing experience, BlazBlue: Alter Memory will bore anyone who has no prior knowledge of the franchise. It’s incredibly generic and bland, but for fans there is some enjoyment to be had. It’s especially fun to see Noel Vermillion, the popular gun-wielding heroine, take centre stage and interact with the others. Ragna the Bloodedge serves as the protagonist like he does in all the games, and for the most part he is quite dull with most of his sentences having the word “bastard!” somewhere in them. He is weirdly charming in the end, but only if you’re familiar with his shenanigans in the video games. Alter Memory recreates a lot of scenes from the game’s story mode, but the pace is comfortable enough given the amount of ground they had to cover. There’s a few liberties here and there, but overall this is probably the most comfortable way to catch up on BlazBlue if you’re new to the franchise.
On its own, BlazBlue: Alter Memory is a run of the mill anime with bland production values, and an overall unmemorable story delivery featuring a generic cast of characters. As an adaptation of a video game, however, BlazBlue: Alter Memory at least succeeds at being a companion piece that diehard fans of the fighting series will get some enjoyment out of. It’s certainly not a substitute to the meticulously crafted story mode found in the BlazBlue video games, in fact some may see Alter Memory as a disservice to the intricately interwoven BlazBlue lore. That being said, BlazBlue: Alter Memory is a mostly serviceable release that won’t offend any fan (well at least it didn’t offend me) and so this is a viewing experience for fans, or any newcomer wanting to catch up on the story. For everyone else, this is an inconsequential anime that can be safely ignored.