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BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle beginner’s guide

Arc System Works

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, the new fighting game from Dragon Ball FighterZ developer Arc System Works, combines elements of the developer’s past work on the BlazBlue and Persona Arena series with guests from French Bread’s Under Night In-Birth and the popular RWBY web series. All these characters from games past team up and square off in speedy, chaotic tag-team battles where all four fighters are often on the screen at once.

It sounds like a lot of game to take in — and it looks like a lot, on the screen — but BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle boasts a much simpler learning curve than earlier, significantly more demanding entries in the BlazBlue series. While the fighting isn’t as simplified as in Dragon Ball FighterZ, it’s pretty close: Mashing the two basic attack buttons will still unleash flashy combos.

Just because it’s fast and simple doesn’t mean it isn’t very deep: The game’s tag system is particularly involved. It also has a pretty decent tutorial that will show you how to do everything in the game, but not a lot about why. We’re here to help with that part.

What am I trying to do?

Of course, you are trying to deplete the opponent’s life bar by landing attacks. That much is obvious. The question is how to get there.

In BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, you and your opponent are zipping around the screen at high speeds, jockeying for position and trying to land one hit, any hit at all … because in this game, you can extend nearly any hit into a big combo that will put a huge dent in your opponent’s life bar and slam your opponent into the ground. Once your opponent is down, you’ll rush them with a string of attacks and repeat.

The key to this game is staying on the offensive as much as you can. Forcing your opponent to block is almost as important as actually scoring hits on them. Play aggressively on offense and patiently on defense, waiting for the moment when you can turn the tables.

Basics

In this section, we’ll cover the BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle basics — buttons and gauges.

Buttons

Arc System Works via Polygon

For ease of use between PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC versions, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle labels buttons in its own platform-agnostic manner. We will sometimes refer to buttons as A, B, C, D, and P for brevity, but never without explanation.

  • A — light attack (Default Square on PS4, Y on Switch)
  • B — heavy attack (Default Triangle on PS4, X on Switch)
  • C — clash attack (Default Circle on PS4, A on Switch)
  • D — Duo Change, which tags in your teammate (Default X on PS4, B on Switch)
  • P — Partner call (Default R1 on PS4, R on Switch)

You can map actions that call for simultaneous button presses, like throws (heavy and clash attack at the same time), to their own buttons on your controller of choice.

The videos in this guide were mostly recorded in practice mode, where you can see the buttons and directions displayed on the left side of the screen as we press them.

Gauges

Arc System Works via Polygon

As they aren’t labeled, the purpose of the gauges at the bottom of the screen may not be completely clear at first sight.

The blue bar is the Cross Gauge, used for actions involving your tag partner. This meter refills with time — quickly if you only used only one block and more slowly if you used two.

The gauge beside the Cross Gauge is the Distortion Gauge, used for certain skills (special moves) and the powerful distortion skills (super moves). This fills up as players attack or are attacked.

Attacking and combos

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle has made basic combos as easy as they’re going to get. This is a game where you can cancel one attack instantly into the next, creating an unbreakable flurry of blows. Just press the light attack button (A) or heavy attack button (B) repeatedly to deliver a barrage of attacks complete with finisher. If in doubt, mash light attack.

You can also cancel from a light attack series into a heavy attack series by pressing A and then B. For example, above we press A three times (though the auto-combo hits four times) and B three times to complete a basic attack sequence. Remember that the order is always from weakest to strongest: A, B, C (clash attack). A, C is also possible.

The characters from Under Night In-Birth can also cancel attacks in reverse order, as demonstrated by the series (B, B, A, C) above.

Be aware that just mashing light attacks against a blocking opponent will eventually leave you wide open, usually at the fourth attack. Instead of pressing indiscriminately, get comfortable with each of the three or four attacks in your character’s basic attack strings. Learn when to switch it up, and learn when to stop.

When you recognize that your opponent is blocking, try to transition to moves that don’t leave you open to a counterattack when your opponent is done blocking you. A good way for many characters to finish a string of attacks is the simple sweep, used by crouching and pressing clash attack (C).

In the example above, Hyde finishes his long string of attacks with a sweep. Note how far away from the opponent this move pushes Hyde. It’s likely that your opponent will be blocking low at this distance, but even when that happens, Hyde is far away enough that most characters will have trouble mounting their counterattack.

You can cancel normal attacks into Skills (special moves) or Distortion Skills (super moves). Let’s finish the chain we’ve been building by cancelling Hyde’s sweep into his projectile, Black Orbiter. This move and its follow-up are designed to keep Hyde safe after he finishes an attack series. As an aside, almost all special moves in Blazblue Cross Tag Battle are performed with basic “fireball” motions: Roll your thumb from down to forward (or down to back, depending on the move) on your controller.

Remember, it’s almost as good to force your opponent to keep blocking as it is to actually hit them. Hyde specializes in locking his opponent down.

Intermediate combos (doing it yourself)

Automatic combos are just the beginning of Blazblue Cross Tag Battle’s combo system. By experimenting with stringing together normal and special moves, we can create much longer and more damaging combo attacks.

Note that a lot of characters have heavy attack strings that end in a move that knocks the opponent into the air. When you see this move connect, immediately jump into the air toward them — that’s called a “jump cancel.” From here you can quickly follow with more attacks, another jump if you like, and a special move to finish. This is the basic combo form, and nearly every character can do it.

This is a more advanced case, but it’s also possible to hit the opponent at just such a height that we can repeatedly toss them up and down like a juggler without the opponent being able to break their fall. It’s best demonstrated in the corner. Loops like these can lead to exceptionally high damage.

Refer to the game’s tutorials to see examples of the unique combos that each character can perform, but if you’re looking to do as much damage as you possibly can, don’t stop with those. Experiment and research, and you’ll find devastating combo routes.

As a general rule, find ways to string together as many heavy attacks and special moves as you can get, while making use of light attacks only when absolutely necessary.

The value of a knockdown

Though they don’t deliver the best damage possible, light attack auto-combos knock your opponent to the ground. This is a very advantageous position for you as the attacker, and frequently overlooked by beginners.

At the moment your opponent is standing up, you have the overwhelming initiative to attack, and there isn’t a lot they can do about it. This is one of the biggest openings you can create in a serious match, and you need to take advantage.

A combo that does a lot of damage and pops the opponent right back into action is OK, but a combo that does a lot of damage and gives you a second opening to continue attacking is a lot better. Moves that force the opponent to immediately recover in front of you, like Ragna’s air clash attack (C), are also very useful.

When you start to put together combos by yourself, finish with a knockdown. You will find that no matter how many hits you want to string together, there’s a limit and eventually your opponent will pop out of your strikes no matter what you do. End your combos right before that point, with an attack that puts them down on the ground.

Partner assists

Blazblue Cross Tag Battle’s standout element is the partner assist. Similar to Marvel Vs. Capcom and other titles, you can call your partner to support you with their own attacks while you fight. The tag system in this game is very in-depth and versatile, and there’s a lot more going on than is immediately apparent.

How to use partner assists

Press the partner button to call your assist. Your teammate will instantly appear on screen and attack. You can call assist moves at any time your character isn’t taking damage or knocked down.

If you press the partner button while you’re attacking, it will spend half of the Cross Gauge. This is a very powerful option, as your teammate’s assist can cover for you and give you an opening to continue attacking the opponent. The tag gauge refills in a very short time, so don’t hesitate to use your assists as much as you can.

Pressing the button without holding any direction (neutral) will call for one move, and holding back and forward (relative to your opponent) will call for two other moves. In the example above, Yukiko has a basic fire attack, a long-range anti-air attack, and a unique heal assist. This makes your tag partner highly versatile, so try and find the best situations for your partner’s various assists.

You can even tag in your teammate during the assist by pressing the change button during an assist attack. Keep in mind that the tagged-in partner will stop to pose (that’s why they call it an anime fighter), so you have to be able to cover for that opening. Try and do this only when the assist attack actually hits.

Be aware that your partner can take damage during an assist just like your lead character can. If you’re too careless calling assists, clever players will find ways to punish them. It’s even possible to catch both opponents in the same combo: Marvel Vs. Capcom players coined this unintentional gift a “happy birthday.”

Using assists

One smart use for an assist is to continue your offensive pressure against a blocking opponent. During a long string of blocked attacks, you can have your teammate take over the attacking for a moment, recover, and rush back in. Most characters’ neutral (no direction) assist skill will be specifically designed to pin the opponent down while the lead character runs back in. Expect to see your opponents use this tactic.

Another good use for an assist is to cover territory your character can’t cover by themselves. In the example above, Nu is great at keeping her opponents at bay at long range, but she struggles at close range, especially against a powerful rush character like Ruby. In this case, why not call her partner Gordeau? Gordeau’s Grim Reaper scythe attack boasts a massive half-screen range. If Ruby blocks, she’s pushed out and Nu has her where she wants her. If Ruby walks into the attack, that’s an easy combo for Nu.

Many assists are designed to extend a combo. For example, Ragna’s scythe assist bounces the opponent off of the ground, leaving them open for just long enough that his teammate can run in and continue their combo. Assists like this can lead to much bigger damage than normal combos, so have a go-to combo assist for your team.

Notable assists

Any assist that shoots a projectile is going to be very useful, but Jin’s forward assist is particularly notable. This ice blade takes a short time to come out and takes up a lot of space on the screen, dealing multiple hits before it disappears. While the blade lingers on screen, it forces your opponent onto the defensive and allows you to take the initiative. It is early in the game’s competitive life (pre-release as we write this, in fact!), but this is a strong contender for best assist in the game.

Tagging during combos (Duo Change)

Using the Duo Change button (D), it’s much faster and safer to tag out a weakened opponent than in other team fighting games. However, the switch does leave a slight opening that’s possible to anticipate and intercept. Therefore, it’s good to know safe ways of tagging.

For example, it’s possible to start a combo with one character, switch off to the teammate in the middle and finish a combo with the new character. This is a good way to get in a switch without losing any momentum or backing off.

Land an assist that knocks the opponent into the air or otherwise stuns them for a time, and at the moment of impact, press the change button. The idea is for the assist to keep the opponent airborne or otherwise stunned so that the tagged-in teammate has enough time to finish the combo. Not every character has an assist that allows them to do this, but it’s very useful for those who do.

You can also switch during a distortion skill by pressing the partner button (P) at the very end of a distortion skill: Your partner will come in with a distortion of their own. Time this for the last hit to deal as much damage as possible. The catch to this is the extremely high cost (four stocks of super meter) and because not every super move will necessarily combo smoothly. This is part of synergy, and it’s something to think about when you choose a team.

Defense (you should block more)

The biggest piece of advice we give new players taking up an anime-style fighting game like Blazblue Cross Tag Battle is to learn to block more. Unlike games like Street Fighter, characters in these games can deliver very long strings of attacks that don’t leave any opening for seconds at a time. Especially once we take Blazblue Cross Tag Battle’s assist moves into account, skilled attackers will be able to apply pressure for a very long time. Impatience will only hurt here. Mash on a button while your opponent is attacking, and they’ll hit you. Mash on a button while you’re standing up from a knockdown, and they’ll always hit you.

Understand the times in a battle when you should be blocking, and then block. Hold back (away from the opponent) to block while standing, and hold down and back at the same time to block while crouching. Watch your opponent’s moves, wait out their attack series, and find the moment when they finally leave themselves open.

High or low?

You need to know how to block. In BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle and many other 2D fighting games, there are high and low attacks to worry about. Low attacks trip the legs of a standing opponent, even if they’re blocking. Many characters’ crouching light attacks (A) hit low, as well as every character’s crouching Clash attack (C). You’ll see a yellow exclamation point if you’re hit by a low attack while blocking high.

High attacks (or overheads, in common Street Fighter parlance), bop crouching opponents on the head like a hammer falling from above. All air attacks, some special moves, and the standing Clash attack (C) hit high. You’ll see a red exclamation point if you’re hit by a high attack while blocking low.

There aren’t a lot of high attacks in Blazblue Cross Tag Battle, and those that are, like the standing Clash attack (C), have a quick windup animation that you can react to and block. (Though some Clash attacks, particularly from the BlazBlue characters, are extremely fast.) In contrast, low attacks are plentiful — many crouching attacks and skills hit low — and usually strike instantly, too fast to react to on sight.

Therefore, the general theory of blocking is to start from a crouching block position. Most attackers will start with a low attack, and from a crouch block position you can comfortably wait and watch for a high attack. If you’re quick, you can react to the windup of a high attack and block it as well.

Or throw?

Finally, be aware that when you’re committed to blocking, you can mentally freeze up like a deer in headlights, unable to do anything else. Experienced players can see this, and when a player is too committed to blocking on defense they’ll simply run in with a throw (heavy attack and clash attack at the same time).

Throws also lead to big combo damage in Blazblue Cross Tag Battle, so they’re just as dangerous as any other hit. It’s very fast, but it’s possible to break a throw at the moment you see the green exclamation point. It’s more likely, however, that you will break a throw in part by prediction.

These reactions will come to you with practice and time, as you get more used to the game. Don’t worry if you can’t defend perfectly. Nobody can. That’s the point.

Defense system mechanics

Reject guard

As we’ve demonstrated, attackers have a big advantage even if the defender is blocking them. There is a way to completely avoid this whole dangerous business and reject the attacker’s advance entirely. This is called the “reject guard.”

Press light attack (A) and the change button (D) while blocking, and you’ll see a green shield that shoves the opponent way back at the cost of one stock of the Distortion Gauge. Depending on your circumstances, cutting off your opponent’s momentum may be much more valuable than using a powerful offensive skill.

Long-distance fighters like Nu will find Reject Guard particularly useful, as the move forces the opponent into their preferred strike zone.

Reversal actions and the risks

Every character has an invincible attack called a reversal action that you can use by pressing light attack (A) and the change button (D) at the same time. Characters will glow red during a reversal action, so if your opponent just started to glow red and blasted through your attack, that’s why.

However, as is genre standard, the downside of this attack is that you are left completely open after using a reversal action. Guess wrong on this move and the opponent will get a free hit on you. In a game like this where a free hit costs half your life at minimum, this can be disastrous.

If your opponent is very frequently using reversal actions, the best thing to do is to act like you’re going to attack like always, but hold back and block at the last moment, waiting for them to use a reversal action. When this works, you’ve tricked your opponent into giving you a free combo. Players call this a “bait.”

Cross burst

If all else fails and the opponent is beating you senseless, there’s a final way out of trouble. Press the Duo Change (D) and Partner (P) buttons at the same time to have your partner come crashing through to your aid and switch off. This is called a cross burst, and it uses all of the Cross Gauge.

Though this is a very powerful ability that will save you many times, keep in mind that your teammate is not invincible or safe when they enter. It’s even possible to anticipate a cross burst in advance, block the teammate’s attack, and punish it. Advanced players will try and bait out a cross burst, especially when an opponent is running low on life.

Resonance Blaze (teamwork pays off)

When your teammate falls, the Cross Gauge is replaced by a prompt to use Resonance Blaze. Press the partner button, and your solo character will be briefly supercharged, recovering life quickly and building up huge amounts of Distortion Gauge power to deal even flashier and more devastating super moves. It’s similar to the Sparking mode in Dragon Ball FighterZ.

You don’t have to use this immediately, and remember that you only have 15 seconds until Resonance Blaze is gone for the rest of the match. Activate it when you’re on the offensive rather than the defensive, so you can make the most of that time on the attack. The start-up of Resonance Blaze is also invincible for a fairly long time, so as a last resort it can give you a brief respite from your opponent’s pressure.

Even if your opponent blocks your attacks during Resonance Blaze, damage on block (or “chip” damage, for the tiny bit of life each hit shaves off) dramatically increases. Characters who have multi-hit attacks like Jin and Yukiko can take advantage of this and shave unreasonable amounts of life from a blocking opponent.

As a final cherry on top for your combos, Resonance Blaze allows you to cancel regular skills into distortion skills, so you can squeeze out that last bit of damage. Practice in Resonance Blaze mode sometimes as well as in normal mode so that you know how to take advantage when the time comes. And remember that Resonance Blaze is the time to go all-out. If you land a combo, don’t be shy about spending your meter on EX and distortion skills. They can turn around the match, or even end it.

The strength of Resonance Blaze depends upon how much use you made of moves involving your partner during the fight, which is one more reason you don’t need to be conservative about using assists. Teamwork and the power of friendship lead to victory. That’s also why it’s known as an anime fighter.

Astral Heat (the final attack)

In the very rare circumstance that both players are on their last character, and you are in maximum level Resonance Blaze mode with nine — nine! — stocks of Distortion meter, you can use an Astral Heat attack by pressing down three times and then heavy attack (B) and Clash attack (C) at the same time. The ensuing attack — so big it calls for an animated cutscene — will take out the enemy in one hit and end the match. Miss this move, and you’re wide open, and you’ve lost all your Distortion meter. It is not something to use at random.

Keep in mind that this is all about style points. If you actually get into this situation in a real match, you probably have more than enough resources to defeat your opponent in a single combo anyway. As is the proud tradition of instant kill moves in Arc’s games, the Astral Heat is largely intended for showing off.

That said, most characters have a simple combo chain that leads to Astral Heat, or they can cancel it from a throw. If you happen to find yourself in this rare situation, why not?

Team synergy (what it takes to be a team player)

In any team game, you want to pick characters that will work well together. In BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, the tag partner plays a particularly active role. You’re doing more than just picking two characters: You’re picking three additional moves to complement each member of the team. Two characters who really work well together will cover for each other’s weaknesses regardless of who is on point.

Example team

The team we settled on playing while writing this guide was Es and Waldstein. The general idea of this team is to control a lot of space on the screen with long-range attacks that hit hard, using assists to cover for their slow attack speed.

Es is a tiny girl with a big sword, combining agility with great range and power. She’s good at keeping her opponent away from long range with her projectile attacks, and she scores big damage when she’s in, but her sword strikes are a lot slower than other characters. Waldstein’s claw swipe assist moves help to pin the opponent down so that she can approach without being interrupted.

Waldstein is a massive, extremely slow grappler with attacks that reach over half of the screen and frighteningly powerful grabs at close range. He needs cover to move in on his opponents, and Es makes up for his lack of speed. Her long-reaching projectile assist helps Waldstein at ranges where he’s otherwise helpless. Furthermore, her main assist helps him expand his rather limited combo repertoire.

And as these examples make clear, these two also do very big damage together with two highly compatible distortion attacks.

Team players

Some characters have stronger assists than others, and some characters could be even stronger if not for their weak assists. The value of a good assist is immeasurable: They make a character an asset to any team.

If you play Dragon Ball FighterZ, you’re probably aware of Super Saiyan Vegeta’s presence on nearly every high-level team. This is not so much because everybody loves Vegeta, but because his assist is so useful and so much better than the others that it’s hard to argue against using him.

Of all the BlazBlue characters that underwent the transition to Cross Tag Battle, Jin Kisaragi probably got the best out of the deal. This all-purpose character boasts sword attacks that strike a strong balance between speed and range, and his very simple combos do very high damage. On top of that, all three of Jin’s assists are excellent whether you’re keeping foes at bay or extending your combos. His forward assist, mentioned earlier in this guide, is likely the best in the game.

Ruby makes her first fighting game appearance here. It shows that she was specifically designed for this game, because the character has it all. Another all-rounder like Jin, Ruby has absurd reach and speed on her scythe attacks, amazing mobility with her Gunblast skills, and just so happens to hit like a truck. Her assist skills cover every base as well. It is early in the game’s life as we write this, but Ruby is already a popular tournament choice and well in the lead for strongest character at this point. Even before the game’s formal release, Ruby/Jin has already become the team of top players like Fenritti and SKD.

You should ultimately choose the characters you like, but once you’ve done that, think about how your teammates work together. Just because characters like the ones we spotlight are clearly very strong, don’t restrict yourself to the very best characters and don’t be afraid to experiment with new combinations. It’s ultimately going to be the team that makes the player.

Final note: Practice

This goes for every fighting game, but never more so than in anime games. The more advanced attack series and combos shown in this guide are not things that every player is effortlessly able to pull off their first time. Rather, they are to be mastered. Flashy combos are the selling point of these games, but they aren’t a lot of use to you if you can’t perform them consistently, every time you land that first hit on your opponent.

Blazblue Cross Tag Battle’s Tactics mode has a number of missions to help you deal with common situations, from much of what we’ve discussed here to lessons that go further. If you really want to master the game, train these situations not just until you’ve cleared them once or twice, but until they come naturally to you.

From there, your first order of business is basic combo practice. What’s the move you land first? Probably low light attack, right? Experiment with every move you can follow up with from there. Practice a combo that you’ll use in the middle of the screen, and another that you’ll use in the corner. Do the same thing with the other moves you find yourself landing often. Eventually you’ll grow a combo repertoire that you can call on without even thinking about.

Also, the training dummy is adjustable for a reason. Try setting it to guard all of your attacks, and practice your usual attack strings on it. Think about how you’ll react when the opponent is guarding, and try to identify which moves leave you open, which moves lock your opponent down, and how you can use your assists in a real fight situation. Use the recording feature to make the dummy use moves you’re having trouble with, and learn to counter.

This sounds like a lot of solo training, and it is, but it’ll give you a huge edge when you’re up against the average opponent online. You’ll have more fun when you’re winning. Trust us.