Black Rock Shooter: The Game is based on an animated show and original video animation (OVA), which are themselves based on a song featuring the voice of Hatsune Miku, which was in turn influenced by an illustration. Sounds like a toppling tower of inspirations, but I'm happy with the outcome.
The game is equally as confused about its identity. Combining JRPG battles with third-person shooting is what makes Black Rock Shooter unique. Rather than cobble together a free-movement shooter and risk creating a generic military romp like The 3rd Birthday, Black Rock Shooter instead "shoots" for a mash of Mega Man Battle Network and Final Fantasy. Linear areas interlocked and linked together, with enemies to defeat and items to find. You can only really stand in two or three spots, and have to proficiently dodge or block attacks while trying to line up your own. If you're not good at dodging, you'd better hope you have enough health items on hand. There is no "Zenny", no shop to buy things... it's procure-on-site.
Between battles you will be scouring rather long and narrow areas for items and more enemies to face. Most story missions follow a strict pattern consisting of go-to-place-and-kill-all-enemies. I appreciate the simplicity and straightforwardness, as I simply don't have the time these days to explore endlessly. Exploration really doesn't suit BRS anyway. With such a heavy emphasis on the story, it would be remiss to offer large open areas with no apparent goal. Going for the "Final Hallway" approach works here, even if some endgame areas are literally hallways.
After swaths of minor enemies and other annoyances, you'll get to fight a boss character. These fights are beautifully animated spectacles that really stand out in my memory. Each boss can be fought again outside of the story for more items and experience and to unlock cool stuff like outfits. These battles are often very difficult and have multiple phases, so be prepared to die a lot.
The game contains complete voice acting (though in Japanese). Most JRPGs leave huge chunks of text with no voice acting for seemingly no reason, but every line of dialogue in this game is voiced. I really can't fault the voice acting at all; it is crystal clear and sounds great. All the voices fit the characters snugly.
Tinned cherries never tasted so good.
The story of the game is dark and pretty depressing. There are only a handful of humans left alive after an alien invasion turned Earth into a warzone. These scarred soldiers battle on against the alien threat as best as they can, but there is little they can do to delay the inevitable. In a grief stricken panic, the last twelve living humans activate BRS (Black Rock Shooter), a "gray" once created long ago to fight this alien threat. A "gray" is a human-like robot created for combat, capable of learning and acting out of free will. It is up to BRS to learn as much as possible about the world around her, and defeat the alien threat.
To the aliens, this conflict is nothing more than a game, "The Game". And as the game draws to a close, so does "The Game".
I haven't dug into the alternate missions and canon ending, but I appreciate there is a lengthy post-game scenario for those who feel like it. I don't feel like it, because the game is too edgy for me. I'm satisfied with having "beaten" the game and smashed "The Game", and may return to it eventually, though I doubt I'd be likely to change my opinion on the game drastically whether I have played this post-game content or not. Any recent game would have cut that bit off and sold it as DLC, again I appreciate BRS giving us a full package rather than sting us for what's already there. Games from that time started doing this, Ubisoft's Prince of Persia charged for its Epilogue... ugh, disgusting practice.
Black Rock Shooter: The Game's digital only English release is boggling. Equally as baffling is the lack of release in Canada for, and I quote verbatim, "legal reasons". I cannot even find evidence for this. It's probably that opening song by the KoRn Juniors, I mean One OK Rock. I mean, it's "OK" rock, but not "great" rock. It's a shame; Canada and Mexico miss out on Black Rock Shooter: The Game for seemingly no reason. It's a quality title, and that is what bugs me: it should be available for anybody who wants it.
I thoroughly enjoyed Black Rock Shooter: The Game. I had to grind levels like a som'b*tch near the end but you gotta do that in most JRPGs. That's what this really is; don't let appearances fool you. This is on-the-go JRPG goodness with a little bit of shooting and dodging and blocking.