Arc System Works' confidence and know-how is obvious after playing BlazBlue for just a few minutes.
Winning your first bout with a quick, dramatic finish is a great feeling, and although you have to work for it, victory never feels unfairly out of reach, like it can do in other hardcore scrappers.
Even so, the Story Mode provides a significant challenge. Playing through it establishes the relationships between this new cast of characters, though their stories will only really be palatable if you've been weaned on anime.
Mastering things such as doublejumps, dash-back steps and rapid cancels is just as important as learning how to pull off the spectacular combos.
BlazBlue's daunting intricacies yield huge rewards. You'll forget every failed combo once you manage a handmangling Astral Finisher, filling the screen with colours and finishing your foe instantly. The online ranking system and lag-free play tops Street Fighter IV too.
A superb offering.
[BlazBlue will also be available on Xbox 36o]