BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend

When new consoles are released fans of fighting games usually have to wait for quite a while for a new, exclusive game. The PSP launched with Darksiders: The Chaos Tower which was an older game at the time of release but it was also the ultimate version of the series for fans that combined all the additions and updates from the series’ history.  Roughly seven years on and Arc System Works have adopted a similar strategy by releasing Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend; basically a compilation of all the game modes and characters from every BlazBlue release.  On the transition to the small(ish) screen of Vita very few, if any, sacrifices have been made;  in-fact it seems to look better and run much smoother than ever before.

One of BlazBlue’s most identifying features is its anime-inspired aesthetic; be they silky-smooth animations, menu presentation, character design or epic special moves the artistic aspect of the game is as overcoming as it is gorgeous. It is so gorgeous, in-fact, that you will be impelled to play as each of the 22 characters (that includes the three that were DLC in Continuum Shift and a new playable character Relius Clover) and try out their Distortion Drives and Astral Finishes, not just to learn how to execute them in-game but to just experience their jaunty theatricality. The best way to do this is by jumping into Training Modes and by using the initially perplexing but in-time necessary and fully-featured training menu you can customise the fight conditions very easily.  This makes spending time with Training mode a big part of the game which is a good thing because the game is SO deep and the characters so wildly unique and varied that getting to grips with a character and learning some nice moves and combos isn’t just necessary, it’s downright enjoyable.

The BlazBlue team don’t do anything by half-measures and this is abundantly clear from the outset. The title screen has a staggering 16 menu options to explore, nay, indulge yourself in. A huge critique many people have with fighting games is that, unless you take to online multiplayer, after finishing Arcade Mode a few times there is little left for you to do.  BlazBlue kicks that trend with a huge set of modes including, but not limited to:  Training Mode; Enhanced Story Mode with four new scenarios for Platinum, Makoto, Valkenhayn, and Relius; Abyss Mode that introduces RPG-like jewels and bonuses; Unlimited Mars Mode (NOT for the feint of heart) and Legion Mode.  These modes actually work very well on Vita and in-fact better in most cases than on the PS3/360.  They lend themselves very well to shorter play sessions and the Standby feature of Vita makes it a much easier game to pick up and play. When playing the game out-and-about these modes are fantastic but when you hit a WiFi spot you can play online!  The online aspect is just as good as the PS3/360 games, which is utterly fantastic.  Obviously it’s wireless so expect the quality to come in waves but from what I’ve played it is truly remarkable. For fighting games BlazBlue has the best online quality, latency and lobby features and this version is no different. I am genuinely in awe at how smooth online is. As I write this I am spectating a match between Jin and λ-11 and it’s pretty much like watching an anime, If there are frames being dropped I can’t see them.  This quality of online in Blazblue is an absolute joy and it’s amazing that this calibre of online lobby is on a handheld.

People new to BlazBlue will be able to progress in the Story mode without too many difficulties until the difficulty ramps up in the later stages.  This of course is par-for-the-course in any fighting game but in BlazBlue newer players will likely have to quit on the last stage and duck into Training mode again to learn some more combos and special moves.  The later – and more-so the last – stage are very difficult not because they are cheap but because the opponents use more complex moves – they are more “intelligent,” so to speak.  Simple moves and basic tactics will become increasingly useless so the onus is then upon the player to attain a more solid understanding of the game in order to progress further. For example, finishing the Story Mode as Ragna will see you facing off against Hazama, an initially daunting and very powerful opponent. Just repeating those handful of moves you picked up and hoping for a result will result in frustration and failure; you will need to learn his attacks, how to dodge his very powerful Distortion moves (jump!) and notice that he is intent on dashing away from you.  Fighting game fans or the observant and adaptable among you will realise that this means he is lethal at long-range and doesn’t like it up-close-and-personal. Its these aspects of BlazBlue that make it a more “serious,” game and button-mashing is folly so in order to learn more about the game the Tutorial is a priceless necessity and by far the best tutorial in a fighting game yet.

Fans of BlazBlue will have already played 95% of this version as its basically an enhanced port of the PS3/360 games so whether these small additions will be worth it to them is hard to say, but as far as I’m concerned you can’t have too much of a good thing in this instance.  It’s also hard to say if new Vita owners hitherto unaware of BlazBlue will appreciate this release.  As I said it is absolutely gorgeous and like most things in life you get out what you put in. Once you get to grips with the initially daunting and complex fighting mechanic and learn how to do some combos/air combos it is only at this point the game clicks with you – just executing those moves in training or in the brilliant Online Multiplayer is incredibly enjoyable. The thing that binds all the modes together is a rock-solid, incredibly deep and very enjoyable fighting game mechanic and even without the many modes and glorious presentation, just playing the game is incredibly fun.  For people unwilling or disinclined to even just learn some combos with one of the more accessible characters like Ragna: The Bloodedge or Noel Vermillion this game will be lost on them.







Leave a Reply