BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend Reviewed
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita.
The BlazBlue series comes to the PlayStation Vita in exciting form with BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend! This sequel to the highly popular Japanese fighting game, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, has a few surprises for players of all types. Let’s take a look and see what’s in store!
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend is a revamp of the 2010 arcade hit BlazBlue: Continuum Shift. The PlayStation Vita version has the ability to share save files with the PlayStation 3, which allows you to be able to stop the game on your PS3 and pick it up on your Vita to continue playing on the go. BBCSX has also been changed from the original BlazBlue Continuum Shift with additional character balancing, the introduction of a new character, and additional cut scenes and dialogue for this re-re-release.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend’s Story Mode contains a richly detailed fable for a fighting game. Following the events of BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, BBCSX follows a number of protagonists who work to combat Hazama as he attempts to raise a being more powerful than the fabled Black Beast. The story unfolds in the game with beautifully drawn characters and backdrops providing a manga feel, while superb voice acting brings our heroes’ dialogue to life. These scenes are actually so detailed and dialogue-heavy that they at times tend to drag on, making you wish that they would simply get to the point or start the fight already. The Story Mode would most definitely benefit from breaking up the dialogue further by having multiple rounds (instead of just one) with a single enemy, and inserting each round between bouts to keep the player on their toes.
Each scene ends with a battle, or a number of battles, between the various enemies in the game, each lasting one round. As you progress through a certain character’s story, other character arcs become unlocked for you to play. Many of these stories take place in parallel, slowly giving you the full picture. Choices become available to the player much like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, allowing the player some freedom to take control of the story as you progress. However, the narrative is only a very small portion of this tightly packed package, and the fighting is what really takes the cake!
Aksys Games did an acceptable job of giving the gamer the ability to scale the difficulty of the overall game to suit their level of skill. For those that enjoy a good button mashing (such as this writer) you can move the difficulty down to Beginner or Intermediate which takes some of the teeth out of the AI. This allows those of us that aren’t gifted with infinite-hit combo superpowers to be able to enjoy the game without frustration. Likewise, players who are more adept at fighting games can scale up the difficulty as they see fit.
Fortunately, the difficulty setting can be bumped up or down to the player’s liking between saves, as the difficulty curve is somewhat haphazard. After fighting through three or four matches in Story Mode, you’ll run into a boss whose skill set is at a much higher bar than those that you’ve been fighting. So while the beginner or intermediate player might have had a fun time with prior matches at the Normal difficulty, they might find that they have to scale it down after fighting a boss eight or nine times with no hope of passing onto the next round. Matches that take place after the boss fight seem to come back down to a normal level with difficulty scaling steadily upward until the next boss. It might have been better for the developer to scale the boss battles according to the storyline instead, so the player wouldn’t have to go back and forth between difficulty settings to make it by.
In total, 19 characters are available for play in BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend. A new character, Relius Clover, has been added to the roster, and each character has their own unique abilities and fighting styles. Controls and button combos are easily reviewed in the start menu for reference to help you get acclimated your chosen character. For those completely new to the series, a highly robust tutorial is offered for you to train before diving into a multiplayer match or the Story Mode. Though it suffers from the same long, drawn out dialogues that the story does, the training is quite comprehensive and does a good job to prepare the player for battles to come.
Combat itself is smooth and fast-paced. By default, the rear touchpad is not enabled; however, you can enable it and map specific functions to various areas of the rear pad. People with big fingers may find that this actually hampers gameplay though, as it’s very easy to put your unseen finger in the wrong place during a crucial combo and lose the chain. If anything, the rear touchpad functions no more than a novelty as gamers that are serious about playing a match will likely stick to the traditional D-pad and buttons.
The player has a number of options to choose from when picking out what to play. Arcade Mode, while not as in-depth as the Story Mode, allows you to take a character through their individual story, making their way through ten matches. The tenth and final match is against that character’s “Unlimited Form”, essentially being a more powerful shadow of your character. Score Attack Mode is pretty self-explanatory; you must fight a number of computer opponents in hopes of achieving the highest score possible. These scores are posted up on the PSN so you can spread around the bragging rights to your friends.
Versus and Arcade modes are your typical, standard fare matchmaking set-ups where you fight an opponent either locally or online. Connecting is quick and easy, and lag is hardly noticeable when playing across Wi-Fi – except when in Spectator Mode; however, since you’re only observing and not playing, it doesn’t affect gameplay.
UnlimitedMars Mode is unique to the Extend games and is solely for the sadomasochist. You volunteer to line up against 10 Unlimited level characters for one on one combat, each one more nuts than the previous. Serious fighting gamers only should apply here. You’ll need quite a bit of skill to crawl to the top of this ladder, regardless of the setting.
Also notable is the Abyss Mode, which is only featured in the handheld version of BBCSX and contains a kind of RPG flair to it. The way the mode essentially works is that your selected character collects points in other modes for accomplishing feats such as getting in the first hit, winning a match without taking a hit, or defeating an opponent without losing a round. You then apply these points to your character’s attributes such as attack, defense, speed and heat. Increasing these attributes helps you on the long (and increasingly difficult) road ahead as you take on a number of enemies during your descent into the Abyss, the underworld of Kagutsuchi, where you will face wave upon wave of foes to the 999th depth.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend looks simply stunning on the PlayStation Vita’s 5-inch screen. The characters and environments are beautifully drawn, and the occasional animated cutscene kicks in to deliver even more spectacle, including the full minute-and-a-half long intro once the game loads. Every menu has some kind of unique rendered animation in the background and load times with the amount of graphical power being pushed are minimal. Not only are the graphics comparable to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox versions, but I daresay this is one of the best looking games on the Vita thus far and really shows the potential of the handheld console.
Complementing the superb graphics is stellar sound. As an additional treat to those of us who are more inclined to enjoy the original Japanese dialogue with our games from across the pond, you can select the Japanese language if so desired. The intro even features the catchy Japanese rock song, “Soukyuu no Hikari,” by Faylan. The English voice acting is well done and entertaining, featuring popular anime voice actors such as Doug Stone (Cowboy Bebop) and Julie Ann Taylor (Bleach, Ghost in the Shell: SAC). The music of the game compliments the story and fighting as well with a soundtrack that’s none too repetitive while you’re playing. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is only available if you purchased the Limited Edition of BBCSX for the PS3 or Xbox 360, but it just gives you one more excuse to pick up the console version along with the cross saving capability, no?
Overall, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend is a superb fighting game that deserves more fanfare than it’s received. Scalable game mechanics make it easy for anyone to jump in, while a robust tutorial can get a dedicated beginner into fighting shape in no time. Tons of features are available to meet the needs of any fighting enthusiast as well. There are very few complaints about the game really. Long, drawn out dialogue can make the story mode cumbersome, and the difficulty curve can spike at times; however, if you love fighting games, this is one to have in your collection for sure.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend receives a 4.5/5.
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