Game: Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Arc System Works UK
Given the first iteration of Blazblue only made it to our shores in 2010, it’s been a busy few years for the inhabitants of Kagutsuchi, with Continuum Shift Extended marking the latest in a growing line of revisions to the original’s format. To those who’ve passed on the previous outings, let’s recap; the series builds on Arc System Works’ reputation for anime-styled fighters, with a range of weird and wonderful characters battling it out amidst an expansive, yet ultimately rather convoluted storyline. As with any update to a fighter the big change is all about the roster, with Extend featuring all of the characters previously available in Continuum Shift, along with the 3 previously available DLC characters – Makoto, Valkenhayn, and Platinum the Trinity – plus one brand new face in the shape of Relius Clover; Carl Clover’s estranged father, and all round rather nasty chap.
The first thing that stands out when you start the game up is the sheer volume of content that you’re presented with. Given some fighters’ reluctance to provide much aside from basic variations on versus mode setups, the range of options here is impressive. Players picking up the game for the first time are eased in with a comprehensive tutorial mode covering just the basics, paving the way nicely for the combo-orientated challenges that make up Challenge mode, which starts easy enough but soon gets to ludicrous levels of difficulty. Arcade mode is the more ‘to-be-expected’ single player mode, with ‘Score attack’ and ‘Unlimited Mars’ providing variants of this in hard, and inconcievably hard flavours respectively. Story mode breaks down surprisingly large chunks of story for each and every character – including the additional characters for the first time – but also featuring a recap of the story from the first game, and two brand new additional stories.
‘Legion’ mode has you compliment your fighting skills with strategic know-how as you try and take over a grid filled with enemy teams guarding each critical junction, capturing new members as you go. Finally, there’s ‘Abyss’ mode, which sees you fight your way down through the increasingly tougher layers of Kagutsuchi, with the added dimension of choosing to either take your rewards to improve your stats to ease the journey down, or instead increasing the bounty pot to then later spend on unlocking new items in the shop, or bonus materials in the gallery. Those looking for real diversity may be a little disheartened to find such a range of modes ultimately all boiling down to the same thing, but there’s no denying that there’s an impressive amount of single player content on offer.
Those coming to the table with more experience will be pleased to find the netcode performance is just as solid as on the home consoles too – as per usual the game takes a few seconds before each match to synchronise, but after that provides performance uncannily close to that which you’d expect offline. Whilst the lack of an arcade stick is a given drawback for purists, the Vita’s d-pad does a fair job of handling most move executions. As an added, quite remarkable bonus, the bonus touch functionality of the system is strayed from the typical ‘special move shortcut’ option, and instead gives you the ability to map basic directional and attack button presses to areas of the rear touch panel. The end result? If you can get to grips with it, you can use it just like the ‘hit box’ line of arcade controllers, giving you access to super-quick inputs, allowing certain commands – like instant air-dashes – to be performed with ease. There is a certain irony in seeing a fighting game where a touch panel provides what is arguably the most hardcore of all control methods, and whilst it may not prove that practical, it shows a pleasant ingenuity above all else.
With this being the first outing for the series onto the Vita, it’s important to qualify just how good a job has been done of porting the main action of the game too. Visually it’s nigh-on identical to its bigger console brothers, and given even on these formats (and to the right pair of eyes) it exhibits some of the finest graphics in the industry, it’s safe to say this is one of the best looking games on the Vita bar none. Whilst 3D models are shunned in the favour of 2D sprites, the crisp display is complimented wonderfully by the detailed and yet smooth action. Just as with Guilty Gear before it, Blazblue is a treat to the ears too – tracks range from lounge jazz to thrashy rock via most stops inbetween, and it does a great job of sinking you into the mood of the game. Just as at home too, you can also change between spoken languages if you’re happier with original, yet incomprehnsible voice acting.
It’ll always be easy to make an argument for fighters not working on portables, but if you accept the pitfalls as a given and want something to play on the go regardless, then this really is a title without peers. It replicates every element of the series perfectly, and avoids dumbing down to meet the format in a commendable manner. Those who’ve been following along with every iteration of the franchise may not find the updates from Continuum Shift II to be particularly groundbreaking, and those with strong objections to its heavily anime-influenced style should also be wary, but aside from this it’s a strong, deep fighter, that makes for a fine example of what the system is capable of.