Fighting fans rejoice as the wonderful Blazblue series comes battling it’s way onto the PS Vita in the form of BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend… and no, that’s not a spelling mistake, Continuum is supposed to look like that.
I’ve dabbled with fighting games on the home consoles over the years but never really managed to get on that well with the handheld versions. Yes, I really do suck at StreetFighter on the 3DS but still it sits in my collection and occasionally gets an airing when I feel the urge for a beating.
With this little gem from Arc System Works, another challenger has entered the ring.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend isn’t the first outing for the series, so the selection of characters on offer includes all those that were in previous BlazBlue titles along with the addition of a new one, bringing the roster to a total of 19 playable characters. Each one with of these has it’s own very individual style and look, no palette swaps here.
Not only do each of them look fantastic but head towards the story mode and you’ll find that there’s a surprisingly extensive story attached to each, which will no doubt please fans of the series. Actually, even for the newcomers you should really stop by and check this out. For each of the characters you’ll find a series of story sections interspersed with fights, in some places the story parts can be a couple of minutes and in others they can hit double figures. Don’t let this sway you though, if you like a bit of anime you’ll find it like watching an interactive version where you take over when it all kicks off.
Given the number of characters to play, this mode will keep you going for a very long time. But if the story mode isn’t your cup of tea, and to be honest in most fighters it’s the one mode that people really don’t pay attention to (and normally race through only to unlock those extra characters), then you can choose from one of the other modes on offer. You’ve got your standard fare of Arcade, Versus and Challenge modes, but thrown into the mix are modes such Unlimited Mars, which is not for the faint of heart and pits your skills against a vicious AI in an attempt to get the highest score possible, and Abyss which sees you facing off against opponent after opponent gradually levelling up your chosen character as you go. Then there’s my two essentials – Tutorial and Training. Even if you’ve played a BlazBlue title before, come here and practice a bit before you head into the fray, you’ll thank me later. They can drag on a bit in places but they do give you a good introduction to the mechanics of the game.
Controls on a handheld version are always a sticking point for me. Part of the reason I couldn’t get on that well with StreetFighter was the fact that try as I might I just couldn’t pull off some of those critical motions.
The Vita’s D-pad is positioned rather nicely for this and I recommend using it over the thumbstick to pull off those quarter/half circle moves. You can try with the thumbstick, but in my experience they’re just a tad to small to allow you the precision to pull off the relevant motion with the speed required 100% of the time, and in a game such as this timing is crucial. The D-pad however is a much better bet for that. For the PSV they’ve included the function to assign the rear touch pad to a special combo. Not only that but you can configure it to a greater level of detail and map areas of the touch pad to specific buttons. As awesome as this sounds, and as fun as it is to start with, it does feel very alien and unless you’ve got the finger dexterity of a classically trained pianist you’ll probably find yourself reverting to the tried and tested method of the regular buttons, purely because they’re more precise.
Visually I love this game. I’m a sucker for fantastic artwork and I love manga, and this has it in spades. The characters are well animated and detailed, the backgrounds are great. Heck, even the game over screen is stunning, which is just as well really as I saw that one a lot. As I said earlier it really did feel like I was playing an anime rather than just a game. The audio, both the music and voicing of the characters, helped greatly with this as it matches the visual styling to a tee. A wonderfully diverse range for music bursts forth from the speakers, although personally I found it more enjoyable to use headphones. From hefty rock guitar to piano led jazz there’s something for everyone with this soundtrack. The purists will also find that they’ve got the choice between both English and Japanese for the dialogue as well.
Now, let’s talk multiplayer. After all, that’s what a fighter’s all about really isn’t it.
Given that I’ve got a 3G Vita I was intrigued to try this out on the 3G connection to see what the response was like. I must say I was very impressed. I connected to the match without any issue or noticeable delay, and the whole thing played out with no visible lag either, which was very impressive considering it wasn’t full signal connection at the time. The data usage was also very reasonable at a shade under 2000KB used for the 5 minute match. On top of the standard one on one battle, there’s also a team battle mode allowing you to partner up with a friend and take on another duo to see who’s best.
I can see a lot of people overlooking this game in favour of the more widely recognised Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 and that’s a shame because what’s on offer here is in my opinion more rewarding, especially if you take the time to truly master one or two of the characters instead of trying to learn everything about all of them.
For fans of the series this should definitely be an addition to your Vita library. For fans of 2D fighters, give it time. Once you’ve mastered the nuances, you’ll be greeted with a very deep and rewarding experience. For those of you that don’t fall into either of these categories, be warned – this can be a bewildering place to dive in, especially if you’ve never played a 2D fighter before. But give it time and use the tutorials and practice modes, and you’ll find yourself executing some serious onscreen mayhem.