For those who don’t find their thumbs regularly gracing fighting games, then I can tell you now that I’m pretty certain BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II will not be for you. Its mixture of complex controls, combos and contrived narrative will put those not familiar with the genre in an uncomfortable position. Even those who are yet to play a BlazBlue title, but have well trained digits for a fight, might also find that dropping in cold to the universe and quickly grasping a steady understanding is very close to being an insurmountable task. It’s not all doom and gloom though as those familiar with the series will be right at home with BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II, but I don’t think they’ll be playing it on the 3DS.
Released as an enhanced patch for owners of the console release, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, the second iteration of the game is more of an updated version of its previous incarnation than any great overhaul. Continuum Shift II on the 3DS then is no major adaptation of the formula or presentation but aims to provide 3DS players a chance to experience that which has been on home systems and in arcade cabinets for nearly a year.
With a generous roster of characters, an even more extensive set of modes and a story that is desperately deep, dozens of hours can be spent in BlazBlue without even throwing a punch. It’s almost like Continuum Shift II is the AGM of Fight Club. It’s a strange mix of over the top 2D fighting and meticulous attention to detail with a narrative so baggy that it might have been tied together with silly string.
As fighting goes, Continuum Shift II on the 3DS is a pretty daunting prospect for any player. The level of precision in the range of moves and the finely tuned balance between power and pace in each character is plain to see. A lengthy tutorial takes you from Beginner to Advanced in well judged steps, to give you just the information you need to proceed at a speed that suits. If you still struggle after several hours of tuition then a quick switch from Tactical Mode to Stylish means that combos can be executed with one button press. So those of you with ankles for hands will be able to compete with the best and be treated to a finely animated and colourful battle display.
It’s a shame that in a way, those who want the challenge of playing the old fashioned style, will struggle with this port from the arcade to the 3DS. Firstly, all the buttons have not been mapped to fit any of those found on the 3DS, and this is never explained in any of the tutorials. So finding out what is the ‘D’, ‘T’ or ‘S’ buttons can be a frustrating effort in trial in error and it often feels counterintuitive to look for things that don’t really exist.
Continuum Shift II’s biggest issue is that it suffers from the console it’s on and not really from much of its mechanics or design. The tight and restrictive layout of the 3DS is fine when accelerating a vehicle or firing a gun, but it struggles to maintain the kind of response and accuracy you need for a fighting game like Continuum Shift II. Button presses often feel like they are not registered and trying to play with your hand arched over the console quickly becomes uncomfortable. For added precision as well, the movement of your character is all handled with the D-Pad which whilst suitable for the job, the pad is in such an awkward position on the 3DS that you’ll never feel as effective as you could be.
For the persistent of you though there is certainly plenty to do in Continuum Shift II. The fighting is solid and well directed with just the right amount of kooky and brutal offences that will keep you striving to learn the next combo and perfect your play. Having the moves list for your chosen character on the touch screen of the 3DS at all times is also a nice addition that encourages you in each round to try something new. The D-Pad can make action feel slightly sluggish at times but the focus in Continuum Shift II is to read your opponent and act accordingly by using counters and stringing together combos. In this respect Continuum Shift II is at its most effective.
As well as the simple one to one arcade fighting there are also several different modes to ply your growing trade. You can throw fists in an RPG styled mode called Abyss, or gather an army of fighters to claim areas of enemy territory. Alternatively you can enter the story mode and be lucky to have several fights within thirty minutes of text. Even though through all these modes you’ll be fighting, having the option to delve into several different modes and gain experience across them all is a welcome distraction to prevent monotony.
With each of the characters having their own narrative within the through line of Continuum Shift II, out of all the varied options, the story mode is both the strongest and weakest of the bunch. If you’re brave enough to see each one through to the end then expect chapters lasting up to forty minutes in length with voice acting that at times is poorly acted and badly mixed. The plot is also probably either the worst thing ever conceived by a human being or a work of tragic and comedic genius. It’s never clear what story this game is trying to tell. I certainly struggled, but those familiar with the series might relish in its outlandish, multi-strand narrative.
I feel that if I wasn’t playing Continuum Shift II on the 3DS I would have enjoyed much more of the whole experience. The console has a detrimental effect on pretty much every aspect of the title. Controls are awkward and uncomfortable to play with, sound often comes across as a terrible tinny mess, and other than local matches, there is no support for online play.
Fighting games always work better when built from the ground up for a specific console, and several concessions to the limitations of the 3DS here and there would have paid dividends, rather than sapping the life out of the title.
MLG Rating: 6/10
Platform: 3DS/ PSP Release Date: 04/11/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of four days on a 3DS. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.