To anyone who even has just a passing interest in the fighting game genre: if you haven’t experienced a BlazBlue title in the past, then there has never been a more perfect time to give it a try. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend is here and not only does it demand your attention, it deserves it. This is not a pure sequel to BlazBlue: Continuum Shift released back in 2008. Instead consider this the most definitive edition of the game to be released to date. Both stories from BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger and BlazBlue: Continuum Shift are on this edition, not just as direct ports but completely remastered with new cut-scenes and even new parts to the story. The fighting system has been tweaked and rebalanced and feels better than ever. Oh and did I mention that this game is so cram packed with content that after playing it most other fighting games seem light on options in comparison. The amount of hours it would take to finish every aspect of this game could potentially rival some RPGs, and for a fighting game I think that is a huge accomplishment.
As I mentioned already, the fighting system in this game feels better than ever. Having played both of its predecessors I can tell you that I can feel the difference when I play. Combos feel easier to pull off using a regular control pad. On the other versions I often opted for a fight-pad as the larger D-pad helped with this combo heavy fight system. I still think it’s better with a fight-pad but there is certainly an improvement to how it plays with a standard controller.
Like most fighting games, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend also revolves around four inputs. In the game these are defined as; Normal attack, Heavy attack, Special and Throw. It’s these terms that you will need to become familiar with. My only real gripe in this area is that when displaying the inputs on screen the game seems to assume you are playing with a fight-stick or pad and labels the buttons A,B,C and D. It is not a huge problem it just means you have to think about your controller differently. A, B, C mapped to a controller is generally X, Y, B on a standard Xbox 360 controller. The D can vary depending on what fighting game you are playing but in this case it’s RT, this is your Throw button. Hopefully that didn’t confuse you as much as it did me while writing it.
Okay, let’s get started on covering all the content that’s in this game. To start with I would like to cover the Tutorial, Training and Challenge modes. All of these are different modes that I feel are the perfect place for anyone new to the series to start. Tutorial does a great job in this game, it actually attempts to teach you the ropes with full narration, albeit very patronising narration, but trust me it will have you smiling. Here is a quote that Rachel Alucard uses not long after loading up the Tutorial mode; “It is most perfectly suited to persons unfamiliar with fighting games, persons incapable of performing combos, and infants”. This is the kind of writing that you will see throughout the game. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, it knows it’s just a game and it plays on it beautifully. There is also another section within Tutorial mode called “Strategies” which is well worth a look as it explains every character in detail and the best way to use them.
Training mode is something that’s included in nearly every fighting game you play. It’s an area you can practice your combos on a dummy character without any hindrance. The Challenge teach you how to start chaining combos together. There are 15 challenges to complete for each character that increase in difficulty as you go along. Another thing worth pointing out is that you can choose between two different control inputs; Stylish or Technical. Stylish allows you to pull off combos with ease simply by repeat presses of a single button, whereas Technical is where you have full control over inputs. Personally I prefer Technical as it better prepares you for online bouts where you have no choice over your control method. Stylish I think is best for when you have a friend over and they want to get into the fight with you as quick as possible without having to worry about the intricacies of the game. Overall I am very impressed with these introductory modes as it shows that Arc System Works have done everything they possibly can to make the game approachable for everyone. I wish more fighting games implemented this much content to help new players.
Story mode in BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend is huge. This features both stories from the original games, Calamity Trigger and Continuum Shift. Both have been remastered and feature all new cut-scenes. It’s also worth noting that characters that were only available as downloadable content in previous games are available in this game and have their own story arcs. Each character has their own storyline to work through but in order to 100% each character you have to see all three of their endings. This is because each story has branching paths. Character specific stories have a good, bad and Joke ending which I always enjoy stumbling upon. Branched paths can be achieved by selecting different dialogue at certain points or even occasionally by losing certain bouts. This mode really is huge and the amount of detail put into the dialogue is amazing. You have to read the descriptive writing yourself, unfortunately, but if it’s a character’s line then it will be spoken by them.
Another part of the Story mode returning is Tips: Teach Me Litchi. This acts as an in depth explanation of everything within BlazBlue, from the politics to the school life. I can only recommend this section to people who are really interested in learning more about BlazBlue as it’s very text heavy, but it is presented in a very light-hearted way, acting like a school lesson. There is no fighting in this section just information mixed with BlazBlue’s own brand of humour. You are even quizzed at the end of each episode to make sure you were paying attention.
Abyss mode is essentially a survival mode. Everything you do in this game you are awarded with currency in this case it is P$. Abyss mode is just one place you can use this currency. You spend them to upgrade characters in this mode which has light RPG elements as you have to purchase upgrades for your character in Strength, Defence, Speed and Special. It’s an endurance test. In level one you have to fight through 100 single bout fights to complete it, all the while spending points you acquire along the way to improve your character or even to make your opponent weaker. I highly recommend making this one of the last modes you approach after acquiring a lot of P$ through playing other modes.
Another interesting mode is Unlimited Mars mode. Approach this mode cautiously and I recommend if you are new to the series to leave it until last as it’s a mode designed to challenge the more experienced player.
The online mode or “Network” works really well. Fights run perfectly without much sign of any lag, even when playing with people across the other side of the world. The search options are partly responsible for this as it allows you to search for people who have strong connections. Another interesting search criteria is the ability to look for people with high match completion percentages. It’s a brilliant option as it’s punishing people for dropping out of games to avoid losses. You can create lobbies with up to six active fighters and also have a further four slots open to spectators. The lobbies work on a winner stays on system initially but this can be tweaked to loser stays on or random.
Overall I think this is by far the best BlazBlue title to come out so far and deserves to be noticed among the other fighters. The music and 2D visuals are still as memorable and stunning as they’ve always been and the sheer amount of content make it a steal. This game is a must. Even if you are new to the series, it will teach you everything you need to in order to enjoy the experience to the full. Give it a chance; it could be your surprise gem of 2012.
MLG Rating: 9/10 Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3/ PS Vita Release Date: 22/02/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.