I play a fair amount of games every month. I’m by no means the best gamer in the world, but I can hold my own in most genres. However, loading up 2D fighting game ‘BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend’ for the first time sent a few shivers down my spine. Most recent fighting games I’ve played let you jump into a training mode of sorts, allowing a little one-on-one sparring with a computer controlled character. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend is a little bit stricter than that.[drop2]Split into four groups, the tutorial mode covers over thirty different lessons and is one of the most intimidating things I’ve ever seen. Starting off at “Beginner” (and openly questioning your intelligence) the tutorial soon starts throwing around phrases such as “Cancelling”, “Heat Gauge”, “Mix-ups” and “Wake-Up” and will not let you progress until you’ve perfected each one. It’ll then provide strategy sessions on every single character in the game.
It’s fair to say that this game isn’t for the half-hearted. If you’ve not got a few dozen hours to spare you might as well stop reading this and go and play something else.
Still with us? Marvellous, then perhaps a little history lesson is in order. Developed by Arc System Works, the BlazBlue franchise hit consoles back in 2009 with BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger. It went down well, so a sequel was released titled BlazBlue: Continuum Shift (which was then updated and named Continuum Shift II). As you can guess by the title the Vita game is an extension of this, rather than something totally new.
As with all fighting games, the main purpose is to reduce your opponent’s health bar to zero during a bout, although Extend calls these “Rebels”. Broken down to its most basic, the game’s fighting mechanic relies on you stringing together light, medium, heavy and Drive attacks. A Drive attack is character specific, coming with a special bonus such as draining a slither of your opponent’s health and adding it to your own.
This is all child’s play, though, compared to how deep you can go if you really want to become good at the game. Dashing, Air Dash, Throws, Back Steps, Cancels, High Jumps, Revolver Action (cancelling the animation of an attack and transitioning into another attack so that the hits come out in rapid succession); the list seems to go on and on. Depending on the attacks you use, your Heat Gauge should start to fill during the course of the bout, opening up even more options.
One of the more common uses for the Heat Gauge is to perform a Distortion Drive, which is akin to Street Fighter’s Super Move. Performing a Rapid Cancel will also use up part of the Gauge, but allow you to cancel what you are doing and move into another attack. The big one though is Astral Heat, which is your earth shattering “pull this off and you’ve won” style move. This move needs the Heat Gauge to be at 100% full, plus a number of other requirements.
There is so much to take in; it can sometimes feel like staring into the abyss. Luckily the characters are such an eclectic bunch so experimentation into who suits you best is a pleasure. It also seems to mostly avoid the genre stereotypes, such as the big strong/slow guy and the weak girl who is ridiculously quick; you can fight as spider/blob for goodness sake!
Something Arc System Works has introduced is a “Stylish” fight system, which is geared towards fighting noobs such as myself. It removes a lot of the game’s intricacies whilst still allowing for some flashy moves (button bashing!). A handy addition, but in my opinion it’s worth learning how to fight the hard way.[drop]In terms of content, Extend certainly doesn’t disappoint. As well as a Story mode, full of OTT posturing and angst, there’s also Arcade, offline Verses, Score Attack, a series of challenge missions for each character, and Abyss Mode (defeat enemy waves). Exclusive to Extend is the Unlimited Mars mode, which pits you against some “extremely intelligent computers”. This translated to me getting my backside kicked over and over again as the computer destroyed me. I’ve even got the trophy to prove it. Basically it’s a mode for those who are more than competent at the game.
For the competitive souls among you there is an online multiplayer mode, although this is the chink in Extend’s armour. The matches I played ranged from totally unplayable due to lag to absolutely fine. It’s a bit of a gamble as to what quality experience you’re going to get.
Visually Extend is the business, making good use of the Vita’s screen. The Distortion Drives and Astral Heat in particular pop right off the screen, and the backgrounds surpass those found in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It all licks along without a hint of slowdown too; once again proving Sony’s new kid on the block has some guts to go with the looks.
- Looks fantastic
- A lot to learn
- Very in-depth tutorial
- Loads of content
- Varied characters
- Online is so inconsistent
- Those who own Continuum Shift (II) will find it all very familiar
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend is a brilliant fighting game that will take an absolute age to master. If you are up for a challenge then set aside a few days and immerse yourself in everything the game has to offer. The only drawback is that the online is incredibly inconsistent at the moment, which is a real pity as it’s a major part of the experience. Luckily there is a wealth of offline content to get stuck into, and hopefully an online patch will be released to sort out the issues.