BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend PS Vita
From the launch of the PS Vita, the system has built itself up to be a portable fighting games machine. I’ve already covered the great port that Capcom provided for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but Arc System Works is also here from the get go and they have a fighter of their own gunning for your cash. Called BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend (calling it Extend from now on), this title is another exceptionally well done fighting game that has received a top tier port to the handheld system.
In the life of the BlazBlue series, there have already been two versions before this installment. If you are a serious BlazBlue fan, you will know that Extend is also on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Also, anything I say will likely be ignored since said fans will jump straight into it to keep up with the fighting game scene for this series. For people who own any previous version of the game and aren’t serious about their fighting games, this upgrade might not be the best investment with your money. This is the only version of BlazBlue you can buy on the PS Vita though, and, by that merit, the game is an outstanding value for your money.
Just to prove that statement, simply look at the game’s main menu; it greets you with a list of 16 different options. Ok, so some of them are superfluous, like the options or exit menu. Still, this game is brimming with content for you to explore. It’s amusing since I spoke before about how Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 doesn’t have much to do offline. BlazBlue, on the other hand, has bucket loads of single player content to work your way through and is certainly the game to pick if you don’t see yourself playing much online while you travel.
Newcomers will want to jump straight into the exceptionally deep tutorial that Arc System Works has built into Extend. BlazBlue isn’t a game that can be picked up that easily since there is a lot to learn and metres that you need to keep an eye on. The tutorial does a great job of going over everything in great detail. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that has a tutorial about moving and jumping last for over five minutes. These tutorials are deep and it’s something that all the other fighting game companies should do instead of some mediocre attempt to teach the players the game. New players can also use the stylish control system that will allow them to do basic combos by tapping one button instead of needing to learn everything correctly. Playing with the stylish system also allows players to do special moves with a press of a button, with a direction held down to do different moves. Arc System Works has tried to make sure that players of any skills can have some fun with Extend.
All the modes that you would expect to find in a fighting game are all here. Arcade is the one you’ll play for quick bouts against the computer. Each of the 19 different characters has a short story that will play out as you make your way through 10 opponents. Variety is the name of the game when it comes to the character designs in BlazBlue. Every character is so different from one another that the small cast of 19 shouldn’t be a negative towards the game. Arc System Works made sure they were no clones or any characters that were similar in play style, like Ryu and Ken in the Street Fighter series. In this game, you can play as the gun-wielding Noel, hyperactive catgirl Taokaka, a black blob-like creature named Arakune (who totally reminds me of no-face from Spirited Away) and Bang, a ninja who uses a giant nail as a weapon. This is just a taste of the bizarre cast of unique characters.
If you want to know more about the characters, you can jump into the story mode, which floods you with loads of information and fully voiced dialogue. Each fighter has his or her own story with multiple endings and cutscenes. This mode will eat up your single player time as there is so much content to go through. New players to the series need not worry since there is a compilation story from BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, so you won’t miss out on anything that took place before this game.
Extend is a complex game and requires patience to become a solid player. BlazBlue uses a four button layout (perfect for the Vita) with buttons labelled A, B, and C for light, medium, and heavy attacks. Things start to shine when you use the D attack, a special attack called Drive that is a diverse move for every character. Jin’s drive makes him slash with ice around his sword, Platinum’s makes her weapon change randomly to a different special attack, and Clive can control his mechanical puppet sister essentially giving him an extra body to attack with in battle. It can’t be expressed enough that the mechanics are deep, with technology to learn like Distortion Drives (ultras), Astral Heats (finishers), Rapid Cancels (cancellation of move animations), counter assaults (uses metre to hit someone off you when blocking); the list goes on, but, like mentioned before, you learn everything through the quality tutorial.
If you already have some knowledge in how BlazBlue works or think you are ready to move on to the “technical” (normal) control system, the game will next teach you combos and other specific move sets for all the characters. All this is done in the challenge section where each character has different combos that you need to perform with the correct timing. This is a perfect way to learn the more advance stuff without having to resort to the Internet to teach yourself how to pull off something more complex.
On consoles, the BlazBlue series has one of the best online experiences going for a fighter; this has transitioned well to the Vita with online play running silky smooth for most of the matches I played. Additionally, you can play Arcade mode or jump into some training while waiting to connect to a match. Ranking matches, player matches, team battles and friend matches are all in there, the stuff you want in an online mode for a fighting game ultimately.
Vita exclusive stuff is mostly the input options. I personally couldn’t play Extend using the optional touch inputs as they were fiddly. The touch panel is split into eight sections, each one for a button representing attack or a directional movement. These can be moved around so that you can lay them out accordingly, but it still didn’t help transition past its awkwardness. A standout feature that Extend has on the Vita is the option to transition saved games and data between itself and the PlayStation 3 version. Finally, a launch game that has this feature implemented.
There has been a recurring theme with all these Vita ports I’ve had to cover for reviews. BlazBlue is no different when it comes down to recommending it for gamers. People who have never touched BlazBlue and feel they want to delve into the series should definitely buy it. Same goes for people who want a fighter for the Vita. The sheer volume of stuff you get to do is worth it, making it a better recommendation than Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in that regard.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend is jam packed with content in both single and multiplayer. It’s a great fighting game backed with stunning 2D sprites that, once again, the Vita screen does proud. I can safely say it’s the first handheld port of the series that feels 1:1 with the console version; plus, if you’ve never played the game, this is the best place to jump in and be taken away by the world of BlazBlue.