After the original BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger wowed fighting game fans with its amazing depth and character variety, developer Arc System Works took things a step or two further with its follow-up, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift. Not only did the follow-up continue the in-depth fighting experience of the first release, it also added even more characters and a wealth of playing modes to boot. Now, having seen releases on a variety of game systems, BlazBlue: Contiuum Shift makes its way to the PlayStation Vita; fans will likely be shocked at just how little was lost in the transition from console to portable.
The basic fighting engine in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND is similar in design to most other 2D fighting games, but packed with complexities. It won't take you long to realise just how much diversity is contained within the fighting engine and that it will likely take you many hours of practice to even begin to come to grips with it.
The menu system itself reads more like an encyclopaedia than a short list of selections as we're accustomed to. Not only are you getting a wide range of playing modes, but there are also additional options like Replay Theater for viewing saved replays and Gallery mode where you can listen to music tracks and watch video scenes.
If it's single-player action you're looking for, there's plenty to enjoy. Arcade mode allows you to play through a character's story as you dispatch computer-controlled opponents, Challenge mode tasks you with pulling off specific attacks and combos. If you're in the scoring mode, you can take on Score Attack in an effort to rack up the highest number of points. There's even the Unlimited Mars mode that will put you up against AI opponents that are almost inhumanly skilled, and only the most skilled BlazBlue players will win. And while the single-player fights are challenging and fun, watching the storylines play out gives them a nice added layer of intrigue.
For players looking to take on a human opponent, there are a couple of choices available. Ad hoc Network mode allows you to take on your friends using the local wireless function of the Vita; it’s as easy as creating or joining a room. The online Network mode is just as easy and intuitive to jump into and is perfect for when you want to fight against opponents across the globe. Both modes perform quite smoothly and offer plenty of customisation features for setting up just the right fighting conditions. As enjoyable as the single-player campaigns are, the multiplayer functions are where the real action is at.
One aspect of BlazBlue: Contiuum Shift EXTEND that truly shines is the visuals, retaining all the quality of its home console sibling. The backdrops are not only ripe with detail, but the multiple layers of parallax scrolling really give them an amazing sense of depth. And not to be outdone by the flashy scenery, the characters themselves are equally gorgeous and feature silky smooth animation. Even the menus and opening scenes are well crafted, and show a level of shine and polish not often seen in a fighting game.
To go along with the depth of fighting, there's a musical score that's every bit as diverse. Everything from classical compositions to hard-rock tracks to kick the intensity up a few notches, no stone was left unturned when it came to composing a soundtrack to complement the surroundings and storyline. The voiced dialogue is a bit of a mixed bag, with some characters more believable than others, but the female announcer who calls the action leading up to battle is really quite good.
Arc System Works squeezed a staggering amount of fighting action into this portable rendition of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift. Not only are you getting one of the deepest fighting games you're ever likely to encounter, you're also getting more playing modes than you'll know what to do with. But be warned — if you're one of those fighting game fans that likes to be able to pick up a fighter and become skilled quite quickly, this is probably not the game for you. Button mashers need not even apply.