Ever since Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, fighting games have shelled out revised versions of their predecessors that pose as stand-alone titles. They have been passing off a couple new characters, balance changes, and a few extra modes as viable excuses to release these as games and not updates. It isn’t surprising that BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend (BBCSE) is just such a game.
Let’s have a little history first. BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger was released from Arc System Works a while ago, and it was a brand new fighting IP that played a lot like Guilty Gear. A couple of years later, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift was released sporting a reworked guarding and bursting system, three new characters, some balance changes, and a new array of gameplay modes. At a cost of only $40, this wasn’t a horrible deal. They did release DLC characters for $8 a pop, but these characters were “unlimited” versions (versions that are unbalanced and over powered), making them worth the money if you cared that much about it. Then, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift 2 was released as a free patch, which was fantastic. Now we have BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend. Here again we are asked to shell out $40 instead of the usual $60, which is nice, but unfortunately there are very few reasons that make it worth its low price tag.
BBCSE comes with all the DLC characters from Continuum Shift, with the addition of only one new character. So what about that $24 some people paid for the DLC characters? Doesn’t matter. Your money was wasted. It would have been better if those same characters were locked for BBCSE, unless you purchase(d) them. At least that way it would feel like that money you spent was worth something.
Each character does have their own story in Story Mode, but much of this mode is a recap of Continuum Shift. This gives seasoned players very little reason to even bother playing Story Mode. BlazBlue fans have already beaten the previous Story Modes to unlock Mu-12 (the true final boss and playable character), but in BBCSE, Mu-12 is already unlocked. There is no way to transfer your save between the titles, so each time you play Story Mode in one of the different games, you will end up replaying the same stories over and over. The story is completely incomprehensible, but amusingly so. What makes the Story Mode hard to get through is that there are very few pre-rendered scenes. Mostly you just stare at sprite-based graphics wiggling cut-out characters from one side of your screen to the other, while pages of dialog scroll forever along the bottom.
The voice acting is fine if you like anime, which I will assume you do since you are reading this review. Sounds and graphics are pretty standard as well; there really wasn’t anything crazy or exciting about either. The same can be said for the soundtrack, though it is a little more original than the other visual and audio effects. These things are all on par with every other game in the fighting genre so far.
At this point in the series the mechanics have been balanced and fleshed out nearly to perfection. For those unfamiliar with the game, the mechanics in BBCSE are pretty easy to pick up. It’s a 4-button fighter that works around Light, Medium, and Heavy attacks in conjunction with character-specific stylized Drive Attacks. These are labeled A, B, C, and D buttons, respectively. Combos use a chain system that allows the player to link many moves together; they also go into a cancelling system that allows you to link together moves that would not normally link if you had simply entered the inputs. The types of cancels used by this system are the self-explanatory Dash Cancel and (super) Jump Cancel, along with a less obvious one called a Rapid Cancel, which uses up half of the Super Gauge (the Heat Gauge). There are also various tools for offense and defense provided by barrier bursts, counter assaults, guard primers, barrier blocking, instant blocking, and standard blocking. The game includes a tutorial that works through all of these mechanics and teaches the players their uses and methods of execution. Additionally, a challenge mode shows the player some decent combos, and challenges them to learn and execute them.
The Arcade Mode is predictable, pitting you against semi-randomized opponents that gradually get tougher. You are allowed several difficulty options: Beginner, Easy, Normal, Hard, Very Hard, and Hell. While most of the battles are winnable, even if you are a seasoned player the Hell difficulty will give you some frustration. If you happen to be one of those people who can whiz past the final boss on Hell, then the new Unlimited Mars Mode may be for you. Basically, you are up against a far more intelligent AI that has control over all the characters’ Unlimited versions. While it may be fun to play as these versions both on and offline, it is extremely agonizing to be forced to face them using a non-Unlimited character.
Abyss Mode is an interesting spin for a fighting game. When you start a new Abyss game, you start grinding your way through level after level of enemies as they continue to get more difficult. The lower you go into the Abyss (or the higher in level numbers) the better you will get at facing your opponents through an RPG-like leveling system. You have only one life bar that refills after a winning match and a “heat” bar. Your four main skill areas are Attack, Defense, Speed, and Heat. After winning a match you are allowed to chose one of five items that will either grant you new abilities, improve your stats, or give you more point than you would normally collect for winning. These points can be used to buy more items for your character. The nice thing is that you can use points you’ve accumulated from previous Abyss games and points you receive for playing other modes throughout the game to make these purchases. If you don’t have the time to play through Abyss Mode in one seating (who does?), then you can save your progress after a successful match. Unfortunately, if you happen to lose a match after a save, then that save is deleted. This can be frustrating if you aren’t remembering to save after each battle.
Score Attack is pretty straight forward; you are matched against AI opponents until you lose, with the object being to get the highest score possible. There are online rankings for Score Attack and Unlimited Mars, so those talented (or crazy) enough to care are given plenty of replay value for those modes. Online Versus is surprisingly fluid and fairly popular. It isn’t hard to find available matches, and even though you won’t see too many local players, there are still plenty world-wide to play with. This may make you think that the connection and lag must be horrible, but in all honesty I have to say this is one of the better online fighters that I have played. There is occasional lag, especially when poor connection is involved, but overall it isn’t as frustrating as so many are. There is also a ‘team battle’ mode to go with the usual one-on-one versus. In a team battle you can have up to a three players on a team, each player fighting until they lose.
So let’s break it down. If you are new to the BlazBlue series, to fighting games in general, or are an avid combo-master who loves anime, BBCSE is a good game to hop into the series considering all the recaps in the Story Mode and the various difficulty settings. I can only assume that a new player would be interested in this game mostly because of their love for anime. For those people, BBCSE would be an excellent choice and a fantastic deal. I can’t really see anyone who isn’t into anime even picking this one off the shelves though, regardless how much of a “hardcore” fighting-genre gamer they are. I estimate that the people buying this game will be people who are loyal fans, and these fans will be disappointed — not because BBCSE is a poor game, but simply because they have probably put tons of time and money into its predecessors, and are given absolutely no compensation for their efforts. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend should have been released as a series of updates and DLC, with at least most of it being free to these loyal fans. I think the bad wrap this one gets can be hung directly on an inaccurate estimate of its available “new gamer” market and some pure corporate greed.
I give BlazBlue: Comtinuum Shift Extend 3 “Boobie Ladies” out of 5.
by Rachael Edwards-Hite