When the original BlazBlue landed last year it was met with critical acclaim, but was also overshadowed by the release of a certain brawler from Capcom. A year later and amazingly we already have follow-ups to both of these amazing games. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift follows the same path as its Capcom brethren by adding new characters, stages and of course balancing tweaks. If you missed out on the original game, this is definitely a must-buy for fans of the genre. The sheer amount of content packaged in this $40 disc is really amazing, and for fans who bought the original there is more than enough to warrant a double-dip.
For those that are not familiar with ARC System Works’ latest entry in the fighting game category, BlazBlue is an HD 2D brawler that focuses on flashy combos and outlandish characters. The word weird could be used to describe nearly every combatant in the game. If you played their previous effort Guilty Gear, this will come as no surprise, but if not be prepared to see some truly eccentric characters. The attack system uses a simple four button formula with short, medium and slash attacks in collaboration with the drive button. Combos are key and learning the ins and outs of the system definitely requires some serious dedication. BlazBlue is not built with the casual fighting game fans in mind.
Continuum Shift has added some new features, one that does cater to the more casual crowd. Beginner mode allows players to simply button mash to perform some of the more complex combos. While nice this serves mostly to give casual fans a chance to see some of the more elaborate moves. By far the best addition though are the challenges. These give players a series of moves to complete that will teach them the combos and their timing. Much like the trials in SSF4 these challenges can help you understand each character’s moves. I love how they let you preview the combo to learn the timing, but be warned these things ramp up quick. The third challenge usually involves a very intricate combo that requires practice and patience to master.
Of course this would not be a fighting game sequel without some fresh blood. Continuum Shift adds three new characters on the disc, with more coming via DLC. I am not going to get into the debate on holding content from the game, especially considering that the first character is already available as of this writing. The first entry is Hazama who uses speed and flash to annihilate opponents. Tsubaki uses a more traditional charge approach while Mu-12 reminds me a lot of Lambda. Mu-12 can only be unlocked by completing the True Ending in story mode, but you can also buy her unlock through DLC. As a side note I also downloaded and checked out Makoto before writing this review and she is definitely a lot of fun to play. Very fast with some wicked air combos and the ability to charge her drive attacks as well as Distortions.
The crazy story mode also returns and is just as bizarre as the previous game. Fans of the original will recall being agitated that you had to purposely lose to some characters to discover all the branching paths, which has been remedied somewhat for the follow-up. There are also gag reels and of course the return of Teach Me Miss Litchi. The dialogue is often hilarious and always peculiar. The voice acting is not always the best, but it gets the job done. I am simply amazed at how much they managed to keep track of and squeeze into the story. It is cohesive even with it being so crazy.
Another new addition is Legion Mode, which was pulled from the portable version of the game released for PSP earlier this year. This mode basically consists of survival matches that allow you to add new members to your army. The idea is to take over the entire map by constantly building your army. The idea is solid, but the execution falls flat because of the lack of replayability. Each difficulty only has one map, and the characters are always the same. Once you play through each one successfully, there isn’t much reason to come back for more. This makes Legion Mode a nice, if shallow diversion.
As with any fighting game in this day and age Continuum Shift comes packed with a vigorous online mode that should satisfy fans. The netcode used for BlazBlue has always been very well done and CS is no exception. The matches I played online rarely suffered from unplayable lag. You now have the option to save and view your replays, which helps in learning your mistakes. Overall I found the online experience to be extremely satisfying, even when I was getting my butt handed to me, which was more often than not.
You can probably tell by watching any video or seeing any of these screenshots that BlazBlue is a gorgeous game. The 2D animations are nothing short of jaw-dropping. The color palette is simply stunning when played on a proper setup. The frame rate remains solid throughout and the designs, while eccentric, are truly unique and a joy to watch. I also love the backgrounds that mix 3D objects with 2D artwork. Overall the game just looks fantastic. The music has been copy-pasted from the original game, but still remains solid and the voice acting for the characters ranges from decent to downright hilarious; in an unintentional manner.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is a solid follow-up to last year’s brawler. In the glory days of fighting games updates like this were common for the genre, and at $40 it is hard not to recommend this to anyone who enjoys them. If you loved the original there is enough here to replace your copy of the first game, and if you passed the first time around there has never been a better time to dive in. Continuum Shift has some serious legs and I can see fans playing this well into the next year, or at least until the next iteration arrives.