BlazBlue: Continuum Shift – The PS3 Attitude Review
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is an updated sequel to BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, which was released over a year ago. Included in Continuum Shift are three new characters, a rebalanced roster, and added modes for beginners and advanced players.
Like Super Street Fighter IV, the latest version of BlazBlue is available at a cheaper price than its predecessor. Despite that, does Arc System Works manage to justify the existence of a sequel so soon, or is Continuum Shift just a rip off designed to take advantage of its fanbase?
If you’re unfamiliar with BlazBlue, it’s a 2D based fighting game developed by the same people behind the popular Guilty Gear series. With a total of 15 playable characters, it’s easy to dismiss this game as having a small roster (especially in comparison to Super Street Fighter IV and Tekken 6). You have to remember that BlazBlue is a new fighting game franchise that doesn’t have over a decade of characters to fall back on. Regardless, the gameplay in the BlazBlue series defends itself with its incredibly varied roster. It’s not always about quantity and Arc System Works has proven that.
In Continuum Shift, there are three new playable characters included in the game – Tsubaki, Hazama, and the final boss μ-12 (Mu). Tsubaki is an interesting addition to the roster as she is the only character that has the ability to charge a meter. Doing so allows you to link her Drive attacks for some awesome combos. Hazama, on the other hand, can use a chain to grab enemies and move across the screen quickly. Despite the fact that Mu looks like Nu (the final boss from Calamity Trigger), she is an entirely different character with unique moves and strategies.
With the exception of Nu, every character from last year’s game returns. In the story, Lambda replaces Nu as a character but they are basically the same in terms of gameplay. The only differences are the visuals and the rebalanced gameplay tweaks. If you’re skilled enough (or have money to spend on the PlayStation Store), you can play as Nu by unlocking Lamdba’s Unlimited form. An Unlimited form is basically an alternate version of a character with broken properties.
The commands in BlazBlue are broken up into four buttons: weak (A), medium (B), strong (C), and Drive (D). At the most fundamental level, it’s a basic setup. However, don’t let that fool you. Continuum Shift is a very technical, unique, and deep fighting game. As you can imagine, there’s grabs, counters, and special attacks. These elements are pretty much standard in all fighting games. What really sets BlazBlue apart are the Drive attacks. When I say that every character is different, I mean it. For instance, Carl can awaken a doll named Nirvanna temporarilyand use her to attack his opponents. Litchi’s Drive attack, on the other hand, allows her to use her staff in interesting ways and it changes the moves available to her depending on whether it’s on the ground or in her hands. And then there’s Hakumen. You would think he’s from another fighting game entirely because his mechanics are so different.
Some changes have been made to the basic mechanics of the game. For instance, there is a new guard system called “Guard Prima” which replaces the old “Guard Libra” system from Calamity Trigger. Basically, each character now has a specific amount of points and once those points are fully depleted by moves that can break a guard, the character is temporarily stunned. It’s an interesting system that tries to force players to not sit back and block all day.
Even the Barrier Bursts are different now and doing one no longer depletes your entire barrier gauge, nor does it put you in a state of Danger anymore (which increases the amount of damage you’d receive). At the start of a match, each character now has two Barrier Breaks at their disposal, but the second one is only available after losing a round. Using a Break at the right time is also key, since the properties of the move itself will change depending on the situation. It’s helpful for getting out of a crazy combo but it’s not something you’ll always want to rely on.
Another change is in the way Astral Heats are performed. An Astral Heat is a move that can instantly kill your opponent in awesome ways if it lands. In CT, you could only do your Astral Finish if your opponent had no more than 20% of health in the final round of a match. It’s a bit easier to do now with the health requirement jumping to 35%. Instead of being in the very last round of a match, you can actually perform an Astral Heat now if you have the match point. In Continuum Shift, you also need to have at least one burst meter available and a full heat gauge. Astral Finishes are not easy to do but the animations are definitely worth watching at least once.
Balance is an issue in any fighting game and Continuum Shift received numerous tweaks to the original cast. Characters that were once top tier, such as Rachel, have been nerfed considerably. Despite these changes, the tiers appear to only have shifted. For instance, Bang, who was a difficult character to use competitively in the first game, now has amazing abilities available to him. For the most part, the balance issues won’t mean much to a casual player, especially in comparison to the original BlazBlue. Still, it needs to be noted that there’s an updated version of the game being tested in Japan arcades called Continuum Shift II. This version features nerfs and buffs for multiple characters and it’s continuously changing. A balance patch is expected to hit the console version of Continuum Shift sometime after the first six months of its release. It’s not exactly clear if this is still going to happen.
Since the game’s release in July, two additional characters (Makoto and Valkenhayn) have been added to the roster and are available to purchase for $7.99 from the PlayStation Store. It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. Both characters add variety to an already diverse roster and they really do add to the game. Included with each character DLC are 10 new challenges, three trophies, the character’s unlimited form, and 24 costume colors. The new characters cannot be used in Story or Legion Mode. Like any character in the game, there’s always a possibility that you won’t like how Makoto or Valkenhayn play. It’s a risk that you have to take and it requires a lot of research on the part of the player. What’s nice is that you’ll be able to fight anyone that has the DLC with no issues.
The story mode in Continuum Shift takes place not too long after the events of the first game and it’s just as ridiculous as before. Similar to BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, every character has their own story (starting with Ragna) that somehow intertwines with one another. If you never played the original, the cutscenes are almost entirely done in a style that’s similar to what you would find in a game like Disgaea. The voice overs are very well done and match the personalities of the cast members perfectly. It’s not often that you get a fighting game that puts this much attention to its story.
Some improvements have been made to the design of the Story Mode. For instance, you are no longer required to lose every single match to finish a character’s story with a 100% rating. That alone is a huge improvement over the original. There are still moments where you do need to purposefully lose a match, but it’s only to further progress the story for certain endings. Every character, with the exception of Hakumen, has three endings to unlock (one of which is a joke ending).
If you’re buying a fighting game, you most likely don’t care much about its story. Unfortunately, Continuum Shift practically forces you to play through the entire mode since attaining the True Ending unlocks the hidden character Mu as a playable character. During your first playthrough you can’t easily skip the cutscenes either. If you’re like me and find the story absolutely mindnumbing, you’ll absolutely hate this mode. I ending up using the turbo function on a Mad Catz FightPad to slowly skips cutscenes one line at a time as I watched videos on YouTube. Even then, there’s still a five minute wait before and after each fight. It seems like none of the characters ever stop talking.
You’ll spend a good amount of hours playing through the story mode to unlock Mu, but there is an alternate method. You could just purchase the character unlock from the PlayStation Store for $1.99. It’s a small price to pay to keep your sanity. It’s up to you, really. And you never know, there is a chance that you’ll really enjoy the story. This is especially true if you’re into anime.
New to Continuum Shift are the Beginner, Tutorial, and Challenge modes. Beginner mode simplifies the gameplay for gamers that simply want to just do something cool without learning the intricacies of the gameplay. It’s a pretty confusing setup if you’re at all familiar with the normal button configuration since everything is mixed around in a seeming random way. Still, it’s a nice option for casual fans. For whatever reason, you can’t map special commands to the right analog stick like you could in the previous game.
The Tutorial Mode is easily one of the most impressive additions. Instead of the developers forcing you to learn the gameplay for yourself, Arc System Works actually gives you lessons and tips for basic and advanced techniques. Rachel Alucard, a stuck up high-class Vampire, adds her personality to the lessons as she walks you through each step. While the training mode is designed for BlazBlue gameplay mechanics, many of the ideas can be applied to other games in the genre. Modes like this should be the standard for fighting games.
Challenge mode is similar to the Trial mode from the Street Fighter IV series. In Continuum Shift, there are 10 challenges to complete for each character. For the first few sets of challenges, you are required to successfully perform multiple combos. As you get to the more advanced stages, you’ll only have to do one or two combos. It’s really easy to lose tons of hours in mode due to repeated trial and error attempts, but it does help you learn how to play. You might not use all the combos in actual gameplay, but it’s fun to learn nonetheless. What’s nice is the ability to watch an AI perform the entire combo at the press of a button. Just be warned, some of these combos are so long that the button prompts have to actually scroll up mid-combo.
Another mode included in Continuum Shift is the Legion Mode from the PSP version of Calamity Trigger. In this mode, you start off with a character of your choice and battle various groups of fighters scattered all throughout a grid. Each time you defeat an army, you’ll have the option to recruit one of their members to your own party. To successfully defeat an army, you need to take out each member out in one on one battles. Your character’s health does not recharge after every fight, so you can’t be reckless. There will be moments when you’re stuck using someone you’ve never played as before since the later difficulties are quite challenging. It’s a fun mode and a nice diversion from the standard gameplay.
The online play is once again nearly flawless. You won’t find another fighting game with a netcode as good as BlazBlue’s. There’s slowdown that occurs right before the start of a match, but you’ll rarely ever see a hiccup during actual gameplay. In terms of features online, it’s pretty minimal. You can have lobbies that support up to six players, battle against friends in private rooms, and play competitively in ranked matches. Like in Super Street Fighter IV, you can receive ranked match requests as you play through the arcade mode. Continuum Shift takes it to another level by also allowing you to use the training mode while you wait. Disappointingly enough, training is still an offline only experience. You can still record, upload, and watch replays but it’s only an option for ranked matches for some reason. Unlike Super Street Fighter IV, you can’t watch replays with other online players.
The Ranked Match filtering system is pretty competent in comparison to most fighters. You can choose to fight anyone or you can specify your search by geographical distance, rank, connection speed, and even completed match percentages. For Player Matches (unranked), you can search by rounds, round time, voice chat, room level, connection speed, and whether or not Unlimited Characters are enabled. What’s most interesting about BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is that you can even search by System Version. This means that if you want to play people using Version 1.00, 1.01, or 1.02, you can do just that. This is helpful to players that don’t like specific additions or changes made to the gameplay through patches. I didn’t see many people messing around with this function, but it is nice to at least have the option.
It goes without saying, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is a beautiful game. The animations are top notch, the special effects are full of eye candy, and the 3D backgrounds look amazing. BBCS never skips a beat and it’s truly one of the most artistically impressive games around. The soundtrack is also quite spectacular and full of awesome guitar riffs. It’s crazy how well designed the music is and how each track matches every character perfectly. For whatever reason, there is no support for custom soundtracks from the XMB.
If playing through the game competitively isn’t enough for you, there’s tons of unlockables scattered all throughout. If you want an unfair challenge, you’ll be happy to know that the Score Attack mode returns. There’s always something to achieve in this game, from Unlimited characters to artwork and interviews with voice actors. Unlike Calamity Trigger, this game isn’t an easy Platinum trophy either. This is mainly because of the new Challenge mode. Be prepared to invest a lot of time into this game. It’s always rewarding though, so that’s a plus.
In Calamity Trigger, you could use the Remote Play feature to play the game on the PSP. Unfortunately, this ability was removed in Continuum Shift. Profound sadness.
So what’s the verdict?
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is a must have fighting game for anyone interested in the genre. With tons of new content, updated characters, downloadable content, and an expected balance patch on the way, this is a game that will last you a long time. While Continuum Shift doesn’t necessarily feel like a giant leap forward for the series, it easily justifies its existence just like Super Street Fighter IV did back in April. Even if you just bought Calamity Trigger in Europe a few months ago you still won’t feel bitter by this purchase.
BlazBlue Continuum Shift hit store shelves on July 27th in North America and it finally releases in Europe on December 3rd.
This week we have a great giveaway for fighting game fans. For fans in the US, you’ll have a chance to win a Makoto, Valkenhayn, or Mu DLC voucher. You can only choose one (there will be 9 winners total). All you have to do is follow the instructions below:
If you want to win the Makoto DLC, tweet the following -
If you want to win the Valkenhayn DLC, tweet the following -
If you want to win the Mu character unlock DLC, tweet the following -
For our European readers, we are giving away a copy of BlazBlue Continuum Shift. Only one winner will be chosen. All you need to do is tweet the following -
You need to follow @PS3Attitude, @Delriach, @BlazBlue_Europe, and @Aksysgames to win. You must include all the text mentioned above in your tweet to qualify, from the ‘I entered’ at the start to the ‘PlzRT’ at the end. The contest ends at 10am BST on December 1st. Good luck!
And the winners are:
Thanks for entering!