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BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend (PS Vita) review

Our Rating :
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A complex yet rewarding beat'em'up that should please fans of obscure Japanese games, but it's probably not for everyone

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The fighting game genre is dominated by a few big-name brands here in the West, but in Japan there are literally hundreds of smaller titles competing for floor space in arcades up and down the country. With the UK arcade scene almost at extinction, our only chance to play these fantastic games is on a home console – or, if you pick up BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, anywhere you like on the PS Vita.

If the name wasn’t already a clue, this is a fine example of what to expect from any niche Japanese fighting game. Endless combos, full-screen special moves, instant-kill finishers and buxom women are the order of the day. Even the announcer speaks in a delightfully Engrish accent, which only adds to the surreal nature of the characters and special moves.


A varied cast of fighters, each with unique abilities that set them apart from each other, should give any player plenty of room to experiment before settling on a main character. Some will feel familiar to fans of other fighting game series – gunslinger Noel Vermillion can chain together attacks using her twin pistols, sword-wielding Ragna can summon the powers of Darkness to imbue his weapon with greater damage and the hulking Iron Tager is a grappler with incredibly damaging throws. The rest of the cast is much more varied – puppeteer Carl Clover can control a human-sized doll during battle to attack his enemies and Tsubaki uses a sword that morphs into different weapons, as well as a book that can change into a shield to deflect attacks. Some aren’t even human at all, with werewolves and spider-like creatures rounding off the cast list.


Each character has a “Drive” move, which activates their unique special attacks, as well as throws, counters and quick recovery moves that are crucial to getting the drop on your opponents. Distortion moves are even more powerful, using up a portion of your super gauge to deal some extra damage. Finally, Astral Finishes are game-ending special attacks that can only be performed if you meet certain criteria – once you do, it’s a guaranteed win if the attack hits.

Beyond mastering the Drive technique, there’s a huge range of game mechanics that are unique to the series. New players will want to delve into the tutorial mode before tackling the arcade challenge – each one is incredibly in-depth so by the end you should be ready to take on the CPU or challenge opponents online. If you aren’t interested in playing against other people, there are two story modes and a comprehensive challenge mode to keep you playing long after you’ve mastered a single character. Unlike many fighting games the storyline is surprisingly deep and complex, so you’ll need to pay attention.


This might seem like a lot of hard work, but the gorgeous art direction was more than enough to keep us playing. Each character is beautifully animated, with a vivid colour palette that really pops off the Vita’s OLED screen. Unlike most fighting games released in the west, BlazBlue uses 2D sprites rather than 3D rendered models. Even genre heavyweights such as Street Fighter have shifted to using 3D character models, despite gameplay remaining a strictly two dimensional affair, so it’s refreshing to see lovingly animated sprites take centre stage. The stage backgrounds are fully 3D animated, which creates a delightful mix of old and new graphic styles. A pounding rock soundtrack also helps ramp up the atmosphere during battles, reaching a crescendo during the final few seconds.


BlazBlue is unlikely to achieve the same level of popularity as Street Fighter in the west, simply because it has a multitude of game mechanics that create a mental barrier for new players. With this in mind, we would hesitate to recommend it to anyone other than fans of the fighting game genre. However, the gorgeous sprite-based graphics and hectic yet rewarding gameplay make it an absolute blast to play – whether you know what you’re doing or not.



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