BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend Vita Review
Game: BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend Vita
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Aksys Games
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita (Reviewed on PlayStation Vita)
I am getting a bit of the old déjà vu here, and not the horrible kind of déjà vu that creeps you out, either. I’ll tell you for why, because for the first time ever, I have ended up reviewing the same game twice in the space of a week. Ordinarily that would sound like a chore, but I am very pleased to say that in the case of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, I have been blown away twice over. It is clearly a killer 2D fighter in its Xbox 360 guise, but how well does it translate to the new hardware extravaganza that is the PSVita?
First impressions are good. More than good, in fact.
Firing up BlazBlue for the first time, I wondered how well the gorgeous visuals of the Xbox 360 version I had been playing near to death over the past week, would look in the palm of my hand. The perfectly recreated Production I.G. intro sequence whets the whistle, screeching guitars and girly singing are intact, but it is when the fighting really starts that I was truly blown away. Last week I waxed on about how grand a job Capcom did with Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom, remember that? I even went as far as to say it was the finest achievement I had ever seen on a handheld. Well, I should have kept my trap shut, as Extend is even better.
Animated with panache and with not an ounce of slowdown in sight, the way the characters fly around that gorgeous OLED screen is a joy to behold, and then some. Unlike UMVC, the backgrounds are all-singing, all-dancing recreations of the console game. The music and voice acting is all here too. Of course, I did the nerdly thing and compared what was happening between my paws, and what it looks like on a big TV. You know what? The PSVita version wins; it looks amazing.
Every gameplay mode, character and storyline from the original is ported perfectly to Vita, from Rachel Alucard’s wonderfully scathing tutorial to the nails-hard Unlimited Mars mode. All of the online modes are intact, too, with lag-free matchmaking and the tremendous online tag battles that have been introduced to the series making the translation. Story Mode is huge. There is an absolute stack of stuff to see and do. Taking in the rich mythology of the cast may seem like heavy going given how in-depth the story mode is. But having such an entertainingly crazy narrative is refreshing for a fighting game, most of which are bookended by an intro and a few cursory end sequences.
You could not possibly enter into the BlazBlue fray as an all-guns-blazing button basher. I would recommend newbies to take their time with the superb tutorial and Challenge modes, which will give you a well-rounded look at some of the techniques you will need to grasp to get on with the process of kicking people’s asses. BlazBlue is not as easy to pick up as, say, Street Fighter, the characters are intricately designed beauties, and generally do not fit the time-honoured templates of “Ryu and Ken”, “charge type”, “power type” etc. It is a game that rewards practice and those who persevere are in for one of the most original and deep fighting experiences out there. There can be few better feelings for a hardened fight game fan than ending a multi hit combo in the winning round with one of BlazBlue’s amazing Astral Finish manoeuvres.
VERDICT: With a lovely D-Pad, satisfying face buttons and responsive analogue stick, it has already been established that the Vita is well served to handle the rigours of the fighting genre, and that is the case here. It is literally like picking up from where you left off if you are used to playing the console iteration with a controller, yet even those who swear by the ways of the arcade stick cannot grumble with how well this plays a game of BlazBlue on the move. Like UMVC, Arc System Works have tried to shoehorn some of the console’s gimmickry into the game, with predictably poor results. You can map commands to certain areas of the rear touch pad, including combos, but using these in the heat of battle is tricky and inaccurate, particularly when you factor in how little room there is to actually grip the device without activating one of the hot spots on the back.
Rear pad aside, the only other gripe one could possibly have with this game are some at-times long loading times (I gather these are less prevalent in the digital version), and the fact that a mooted cross-platform online mode does not appear, but these are small problems indeed. This is a perfect conversion of its console counterpart, which actually manages to look even better on the crisp organically lit screen. This is a fantastic handheld fighter; possibly the best ever? I am going to leave that for you to decide, but for a newly introduced console to be home to two day-one AAA 2D fighters is something that makes Seany a very happy man indeed. If Street Fighter X Tekken comes anywhere near to this level of quality, I fear I may have to have my Vita surgically attached to my hands.