Blazblue Continuum Shift II Review

Gaming

Blazblue Continuum Shift II
Published by:
Aksys Games
Developed by: ARC System Works
Platforms: PSP (Reviewed), Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: May 31, 2011
Price: $29.99 US

Overview:
If you have been following Arc System Works then you should know that the creators of the Guilty Gear franchise have been spending the last few years working on an entirely new franchise. Blazblue: Continuum Shift II was originally released on the consoles last year, but now it has made the jump to a portable handheld, namely the PSP. There are a few things thrown into this version that weren’t available in the original console release; including the three DLC characters Makoto, Platinum and Valkenhayn. Now has BBCSII survived the move to a handheld version or is too much lost in translation?

Story:
Blazblue: Continuum Shift II contains two separate ways that you can learn the story. First there is the minimal version that is the Arcade mode. Players will be able to select a character of their choosing and fight through ten separate battles. Occasionally these arcade battles will contain a bit of dialogue in the beginning and afterwards if the fight pertains to that character’s story and finally an ending movie that usually ends up the same way.

That is the Arcade mode however, what truly sets Blazblue apart from other fighting games is the fact that it contains a very lengthy Story mode and BBCSII retains all of its story with the handheld move. The Story mode is much similar to the previous versions of the game where players will have to play through a character’s individual story to unlock the others. When you first jump in you will only be able to play Ragna The BloodEdge’s storyline but after finishing his story you will unlock others.

This continues throughout the entire roster of characters until you unlock the True Ending mode which will have you play through the actual ending of the game instead of each character’s own journey. These journeys also revolve around the choices you make because there are a number of different endings to each storyline, some even involving having to lose a specific fight to enter a different route.

The story mode fleshes out nearly every single character in the game and there is plenty of character development to be had. Some characters may appear more serious than others while others are practically full of jokes that usually land spot on. In my mind the Blazblue series still shines as one of the best examples of storytelling for a fighting game.

One thing that does hinder it however is the fact that, with being a portable title, you will usually be playing the game in jumps. Unfortunately this also means that there will be times that you have to put down the game and shut it off to do something else. This means that you will often have to go through a certain part of the dialogue that you have seen already. What is strange here, is that there is no way to actually fast forward the dialogue and skip spots you have seen, instead you will be forced to just sit there and push X repeatedly. This is something that should have been added in considering the functionality of a portable gaming device.

Graphics:
BBCSII has always been a series that could pride itself on its visuals. The character art and the sprites were always amazing to see. Unfortunately the move to the PSP has done some damage to the character sprites. Thankfully the actual artwork for the characters when they are talking outside of battles is untouched, but the sprites in-game now have jagged edges and some are extremely muddled. The more complicated character designs have taken a serious hit, especially those such as Bang Shishigami.

The characters are still very unique however and none of them share the same appearance. BBCSII on the PSP also has the additional character colors that cost money to buy on the console versions which provides extra color choices. The stages themselves still look impressive but the game no longer shows pans the camera around the stage before a battle to show off the stage, instead it focuses immediately on the characters for the fight.

Audio:
Another place where BBCSII takes a hit is the music and voice acting. The acting itself is still superb but perhaps due to the limitations of the system itself the quality is severely diminished. The entire story is voiced and so is the characters’ Arcade modes which means that there is a lot to listen to and with the unfortunate hit that the sound took on the handheld it will definitely hurt the experience.

The music is still as impressive as ever, but also is diminished in quality. Instead of being a clear and crisp track of music it is muddled and fuzzy. The actual sounds of battle are still impressive and players can choose to change the system voice up after they gain enough points from fighting in the various game modes.

Gameplay:
Blazblue is a very intense fighting game that contains plenty of fast paced action as well as powerful special moves that each character can use after earning enough heat by either damaging or receiving damage from their opponent. Players can use two separate fighting modes that they can change in the option menu, either Technical which allows players to have more control over the combos they use and string together attacks at their own free will and Stylish where players can perform special Drive attacks with ease and use a number of the characters’ special abilities without too much knowledge of the control scheme.

As a whole the combo inputs are still complicated to pull off for special moves but feel rewarding for when they are pulled off properly. The controls on the other hand are a bit difficult to get a hang of, and this can be contributed to two things. First in the move list the button names are the same as they were in Arcades, with A, B, C, D type attacks which then have to be remembered as whichever face button you designated them to. This is an unfortunate system that has been continually used in all Blazblue games that should be changed up to provide a bit easier adoption for players.

Besides the move list, the PSP itself is not well attuned for a fighting game such as Blazblue. Directional entries for combat are used with the D-Pad which means that there are times you will have difficulty imputing the combo correctly or have a sore finger after a while of playing. There is an option called Command Support which helps make diagonal button entries easier but still makes things difficult.

Besides Story mode and Arcade mode and your standard Versus mode, BBCSII plays host to a number of different gameplay choices. First we have the Legion 1.5 mode that allows you to pick a character and put them against a number of different enemies along a certain path. Players will defeat enemies along the path and will be able to choose one character from the defeated team to add to their own, allowing for tournament style combat against opposing teams. Legion 1.5 also provides power-ups that can be used for your army.

Challenge mode is also here in BBCSII and is a mode that allows players to take any of the characters and put them through their paces by trying to complete their specific challenges. This mode is good to not only teach players how to use their character properly but also challenge long time players with difficult strings of attack inputs.

There is also the Abyss mode, which can be best seen as a survival mode. The longer the player is able to survive the player will descend into the Abyss and fight against stronger and stronger characters. Fighting far enough will place players against boss enemies and also unlock stat boosts if they manage to defeat them.

Finally we have the multiplayer aspect of BBCSII, which unfortunately is very lacking. The game uses the PSP’s ad hoc system which means that it is very limited. There is no actual online mode that allows the player to test their skills against other fans of BlazBlue and the lack of an online multiplayer mode is something that should never be left out of a fighting game of this era.

Overall:
Blazblue: Continuum Shift II is a game that was in a league of its own on the console when it was released last year. It still is today on the PlayStation Portable, despite the graphic and audio quality taking the brunt of the damage. The amazing storyline returns in its entirety and there is always a lot of replay value because of the different routes available to each character. With the extra gameplay modes, BBCSII is a fighter that you can easily pick up and fight for a few rounds whenever you need to kill some time. It is just a shame however that online multiplayer was left out of the package.

I give Blazblue: Continuum Shift 2 on the PSP

8-0-capsules-out-of-10

As a big fan of anime and games I'll be quick to cover anything that happens to be of interest.

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