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BlazBlue: Continuum Shift 2 Review

BlazBlue - Continuum Shift 2 Screenshot - 845314

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II is the anti-Street Fighter. It swaps elegance for a kitchen sink approach to 2D fighting. That's not to say it achieves the insanity of a Marvel vs. Capcom game. It demands a lot from newcomers but also offers a vast array of technicalities and systems for fighting vets to sort out.

As a way to learn the ins and outs of such a rich (and perhaps bloated) fighting system, the PSP version of the game isn't such a bad option. You'll probably never play it with anyone else anyway, as the game features local multiplayer only. What it lacks in competitive play it compensate for with a vast array of modes and extras.

So if you have friends who are begging you to get into BlazBlue on consoles, this more convenient and portable version of the game may be the perfect fit. But in an age when every fighting game offers a quick way to go online and play against real, live opponents, the PSP version of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II is behind the times.

That's not necessarily the game's fault, as the PSP hasn't been the best option when it comes to online play, but it's almost impossible to avoid comparing it to the big competition: Super Street Fighter IV for 3DS. That game has set a new bar for portable fighters, one that makes every one preceding it seem silly. If you really want a portable version of BlazBlue, you may want to wait for the PS Vita version revealed at E3.

The reasons are two-fold—beyond the lack of online play, this isn't the stunning HD BlazBlue you may be used to. It looks decent, and most importantly retains all the gameplay elements of its console big brothers, but it's not a stunning game by any stretch. The characters are heavily pixelated, the audio is garbled, and the backgrounds are flat and grainy. It merely gets the job done.

Based on what the game can offer you versus what it can't, the boatload of single player content is a big plus. The game is closer to Soul Calibur or Mortal Kombat in terms of content. The main menu crams in different modes, a gallery contains many unlockables, and the training options are fantastic.

The game's tutorial is extensive. Each system is explained in painfully intricate detail. You could spend hours just learning the ins and outs of each character. When you're done with it, a challenge mode offers a way to learn increasingly complex combos for each fighter. The game is at its best as a portable learning tool.

Usually a fighting game's single-player content is divided into a handful of modes. Continuum Shift II divides its content among a half dozen different ones. Much like its style and combat, the game's content is both vast and overdone. The approach dilutes each mode.

Arcade mode presents your typical string of fights with a cheap boss and a bit of story at the end. Score Attack mode is a survival mode where one loss means game over. Legion 1.5 lays out fights in a grid, allowing you to recruit new fighters as you achieve victory. Abyss offers a spin on Score Attack, with RPG-esque upgrades and a bizarre take on random battles. Lastly, Story mode throws a fight or two into a lengthy string of baffling text-based cutscenes.

While that's a lot of content, none of the modes are entirely fulfilling on their own. Most are a convoluted path to the next fight, without the variety that many single-player fighting game modes have. Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur toss ridiculous scenarios at you with unconventional win conditions, but BlazBlue rarely does more than mess with the time limit of a match.

Between the absent online play and weak single-player modes, you may consider this game irredeemable. Thankfully, weak context does not change the fact that BlazBlue is a blast to play. Its wealth of systems and techniques may seem overwhelming, but they lead to several creative options during fights. While the busy, noisy aesthetics hurt other aspects of the game, the combat sets itself apart from other 2D fighters.

All the fun combat in the world doesn't change the harsh facts, though. BlazBlue on PSP simply doesn't compare to the console versions. There are very few instances where you'd want this port over the now cheaper 360 and PS3 versions.

Average

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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