BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend Review (PS Vita)

The PlayStation Vita doesn’t have much to pick from in terms of fighting games, but thankfully, rather than needing to root through useless glut, it does have two quality titles to choose from.  Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is obviously the more popular title to choose from, with its recognizable characters and over-the-top fighting antics.  But does that mean you should dismiss Aksys Games’ more eclectic BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend?  Not by any means.  In fact, this game could have more overall value to fighting fans than Capcom’s crossover title.

Extend is technically the third game in the BlazBlue series, even though it’s kind of like a “director’s cut” of Continuum Shift.  You’ve got the original fighters, along with the ones that were offered via DLC, a new face, and a few additional modes.  There’s something here for everyone, from training for the newbies (well recommended if you’re getting your feet wet with Arc System Works’ series) to Extend Story, which tells a ridiculous yet somewhat fathomable story that offers  some exposition behind the 19 fighters offered here.

If you’re a fighting fanatic, someone who truly savors a challenge, there are two stops you’ll want to make in Extend.  The first is Unlimited, which not only bumps up the difficulty to the highest level, but features AI tweaks on normal characters that turn them superhuman.  This is an ultimate challenge, and a must for those who really want to get good at this game.  There’s a lot to master here, including Guard Primers, Supers, Astral Heats and other techniques, hours worth of stuff that you won’t get from a solitary fight.  That’s depth, and that’s how crazy BlazBlue gets.  That’s a good thing.

Now, I did say two stops.  The second is through online play, and you’ll be shocked to see how capable the Vita is of hosting online battles.  Taking on friends in team battles or straight up competitions is unbelievably fun, and the netcode never failed us during our PlayStation Network sessions.  It holds up remarkably, in the same way as its PS3 brethren.  Word of warning, though – most of the people we ran into were quite good.  Proceed with caution, and practice up.

The gameplay handles gracefully with the PS Vita’s control set-up.  The analog stick actually works for the player, rather than against them, even though more complex maneuvers need to be performed for certain supers or counters.  The D-pad works just as well, proving that Sony actually put research into its input, something it didn’t quite think through with the PSP.  Improvements abound.

Along with tons of modes, fighter options and online play, Extend also packs one of the most attractive visuals you’ll see on the device’s OLED screen.  The hand-drawn animation stands out, as do the gorgeous 3D background settings.  And the game as a whole runs at a fairly rapid speed, with hardly any hints of slowdown – even online.  As for the sound, you’ve got a fair array of good and bad voicework (some samples just sound a bit squeaky), all backed by a wondrous rock/techno soundtrack that would fit right in with your video game music collection.

Yeah, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 may seem like the easy choice if you want to see what handheld fighting is all about, but by no means should you brush off BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend just because it doesn’t resemble “your type of thing”.  The fact is, it’s overloaded with fighting options galore, no matter what your skill set, and the presentation is striking, something that really takes advantage of the Vita screen.  Don’t you dare let this brawler pass you by.