27th September 2010 - BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is Arc System Works’ latest iteration for the Playstation 3 and XBOX360. Released in the Japanese arcade scene on November 2009, the console versions hit Japan on 1 July 2010 and 27th July for the US. PAL regions will have to wait till the 29th October unfortunately but they will be getting limited edition versions that the US won’t get.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is the refresh of last year’s Calamity Trigger version (which Australia only just got a few months ago) featuring new characters, revamping of the fighting system and a new continued story mode and great new console only additions. There supposedly will be another arcade update later in the year which brings in the console only characters (which are paid DLC add-ons) and further character rebalancing.
Those accustomed with the Guilty Gear series of video games should feel right at home with this one and with a resurgence of fighting games due to the Street Fighter franchise hitting the scene and future fighting games on the horizon, BlazBlue: Contiuum Shift definitely has a tough fight to stand victorious amongst the crowd.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift (BBCS) is a 2D fighting game with four major attack buttons, consisting of your usual light, medium and heavy attacks while the fourth button is your character specific drive attack. Each character’s drive attack is unique to them and effective use of their particular fighting style (or weapons) can lead to devastating combo strings.
A few of the battle system mechanics have been overhauled, for those that played Calamity Trigger you would notice the Guard Libra system (where you played tug of war in an attempt to get a barrier crush ) has been replaced and instead each character has their own unique guard gauge instead. This is called the Guard Primer system and each character has their own amount of guard “gems” before they enter a barrier crush (and eat a nasty combo string). The barrier system is in place and can be used as a last resort to prevent barrier crushes while sacrificing a lot of your barrier meter.
Barrier Bursts has changed and instead of putting yourself in “danger” status (i.e. taking extra damage and no more barrier blocking) you are allowed to barrier burst at most twice a match. Your first barrier burst is unlocked in the beginning and when you lose a round you get the second barrier burst. There are offensive and defensive barrier bursts as well (denoted by their green and yellow auras) which helps mix things up.
Finally, Astral Heats have had their restrictions removed and now can be executed in the final round provided the opponent is under 30% and you have a barrier burst available. These moves finish off the opponent if they land but luckily in BBCS, you don’t have to unlock each character’s Astral heat this time round.
Other major gameplay tweaks will really be noticed by seasoned Calamity Trigger players, especially with some changes to their favorite character. Arc System Works has made some fundamental changes which really affect the character “tier listings”, essentially a player perceived ranking of each character’s strength and upper tier characters from Calamity Trigger, Arakune, Mu-13 and Rachel have had tweaks to their damage output, combo strings or fighting style to the drop from their god like status in Calamity Trigger to a more middle of the road or bottom tier ranking.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift offers a fully featured single player experience with an improved tutorial and challenge mode, similar to the Street Fighter series. There are a series of narrated tutorials which goes through the BlazBlue mechanics from beginner, intermediate and advanced strategies with some extra discussion for each character’s unique gameplay style. This type of content was included with the limited edition of BlazBlue Calamity Trigger so this is a great free addition. The challenge mode is definitely difficult but proves to be a great learning tool of each character’s combo strings. Timing, precise button pressing and positioning of characters is extremely important to clear the then challenge levels for each character (which don’t need to be completed in sequence luckily). Returning game modes include Arcade, Versus mode, Network battle and Story mode also make their reappearance.
New game mode additions include the Legion mode where you battle it out on a map looking like a network node diagram, recruiting new characters to your team while trying to gain control of all the nodes. Score attack where you try to get a placing on the online leaderboards based on score and the Playstation Store is now integrated with DLC content available to be bought.
The Story mode of BlazBlue deserves a special mention as it genuinely has an engaging (though at times confusing) story and builds upon the events of Calamity Trigger which is quite rare for a fighting game. There are three possible endings for each character and as you play you unlock at characters’ story modes until you reach the true story and ending. Making a return is the “Teach Me Ms Litchi” series which offers a great laugh.
Continuum Shift did not receive much of a graphical makeover this time round. The menus got a small tweak but the in game action is pretty much the same. The battle system GUI is pretty much the same as well. New anime movies have been added for each character and there are new story cut scenes but most of them are just static talking heads.
There is a lot voiced dialogue for a fighting game, as the arcade mode contains events featuring discussions between the characters and before each battle both characters say their battle quip which seems to be based on who they are fighting against. The story mode features the bulk of the voice acting and unlike other Japanese to English games, the English voice acting is very good; each actor is matched fairly well with their on screen counterpart and their lines sound appropriate for the text. There are some discrepancies at times between what the lines of dialogue says and what the actors actually say, perhaps it was a last minute change but could point to a rushed localization effort by Aksys/ Arc System Works. The background music and sound effects are all serviceable with a fairly heavy J-Pop twist but fans of the music can listen to them through the Gallery mode on offer.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is definitely the version to get for Australian audiences, especially since Calamity Trigger only just got released a few months ago. It is unknown if the European limited edition will also make its way to Australia but if you are a fan of the artwork or music then you might enjoy the added extras. Paid downloadable content is currently been offered, one new character unlock at a time to keep things fresh whilst a new balance patch is promised further down the track as the Arcade release will receive an update to unlock all the console and DLC characters. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift packs a lot of single player goodness and the online component is still great but unfortunately the BlazBlue scene in Australia is not as common as Street Fighter or Tekken so it may fade into obscurity quickly.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is a great refresh of last year’s Calamity Trigger (except for the Europe/Australian market). Additional characters, rebalanced gameplay and new additions to the console versions give it a fresh coat of paint but at the core of it the battle system is unique and offers an alternative fighting game to the Tekken and Street Fighter games currently on the market. There is quite a steep learning curve and players without a background to Calamity Trigger or Guilty Gear games from the PS2 days will most like likely be lost on what is happening since Street Fighter skills don’t translate well here.
AAG SCORE: 8/10
+ New unique characters with three more available through DLC
+ Story mode is a great single player experience with a more established story than typical fighting games
+ New tutorial and challenge modes to help new players learn and improve. Better experience than Calamity Trigger.
- Not much graphical improvements when compared to Calamity Trigger
- Steep learning curve for beginners without using beginner’s mode.
Reviewed and Written By Danny Yee