BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Also on: PS3, X360
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Arc System Works
Medium: Vita Card / Digital Download
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

The wheel of fate is turning, this time on the Playstation Vita with BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend. This is a port of the previous BlazBlue: Continuum Shift that hit home consoles, along with all the snazzy upgrades that the free DLC provided, including all additional characters, balance tweaks, Abyss Mode, and new to this version, the Unlimited Mars mode.

If you?ve not had a chance to check out the BlazBlue fighting series up to this point, this is certainly a port worth checking it out. It features the hyper animated 2D sprites that the series is well known for, and loses none of its pizzazz on the small screen. It?s super colorful, extremely fluid, and just fun to watch and play.

It?s remarkably deep and challenging as far as 2D fighters go, but there?s enough content here for newbies that it?s not entirely inaccessible for the uninitiated. There?s a great tutorial mode contained within the game that gives you hands on time with fighters and a list of commands to help acclimate you to the different systems and combos of the game. There?s also a mission mode similar to that found in Capcom fighters that gives you a certain group of moves to perform for each character, which serves as a great way to learn the roster.

Another addition to aid in the accessibility of the title is the inclusion of Stylish controls, which replace the Technique controls that are usually selected by default. Stylish essentially turns on auto-combo?s, so you can hammer down on the three attack buttons and perform a series of short combo strings without really needing to know what you?re doing. It does limit you to about 6 or 7 hits per combo, and won?t win you matches against high-level players, but really does help to get your feet wet for the first time.

In addition to your standard story and arcade modes, the game contains the Abyss mode, which is a pretty cool game type that has you advancing through levels fighting against the A.I. Every 20 levels you?ll encounter a stronger than normal opponent, and defeating that opponent allows you the ability to outfit your character with either special abilities, or to upgrade their speed, defense, attack and so on. At the beginning of a new Abyss mode you can purchase anything you?ve previously unlocked in other attempts, and it?s a pretty challenging and substantial mode overall.

BlazBlue has a pretty competent online system, which thankfully doesn?t drop the ball on Sony?s handheld. You?ve got Ranked and Player matches, and can create rooms for Player matches and even spectate matches if you?d like. I was actually surprised you could spectate, as even some home console fighters still can?t get this right, so it was a nice surprise to see it here.

I do have a small number of complaints about the online mode though. For ranked matches, you?re required to select your character before searching for a match, in an effort to keep from someone just countering your character with their own selection. However, after finding an opponent, you?re then forced to the character select screen for some reason, even though the only character you can select here is the one you chose previously.

Another issue with ranked matches is that you can use Stylish controls, which feels a bit too lenient for me. You also can?t search for opponents not using them, and can?t block yourself from pairing up with opponents using Stylish. The option to at least search for Technique only opponents would have been nice.

Finally, the online mode does have a bit of lag, and I rarely found a flawless match online. I?m sincerely hoping this can get cleaned up a bit via patches, but be prepared for that slideshow effect when you go online. You can help to narrow your searches by people in your region, which does seem to help, but there?s no way to search by connection strength that I could find.

But, overall, this is a pretty great port of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift. Extend delivers all the content of the home experience in a nice, handheld package, and doesn?t skimp on any of the features. The addition of Unlimited Mars mode is cool, but is only for the hardcore BlazBlue crowd, it?s tough as hell to even make a dent as the difficulty is severely amped up there.

However, if you?re willing to spend some time with the game, you?ll find BlazBlue to be a pretty rewarding fighting game experience. It looks gorgeous on the OLED screen, and the controls feel great on Vita?s excellent d-pad. I definitely suggest checking the game out, even if you?ve not played a game in the series before. Here?s to hoping the online side can get ironed out a bit, but until then the game is still worth a look.

Grade: B