BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II Review

By Shawn Collier on June 21, 2011

Back in 2008, Arc System Works released BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger on home consoles, with the follow-up BlazBlue: Continuum Shift (and its upgrade Continuum Shift II) two years later. Since its original release, the series has become immensely popular and spans almost every platform in one form or another. After successfully releasing a portable version of Calamity Trigger on the Sony PSP, Arc System Works and Aksys Games have teamed up again to bring over the portable version of Continuum Shift II to North America. So the question remains: Will Continuum Shift II on the Sony PSP continue the success of the original and is worth the upgrade?

Continuum Shift II on the PSP is an enhanced version of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, containing all of the content of the home version along with all of the DLC characters and a new gameplay mode entitled "Abyss", which will be explained later. For those who are not familiar with the franchise, BlazBlue's battles are 2D, one-on-one matches that include a variety of anime-inspired characters that range from vampires to classy knights and even the token "boobie lady" character. Each character has a weak, medium and strong attack as well as a "Drive" attack specific to each character. The Drive attacks help to extend the abilities of each character's fighting styles, such as draining an opponent's life with a successful strike.

BlazBlue also features two unique special combo attack systems entitled Distortion Drives and Astral Heats. Both are powered by a "Heat Gauge" which is increased as the player successfully lands and receives attacks, among other various conditions. The amount depends on the character, but all of the Distortion Drives take a specific amount of heat to be successfully performed and can be used when defeating one's opponent, which is called a "Distortion Finish". The latter is a special and extremely flashy combo that can be activated only under specific conditions. And for those who find all this too complicated to remember, Arc System Works has included a "Stylish" control option in addition to the default "Technical" option which strings together combos and special attacks for you at the cost of having a much smaller moveset poll to work from.

But enough about the particulars of the series as a whole (which can be found in our review of the original portable version) "“ let's get onto what's in this version of the game. Generally, when one thinks of fighting games on portable systems, they think of an extremely downgraded experienced when it comes to the controls. Thankfully in this case this couldn't be farther from the truth. The controls are exceptionally smooth, even on a PSP-1000, thanks to a toggle option in the game's settings menu which allows for a little more leniency when performing the diagonal motions on the d-pad (analog stick support isn't included like most traditional console fighters likely due to the design of the PSP's analog stick). Local multiplayer (online through options such as the PS3's Ad-Hoc party) performs admirably well, although PSP-1000 owners should note that playing against a PSP-2000 or PSP-3000 owner will induce frame-clipping to keep the inputs in-sync. It isn't a huge issue and there wasn't much Arc System Works could do due to the PSP-1000's lower RAM, but for those who care about that issue and have the original version of the handheld should keep this in mind.As expected, the game's visuals have taken a bit of a hit due to the change in platform. The HD-quality sprites are understandably downgraded to fit the PSP's resolution, although for the most part they look alright and the backgrounds are still animated, unlike other games such as Street Fighter IV on the Nintendo 3DS. The biggest issue, however, is BlazBlue Continuum Shift II's audio. Even with headphones the voices have that "tin can" sound to them. Apparently this was a concession to fit both the Japanese and English voices on the same UMD, which required downgrading both audio tracks. This causes an issue with the game's default settings, as hearing the voices over the music (which doesn't seem to have taken much of a hit) is near impossible unless players lower the volume of the music and raise the volume of the character voices. This concession also forced Aksys Games to remove the data install option found in the original Japanese release due to UMD disc space issues. The PSN version of the game loads quite quickly, but the UMD version has frequent load screens. BlazBlue is a fast-paced fighter, so these loading breaks tend to break up the action.

The rest of the game thankfully fares much, much better. Arc System Works has managed to fit in all of the game modes found in the console version along with a few additional ones specific to just this portable version of the game. For newcomers to the fighting game genre, BlazBlue features an in-depth training mode which explains the basics and more advanced techniques at a quick but easy-to-follow pace. Fighting game staples including an Arcade, Versus, Story and Challenge mode are all available and the Legion mode from the original portable version makes a return as "Legion 1.5", which includes a few minor additions such as the new characters. The major addition to this version, however, is the new "Abyss" mode. After picking your character you fighting against waves of enemies as you travel further down the abyss, fighting against bosses on your way down. Stat and ability upgrades can be purchased from the mode's shop and abilities can be picked as you defeat super-powered enemies on your way down. It's a great spin on the survival mode option found in other fighters and is a welcome addition to the franchise.

Final Thoughts

One's enjoyment out of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II on the Sony PSP really depends on what you are expecting out of the title. While it features the same silky smooth controls of its console brethren, includes the latest console DLC at no additional cost and has new game modes to enjoy, its graphics and audio have taken a noticeable hit and UMD-playing owners will have some noticeable load times to contend with. The gameplay and the wide variety of modes available more than make up for this imperfections and any fighting game fan needing their portable fix would be more than advised to pick up this title. Those who are new or aren't familiar with the genre but can take out the time to learn the game's finer details will also find one deep, involving game waiting for them. This is portable fighting done right.

Controls just as well as the console versions.
Easy for beginners and veterans alike.
No frame rate slowdowns outside of PSP-1000 wireless battles.
The character voices have a
Long loading times on the UMD version due to a lack of a data install option.
Some might be annoyed at the graphical downgrade due to the PSP's hardware.
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