Aksys Games and ARC System Works' BlazBlue series has been around for a while now, starting with the first game Calamity Trigger and its follow-up sequel Continuum Shift (which was upgraded for free to Continuum Shift II for console players). While the developer has stated they are working on the third game in the series, they still wanted to give the series another boost in the meantime: enter Continuum Shift Extend. Even with new playable character Relius Clover, new story mode segments and a bevy of gameplay mechanic changes, one must ask: is it worth the price for players to re-purchase the game at its budget price and is the PlayStation Vita version a solid enough competitor to its console siblings?
For anyone who's played BlazBlue before, it's pretty well known that the game is aimed at the more hardcore fighting game crowd. Generally the combos in the game relie on chains and cancels which should be common knowledge to most fighting games fans, even those who come all the way from the Street Fighter franchise. But the sheer amount of options available to the user is what differentiates it from the other fighters currently on the market. You have specials such as the Distortion and Astral finishes, the drive attack which is unique for each character and functions differently depending on which direction you move the stick and much, much more. So unlike some other games in the genre which map the same controls to multiple characters, each character in BlazBlue is their own unique entity with their own intricacies.
However, none of those would be worth learning if the game didn't teach you the basics correctly and thankfully BlazBlue does this in spades. Unlike Marvel vs. Capcom 3's lack of a training mode in the form of the challenges, BlazBlue has dozens of tutorials which range from the basics for newcomers to the genre, advanced techniques for veterans and even some highly detailed character tutorials that provide an in-depth overview for veterans who want to try out a new character. ARC System Works did include a "Stylish" control option for beginners which allows complicated combos to be executed with a few button presses, however, so even if you aren't a fighting game junkie you'll still have a fun time playing.
Outside of the expected gameplay mechanic tweaks, the main new feature to Extend is the addition of long-time villain Relius Clover as a playable character. Like his son Carl, he has his own controllable puppet that he can wield in battle and plays a little bit more forceful than his offspring due to him focusing more on his own attacks than his doll's. There's obvious similarities between the two for sure, but they both play differently enough from each other so neither feels like a copycat of the other.
Outside of Relius, the rest of Extend's new additions revolve around the story and extra modes included in the game. In addition to the story modes from Continuum Shift, ARC System works has added in a condensed version of Calamity Trigger's storyline with all of the extra non-canon endings removed which is great for those who haven't played the original in a while and need a refresher or who are new to the series and don't want to get confused like they would if they played last year's release Continuum Shift II. The DLC characters from Continuum Shift II and newcomer Relius also have their own story modes so even players of the last title should find something to enjoy here if they are at all interested in the franchise's story. Considering the utter disappointment Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3's story mode was, Extend blows those expectations out of the water and then some.As far as extra modes go outside of the main story, arcade and network options, Extend carries over most of them from the portable version of its predecessors. The multi-floor sprawling "Abyss" mode, which has the player fight through multiple floors as you race towards the bottom, makes its return again in Extend alongside the new "Unlimited Mars" mode which pits the player against souped-up versions of the cast on the CPU's highest difficulty mode. This will challenge even the most veterans fans of the series. Sadly the Legion mode which had you progress on a map-based system fighting against different groups of characters didn't make the jump, but there's still more than enough here to whet your appetite.
An online-enabled fighter isn't anything without decent netcode, and thankfully Extend's is easily some of the best we've seen so far on the Vita. Unlike Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which featured some occasional slowdown during online matches, Extend has silky-smooth matches outside of some minor connection errors pre-match that occasionally pop up from time to time. Unfortunately the options themselves are unusually bare as you only have the ability to choose between ranked matches or player matches which support up to six people in a lobby at any given time.
And oddly you can filter out the Unlimited version of the characters here but can't filter out other options such as people using the newbie-friendly Stylish control option. Any veteran worth their salt shouldn't have an issue with these type of players obviously, but it is frustrating that they have to worry about them in the first place.
The graphics look almost picture-perfect to the console versions and don't feature the static backgrounds or downgraded textures that plague some other Vita titles. There's some minor graphical downscaling due to the smaller screen obviously, but it's not anywhere near as noticeable as UMvC3 was by far. The music and voice acting is just as clear as you'd expect, although there is a weird bug where the sound doubles in volume when you jump back to the Vita's LiveArea or take a screenshot and doesn't fix itself till another new scene loads. It's not game-breaking but it is annoying considering some of the story modes dialogue in particular is especially photo-worthy.
If you are already a BlazBlue fanatic you were already going to get Continuum Shift Extend on the consoles regardless, but if you want to practice on the go this portable version is everything you could expect. And even if you aren't a fighting game aficionado, you'll still have a great time playing with the Stylish control option. You can get rid of all your worries from the previous two portable ports --- Extend is easily one of the best Vita launch titles and is definitely worth your money as long as you don't have an issue with retreading through familiar territory for the second time again.
|Near perfect port of the home console versions.|
|Relius Clover works well as a playable character.|
|Netcode is solid.|
|Modes were taken out.|
|Some of the online filtering options are odd.|
|Sound can bug occasionally.|