Review – BlazBlue: Continuum Shift

If it weren’t for news of a thorough tutorial mode being included in the sequel to BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, I wouldn’t have picked up Continuum Shift. As much as this may look like a Street Fighter style game, it plays completely different and I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

A year later, it’s back with a few new characters, new stages, balance tweaks and a great tutorial mode, which I’ve already written about in great detail. However, is there enough here for new players and seasoned BlazBlue veterans alike to continue the fight?

Watching high-level BlazBlue action is a thing of beauty. Besides the gorgeous graphics, the gameplay systems in place allow for some of the craziest action you’ll ever see in a fighting game. I am nowhere near good as the players in the video, and probably never will be. However, the game is still fun for a BlazBlue scrub like me. On top of that, between tutorial and challenge mode, I feel like the game can help me get to that pro level, should I dedicate myself to improving. As I said in my tutorial post, all fighting games should have a tutorial mode that is at least as good as the one found in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift from now on.

Even if you don’t want to memorize long strings of combos, reset setups or play with any sort of strategy, there is a masher-friendly beginner mode that turns your inputs into special moves and combos without any extra work. You’ll never get as far with beginner mode as you would by learning the game, but I think it’s a great inclusion.

What I like most about BlazBlue is the character roster. Not only do all of the characters have a lot of personality, but they all play completely different from each other. It’s not like Street Fighter, where if you play Guile, you can figure out how to play as Balrog or E. Honda. Every character has a completely different move set with very different button inputs. This makes the game feel fresh, but it also makes it a lot harder to learn the game up-front. You will have to spend more time with each character to learn them on a base level than you would with a Street Fighter, and you’ll need to remember way more special move commands. I would recommend that if you’re just starting out, find a character that you like and learn everything you can about them before moving onto the next character.

Most of my time playing this game is with my brother. Even though we’re still newbies, we’re having fun with it. I’ve heard that online play is still great, but I have yet to try it because I don’t think I’m good enough to hold my own just yet.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift offers a number of single player modes as well, should you not want to fight human opponents. Arcade mode is what you would expect, with a few story bits that can be skipped. Story mode is the meat of single player, but it’s not for everyone. At it’s core, BlazBlue tries to tell an epic story that ties the fighting together. Outside of Mortal Kombat, I can’t think of a game with a story as intricate as this. Unfortunately, it’s excessive, poorly written, poorly voice-acted and poorly paced. It’s almost like the developers wrapped this great fighting game into the worst Japanese anime ever. The story mode is greatly affected by this. You’ll often sit through 10 minutes of dialogue, then fight one round, then sit through another long stretch of dialogue. You spend more time watching cut scenes than playing.

Making matters worse in story mode is the fact that you have to play through the story mode with a certain order of characters. This is where the unique roster really gets problematic. Even on beginner difficulty, you can’t really fake your way through the story mode with characters you don’t know how to play as. Should you want to proceed with this mode, prepare to spend some extra time training with everyone to make it through.

At this point, I don’t see the BlazBlue series ever surpassing my love of Street Fighter. That’s fine. If you’re looking for a different flavour of 2D fighter, this one is a lot easier to recommend than its predecessor. The game still looks great, plays great and tries really hard to help you become good at it (or at least have fun mashing buttons). Veterans of Calamity Trigger will probably enjoy this more for its balance tweaks, new characters and new stages. It also doesn’t hurt that this game launched at the same discounted price point as Super Street Fighter IV. If you’ve had any interest to try this series out, Continuum Shift is your best bet.

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