Werewolves, scantily clad girls with squirrel tails, and an exhilarating music score, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend for the PlayStation Vita has got it all. The BlazBlue series is well-known within the fighting game universe for its eccentric characters, its complex storylines and its abundance of mechanics not too easy on the beginner.
BlazBlue: CSEX is not a new game; it builds upon and reuses assets of previous BlazBlue titles and includes the same characters plus a new one (Relius Clover), music and fighting style. That said, it is the most complete package available on the market right now and surprisingly ported over well to the PS Vita.
BlazBlue: CSEX has a bright and colourful 2D art style with detailed character models. There are a number of beautifully animated stages, ranging from a Halloween-themed stage sporting an enormous castle to a stage featuring beautifully composed hanging gardens. That said, gamers not particularly pleased with anime or manga will not enjoy the hand drawn sprites and visual direction very much.
The battles are accompanied by an extremely energetic, powerful and fast-paced soundtrack, which is a mixture of classical and rock music, filled with fantastic guitar solos and dramatic orchestral melodies for each character (my personal favourite being Iron Tager’s ‘MOTOR HEAD’).
This anime-style fighting game screams with overflowing complexity. Not only is it ever-present in its art style, the story and the game mechanics also present a newcomer to the series with a challenge. There are more than 25 different scenarios to be played, and each sport their own time-loops, a plethora of characters and, dialogue. Long dialogue (if you’re not too interested in the convoluted story, don’t be afraid; you’re able to skip forward until the next flashback or flash-forward).
The combat itself features a number of diverse mechanics which often seem unnecessary or irrelevant (such as guard primers or gold bursts) and while the game presents the player with some excellent tutorials, learning how the game works and using all these mechanics adequately is not an easy job. To get started, inexperienced players could use the ‘stylish’ controls instead of the standard ones. This involves you being able to execute simple combos with only the press of a button. However, it is worth it to master the already fairly simple button layout the standard controls offer you, because it allows for more variety in your gameplay (and is generally more fun and rewarding).
BlazBlue ultimately is a 2D one vs one fighter that presents the player with variety not seen in most other fighting games. All of the 19 characters have a unique fighting style, special ‘Drive’ abilities and ‘Astral Heat’ moves. Ragna ‘The Bloodedge’ wields a gigantic sword that can absorb health from opponents, whereas Rachel Alucard (get it?) is a vampire focused on zoning with different types of projectiles.
The game packs content well worth your money; there are nine gameplay modes, consisting of modes familiar to many, such as story mode or arcade mode. Abyss mode is a game mode where you fight waves of opponents, gathering upgrades along the way and trying to reach the bottom level of the city. New in BB:CSEX is Unlimited Mars mode, a variation of Score Attack mode where you fight extremely intelligent opponents to try and get the highest score. BlazBlue veterans will fancy this new addition, but for most players it is nothing but self-induced torture.
BlazBlue on the Vita supports both ad-hoc and online play. Arc System Works deserves credit for crafting an online experience almost free of lag and crashes. Be prepared to face many experienced BlazBlue players and the frustration that goes hand in hand.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend is a well-executed game mostly suited for fighting game enthusiasts willing to burn time into mastering a crafty work of art- because that’s what this game is. BlazBlue on the Vita sports gorgeous visuals, energetic tracks and a fighting game style that distinguishes itself from other fighters found on the system such as Marvel versus Capcom or Mortal Kombat. The steep learning curve might pose somewhat of a challenge at first, but those who dig deeper find an enamouring and complex 2D fighter.