Arc System Works’ line of fast paced 2D fighters continues with Blazblue Chrono Phantasma Extend. This is an enhanced version of the base Chrono Phantasma game with new additions and changes. While returning veterans will still find themselves right at home, the Blazblue series has never been more newcomer friendly.
Let’s start off with what you see when you first start the game, the main menu. Here, you’ll see various modes scattered and categorized. The categories found here are Practice, Story, Battle, Network, Collection, and Options.
Most people will want to start off with the Practice category. The modes here are “Tutorial”, “Training”, and “Challenge”. In the tutorial mode, you’ll find numerous lessons to partake and learn about the game; it’s very in-depth and not only teaches you about Blazblue but also fighting game mechanics in general. One thing I really appreciated from the tutorial mode is that it’s fully voice acted and you have different instructors teaching you – so unlike tutorials for other fighting games, it was pretty lively and engaging.
For those not looking to invest the time in learning the game though, you’ll only need to take two lessons to learn how to use the Stylish control scheme.
Stylish controls are where the game shines in appealing to those not familiar or very good at fighting games. This control scheme will allow you execute crazy combos with a few button presses, so mash those buttons to your heart’s content! Stylish controls are not available for every mode though, only select ones like Story mode for example.
Continuing on with the Practice category, “Training” mode will allow you to practice your combos freely with a stationary opponent or you can change the settings around so they perform specific actions. In “Challenge” mode you’ll be able to select a character and challenge yourself to complete various combo strings or conditions for the specific character you chose.
Now on to the Story section of the game, which is essentially the “meat” since there’s a ridiculous amount of content here. A fair bit of warning should be issued here however, as the story mode is not included with the base game (at least in the digital version it isn’t – I’m unsure if the retail version is the same). You have to download the “BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma EXTEND Story Mode & Gallery Mode” add-on free from the PSN to gain access to the story mode, and it’s a whopping 2.1GB.
For those not familiar with Blazblue’s story up to this point, in a certain tab in Story mode you can get a recap of the events that happened in the previous two games (Calamity Trigger and Continuum Shift). Narrated by none other than Rachel Alucard, this recap was very entertaining; I didn’t actually need to view it myself since I was already caught up, but I watched the whole thing anyways and the character interactions were just superb.
If you want to go even more in-depth with Blazblue’s story you can check out a mode called “Teach me more, Miss Litchi!”. Here you’ll have super-deformed (SD) characters go over the game’s lore in a comedic fashion. They’re very self-aware and their interactions had me chuckling constantly.
Now moving on to the actual Story mode. Chrono Phantasma Extend continues off the events that occurred in the previous two games. Trying to summarize them myself in a way that makes sense would be very difficult so I’ll save you the pain – the recap is there for a reason.
For this game though, “Chrono Phantasma” are The Phantoms of Time; they are those who possess a different future from the one they originally should have. The story here goes all over the place with time travelling and can quickly become convoluted – it’s very typical of one that you’d see often in shōnen manga or anime. That’s not to say it’s bad though, as it’s executed very well. The story takes quite some time to pick up but once it does, it’s very entertaining. It has a variety of scenes so it isn’t all non-stop action; there’s plenty of humor, sadness, mystery, and yes – even a dose of “fanservice”.
Moving on, I’ll go ahead and address the negatives I found in Story mode. Regarding the graphics, there’s something that bothered me quite a bit here. First off, the story scenes in this game are presented in a visual novel format; so you have a textbox, some characters talking, sometimes CG scenes for events, and so on. One thing that happens quite often here however, is that the camera zooms in to the faces of the characters. What’s so wrong about that you ask? Well, take a look at these images.
It may not be immediately apparent here, but the problem is that the image quality worsens when this occurs. Since it’s constantly switching between a zoomed-out view and a zoomed-in view, you’ll have crisp image quality one second and then suddenly it’ll go blurry once it zooms in. The character art doesn’t seem to scale at all with the resolution, so it’ll end up looking like you’re playing an up-scaled PSP game on a Vita at times. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s certainly very awkward to look at.
The pacing of the story is very strange as well. First off, let me say that the story mode for this game is long for a fighting game – I’m talking RPG style dozens-of-hours long. You could take out the story sections and make it into its own visual novel essentially. Because of this though, the pacing suffers; in one chapter you’ll have extended sections of only dialogue and then just one fight, and in a different chapter you’ll have five fights in a row with a very limited amount of dialogue sections.
The story mode was great though, and the sections at the very end in particular were so satisfying. But wait, you’re not done with story mode yet – there’s actually an “Extend” story mode you can go through with more content if you please. But why stop there? There’s also another section with “gag” stories separated from the main one. Oh you thought I was done? Nope, you guessed it; there’s even another mode with even more story content – it’s called “Remix Heart Gaiden” and has a separate story taking place in the military academy with a different protagonist.
Whew, that’s quite a lot of story content there isn’t it? It’s no wonder the mode requires a separate download.
Next is the Battle category. Most of the stuff here consists of the standard fighting game modes you’d expect. The Arcade mode has you fight a certain arrangement of characters depending on which character you choose (there’s also even more story here, haha – each character has their own Arcade events and ending). Versus lets you fight one on one against a character of choice. Ad-Hoc allows you to face other people via… well, ad-hoc. Score Attack has you compete for a high score on the leaderboards. Simple, right?
Now Abyss mode is something that most won’t be familiar with. Here you’ll defeat waves of enemies while being able to strengthen your character’s stats along the way. You’ll continue descending until you reach the bottom level of Kagutsuchi.
Unlimited Mars Mode is Arcade mode but with very intelligent AI, and lastly Highlander Assault Mode is a special mode where you face off with the final boss from story mode. Unlike story mode though, you’ll be able to choose whichever character you want to tackle him with.
Now for the category the competitive players will be interested in – Network Mode. Here is where you’ll go online and face off with other players. You can choose between Ranked Matches or Player Matches. In ranked matches, you’ll queue up and wait for someone to challenge you – pretty simple stuff. Player matches though, take place in lobbies. These lobbies are customizable by the host and you’re able to challenge players, chat, and spectate battles.
From the ten matches I played, the net code seems to be very good; only one of those matches had some lag issues. What’s more impressive is that all those matches were against Japanese players, since I could not find any players from my area at the time. I’m located in the United States myself, so that’s quite a bit of distance.
The last category I’ll go over is called Collection. You can save replays from online battles and watch them again here in the replay theater. The only other thing here besides that is the Gallery Mode. In this game, you’ll earn “P$” by just playing in different modes – and that currency can be used to unlock various things. Unlockables include unlimited character modes, color variations, background music, artwork, and so on.
Blazblue is well known for its anime-styled art, and Chrono Phantasma Extend is no different. The menus are stylish, the character arts are clean, and the backgrounds are beautiful… for the most part (there’s that small zoom issue I mentioned).
The audio is very impressive as well, with various background music tracks and very clear voice acting. There is dual-audio present so those who have a preference can choose between either Japanese voices or English voices, and rest assured they both have great casts. The cast of characters themselves are also all very unique, with the 28 playable fighters feeling quite different from each other in use.
At first glance, the Blazblue series may seem like something only hardcore fighting game fans will find enjoyment out of. In Chrono Phantasma Extend however, there is enough variety here to draw out all types of people. Although the story suffers from some pacing and graphical issues, the likable characters and superb voice acting is enough to offset it.
Not including all the DLC available (that I didn’t have a chance to get into), the replay value to be found in the title is just insane. Be it the immense amount of story content, the various battle modes to challenge yourself with, or a place to battle it out and connect with people across the world in network mode – almost anyone can find some worthwhile entertainment here.