Bargain Gaming – Blazblue: Continuum Shift Review

Posted on Aug 04 2011

Ah, fighting games. How can a genre be so incredibly enjoyable, yet utterly frustrating at the same time? If you’ve read my Marvel vs. Capcom 3 review, you’ll recall that I am what is politely known as a button-masher. I have very little skill when it comes to fighting games and even less patience when it comes to learning the different commands and combos necessary to be proficient in such games, yet despite this I find myself inexplicably drawn to these games, like the oft-mentioned moth into the flame. Whether it is because of my nostalgic memories of playing such games in the arcades when I was a child or some other unknown reason, I find myself craving these games even though I already know that I won’t be any good at them.

It is because of this strange masochistic streak of mine that I have played a large swath of fighting games over the years and have enjoyed most of them (though mastered none). One of my favorites in terms of style has been the Guilty Gear franchise, as their unmistakable character designs and balanced yet individualized fighting styles appeal to me greatly. So, when I heard that Blazblue: Calamity Trigger, a new game from the same team that produced Guilty Gear was to be released, I was ecstatic. And while not quite as robust as its predecessor, BlazBlue still possessed a diverse cast of characters, with enough variation in play styles to keep everyone happy while still maintaining a solid balance. It was a fun little title, and if you like arcade fighting games I definitely recommend checking it out. Despite this it wasn’t until recently that I finally picked up the sequel, Blazblue: Continuum Shift for the PS3 (also available on the Xbox 360) when I found it on a clearance rack. I couldn’t recall why I hadn’t picked it up before when I had enjoyed the first game so much, so I grabbed it and took it home, excited to see how the series had further developed.

Let’s start with the positives, shall we? Continuum Shift has maintained the play style of the original title, with all of the characters maintaining their unique fighting styles while still being balanced amongst each other. And though a bane to my existence as a button-masher, this variety offers a lot to veteran fighting game players to sink their teeth into, as just mastering one or two characters takes a good amount of skill, let alone mastering the entire roster. If you’ve played the first game then there’s not much more to say in this regard, but for those newbie’s out there suffice to say that there is a character type for every play style. This remains one of the series’ strengths, and while I would normally complain about the lack of innovation, for a fighting game series this is almost a necessary fault, as displacing the balance of a combat system can at best confuse veterans and at worst break the game in question. As such the game still scores high for its overall mechanics, as they remain as solid as ever.

The game’s aesthetic also scores well overall, as the original sprites return in all of their original glory. The musical score doesn’t quite reach the glory of its Guilty Gear predecessors, but it still strikes a good balance with its J-Pop/electronic style. Add to this some decent artwork that was done for the characters and different game endings, and you have a fun visual flair that stands out amongst its peers within the fighting game genre. The only downside I can think of in this regard is in some of the game’s cut scenes in the story mode, as they seem out of place when put into the context of the rest of the game’s art style. They’re not bad or anything, but they just don’t gel with the rest of the game, and as such strike a bit of a sour note for me.

By now you’re probably noticing a theme here, in that not much has really changed since the first Blazblue, and that is my main issue with this title, as it really doesn’t have that much to offer to players who had already picked up the first title. Going back to game play for a sec, while it’s true that there’s not much that can be done to preexisting characters without potentially breaking the game, you know what can still be done? Expand the character roster! And here Continuum Shift begins to show its true colors, as it only has three new characters, of which two are available from the start. If nothing else the game still could’ve surpassed the original version if it had expanded the roster sufficiently, but it fails to do even that. Three characters are hardly worthy of DLC after all, let alone a whole new title.

Surely the game must have something else to offer, right? And I’ll admit that the game has two new modes at its disposal, as well as a whole new story mode. The problem is that none of them are particularly well done. Let’s start with the new tutorial mode, where players new to the series can learn how to play for the first time. While it is nice having one of he characters, Rachel Alucard, instructing the player while in character, it doesn’t make up for the tedious nature of the mode or the fact that it describes the controls in a different button set than the ones on the controller without referencing which buttons corresponded to which. As such the mode was mostly useless to my friends and I, as it really only served to bore us and even hindered us as we were forced to waste time experimenting with the controls just to follow the instructions.

The other new mode, dubbed Legion Mode, is fun at first, as you navigate your character through a series of battles, gathering up allies from your defeated foes and slowly taking over the map. However there are only three maps with the same enemies every time you play them, meaning that the novelty quickly wears off in the face of limited replay-ability. If it had been fleshed out a bit more it could’ve helped make the game on its own right, but as it is it’s just a distraction, something to do once and never again.

The final addition, and in turn the final nail in this game’s metaphorical coffin, is the story mode. Not in that there is a story mode (I always enjoy the addition of a story mode in any genre after all), but in that it is inferior to Calamity Trigger’s. Calamity Trigger’s story mode was really just an extended arcade mode with branching paths, striking a nice balance between dialogue and actual fighting. And this served the game well, as it provided a decent challenge while still giving the player something to sink their teeth into. The new game’s story mode doesn’t quite grasp this nuance though, instead focusing on the dialogue almost to the exclusion of the fighting. But even this could be forgiven if the story itself wasn’t so dang pretentious and, in many cases, nonsensical. I actually found myself fast forwarding through the dialogue because I didn’t want to subject myself to it anymore, desiring a fight that seemed to take forever to come.

Despite all of this however, Continuum Shift is still a solid title; complete with everything that made Calamity Trigger a great game in the first place. So why am I harping on it so much? Because nothing that was added to Continuum Shift couldn’t have just as easily been made available as DLC for the original game and at a more reasonable price. At the end of the day three new characters and modes just doesn’t justify a whole new game, which is why, in retrospect, I didn’t pick it up back when it first came out. It’s still a good game, and I definitely recommend it if you haven’t played the original title, but for fans of the series it just doesn’t offer enough of an incentive to buy what is effectively the same game twice.

Thus my final verdict is to pick this title up only if you haven’t played the original game: Blazblue: Calamity Trigger. The tutorial mode, while not worth it for me, does make it more accessible to new players, and the additional content, wile minor, makes it worth looking into this title rather than the original as the two versions are currently selling at about the same price. Otherwise save your money for a title with a bit more of a twist to it, like one of the Guilty Gear games.

In any case, I hope this helped you fighting game fanatics decide on whether or not this title is worth adding to your library and that I’ll see all of you guys next time! Until then, this is Bargain Gamer, logging off!

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  • JawnVick August 5, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    I love this game and the first one. It feels like a puzzle and a fighting game all in one. If you become skilled you can finally deal with the infamous button mashers with relative ease. And I LOVE THE CHARACTERS! It seems like every one here is like some anime sterotype with a few tweeks to keep it interesting. Also my favorite character to play is saddly a DLC. That would be Valkenhayn R. Hellsing. His combos and fluid movement are amazing between human and wolf movements.

  • JawnVick August 5, 2011 at 5:37 PM

    Also I forgot to mention one of the best parts of this game is the soundtrack. The musical score by Daisuke Ishiwatari is brilliant and vibrant. I highly recommend hearing it more often. *hint hint*

    • Bargain Gamer August 5, 2011 at 9:58 PM

      I must admit that I did enjoy the soundtrack, and would be more than happy to check it out in greater depth. I dunno if we have Ishiwatari’s stuff up on the radio, so you might want to recommend it in the forum thread if you’re interested.

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