BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is ARC System Works much needed revision of last year’s title, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger. While Calamity Trigger was a fast-paced, unique, and easy-to-pick-up fighting game, the unbalanced roster resulted in only a few of the characters being viable on a competitive (or even casual) level, which led to many players dropping the game after only a short while. Continuum Shift not only addresses the balance issues of the previous game, but adds new characters and tweaks to the overall gameplay system, resulting in a far more complete package.

If you’re new to the BlazBlue universe, you’ll find the game has a small cast compared to other fighting games on the market, but makes up for it with a diverse roster. The four main attack buttons — A, B, C and D — chain together easily to form combos with each character’s Drive attack, which makes each feel immediately distinct. For instance, Arakune’s Drive Attack lets him curse his opponents, while Ragna’s can absorb his opponent’s life with each attack.

Click the image above to check out all BlazBlue: Continuum Shift screens.

Virtually every character in Continuum Shift now has a fighting chance with each of their strengths and weaknesses attuned to the rest of the cast. In Calamity Trigger, the top three most powerful characters — Arakune, v-13, and Rachel — were very strong “zoning-type” characters who could control space on the screen much more effectively than the rest of the cast. That put characters without a projectile or who had to get in close to inflict damage at a serious disadvantage. Arakune had near inescapable corner traps, while v-13 and Rachel could attack from virtually anywhere onscreen without fear of a counter attack. With changes made to Arakune’s Drive Attack, v-13 being replaced by a more refined yet versatile character (Lambda), and Rachel’s damage output decreased significantly, the end result is a much more even playing field.

Beyond the much needed adjustments made to the overpowered characters from the previous game, the rest of the cast received a few tweaks as well. Players who spent a lot of time with Calamity Trigger will find new combos and applications for attacks in Continuum Shift, providing for hours of testing and discovery.

That said, what’s a fighting game sequel without new characters? Continuum Shift adds a handful of new faces to the roster with more on the way via DLC. Hazama uses his Ouroborus to close in on the opponent from a distance and start a close-range assault, while Tsubaki can hold down her Drive Attack to power up her special attacks, increasing her effectiveness from close- to mid-range. The new characters are, of course, a welcome addition, but generally speaking they’re more advanced; don’t expect to master them quickly.

Beyond the numerous changes and additions to the characters, the gameplay system itself receives some revisions as well. Bursting — a technique that allows you to escape combos and even mount an offense — is now a little different. You can only Burst two times per match at most while in the previous game you had the ability to Burst each round. The game starts you off with one Burst and you gain another if you end up losing a round, so you have to use Bursting far more strategically in defensive and offensive situations.

continued, (page 2 of 2)

The Guard Libra system is now known as Guard Primer. Instead of a “tug-of-war” guard breaking system, characters have a set number of primers that have to be removed in order to have their guard broken. This results in new strategies for characters centered on breaking their opponent’s guard.

Another area that Continuum Shift really shines in is its Tutorial and Challenge mode, an excellent way for new players to learn the game and even help veterans learn new characters quickly. The Challenge and Tutorial modes lie somewhere between Super Street Fighter 4′s Challenge mode and Virtua Fighter 4′s robust training mode (which actually taught you how to play the game properly). Continuum Shift’s Tutorial Mode will teach you everything from basic strategies on how to use normal attacks from their most effective ranges to even more advanced mix-up strategies that can be used against other human opponents. After exploring the Tutorial Mode, you can head over to the Challenge Mode where the game runs you through many practical combos to get you ready for battle.

That said, the Challenge Mode can be somewhat frustrating when performing longer combos due to the fact that the game only displays the first part of the combo onscreen until you input some of the later commands. It is sometimes difficult to remember all the attacks and inputs required in these lengthy combo sequences, but luckily the game includes a Demonstration feature where the CPU will show you how to complete each Challenge.

One thing that hasn’t changed about BlazBlue is its excellent netcode, making it one of the most enjoyable fighting games to play online. After playing a number of online matches (even versus Japanese opponents), I didn’t experience a single moment of lag in any of my matches. Like in the previous game, each match starts off with the appearance of lag during the character intros, but once the actual round begins you will experience the smoothest online gameplay out of any fighting game to date. Beyond the excellent netplay, the game also allows you to save your online replays locally, which is critical in reviewing your performance versus human opponents.

If you somehow manage to pull yourself away from the online multi-player for a moment, you will be pleased to see that Continuum Shift contains a number of entertaining offline, single-player modes. Story Mode gives you a look at how each character fits into the BlazBlue universe, while Legion Mode — which debuted in the PSP version of Calamity Trigger — is a strategic mode where you form an army and conquer a map filled with opposing armies.

All in all, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift provides a seamless fighting game experience by offering excellent Tutorial and Training Modes to help you learn your character before testing their skills in the game’s near-flawless online mode. With a diverse and larger balanced character roster than the previous game, DLC characters, and potential balance patches on the way from ARC System Works, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is a solid addition to the BlazBlue series.

Recent Reviews

Deadliest Warrior: The Game Review: “The most disappointing Viking/Native-American crossover since Pathfinder.” Grade: D+

Limbo Review: “A hauntingly beautiful (but ultimately anticlimactic) XBLA puzzle game.” Grade: B

By Neidel Crisan