Thursday, 5 August 2010

Game review – BlazBlue: Continum Shift

Today we are going to be looking at Arc System Work’s 2D fighting game, BlazBlue: Continum Shift. With the illustrious Guilty Gear series behind Arc System, there was little doubt that the original BlazBlue Calamity Trigger was going to be a huge success. Well, here we have an updated, enhanced and simply put, better instalment of a very appealing, technical and fun 2D fighting experience.

What BlazBlue offers as a series is a phenomenal roster of diverse and interesting characters, what it lacks in numbers of available characters, it more than makes up for in their technicalities. Continum Shift will give you 12 characters to choose from and a further 3 available by playing through the game and unlocking them. Each character plays completely different to the next and this is a truly unique experience, some characters even holding incredibly intuitive powers and abilities that have never been implemented before in fighting games. For example, Iron Tager has the ability to magnetize his foes so they get drawn to him to allow for effective and devastating close combat. Other abilities are not as intuitive but all fit into the game fluidly, like Ragna’s ability to absorb health using his special weapon. It’s truly satisfying to see that while the game plays so differently to most conventional fighters, the way moves are pulled off feel very familiar and you will easily master the game’s basic play-style with minimal effort.

That’s not to say however, that being good at Continum Shift is going to be easy, on the contrary Arc System Works pride themselves for offering a very technical package, one that can take time to truly master and at times, can be a little intimidating for newcomers. Each character’s move-set is mapped through a weak, medium, strong and drive attack, the latter being unique for every character. On top of this, you are pretty much expected to learn the fundamental mechanics of cancelling attacks, rapid cancelling, juggling and long complex combos. I would be lying if I said this was easy, but it provides a satisfyingly challenging learning curve for those looking for something a little bit more technical from their fighting games.

Fortunately, one of the major improvements Continum Shift has over Calamity Trigger is the introduction of a fantastic tutorial mode. I absolutely loved going through the process because it really makes you feel like you learning how to play the game like a real professional, which means that everyone who comes out of the tutorial should have a good grasp on the technicalities of the game. It offers demonstrations, tips and even in depth character tutorials so you can get personal with your preferred choices as opposed to learning a generalisation of moves and abilities. If you feel that the tutorial didn’t give you enough time to burn the combos and abilities into your memory, then Continum Shift continues to further the learning experience by offering a Challenge Mode that sets you complex combos and moves to complete so you can become an effective combo-executing machine. Once again however, patience and trial and error will be required for the latter stages of both modes, but if you are a newcomer and want the most from your BlazBlue experience, this is almost unavoidable.

Once you’re got a taste of the action, you will probably want to start experiencing true combat and this can be achieved through various modes in Continum Shift. You have your standard Arcade mode that pits you against numerous AI opponents and allows for friends to jump in and challenge you. You can also choose to tackle a story mode but this feels somewhat drawn out and pointless, largely due to the game’s story lacking any depth or substance. Fortunately that’s not exactly what we bought the game for so it can be overlooked, but it seems all too much effort to sit through the boringly narrated cut scene dialogue boxes when you can just play Arcade mode. Of course the best mode is getting a buddy round and jumping into Versus. If your friend can’t make it round, fear not as Continum Shift has incredible online play with silky smooth connections speeds and minimal fuss. It has everything you’d expect from ranked to casual fighting and has plenty of configuration options to set up or join lobbies with different criteria suited to you. Other not so noticeable game modes are Score Attack mode for combo junkies and Legion, which is basically Survival mode.

On top of Continum Shift’s incredible game-play mechanics, it boasts some of the best visuals to date. The beautiful anime art styles implemented by Arc System’s really bring each character and background to life. The vibrant colours shine on the screen and with plenty of varied animations during combat; you will find it difficult to not admire the beautifully structured sequences in front of you. Each character’s Astral Heat finishing moves are just gorgeous to look at and time and time again you will be annihilate opponents in such style that it’s hard to not come back and play over and over.

BlazBlue: Continum Shift is certainly no walk in the park. There are layers and layers of advanced mechanics to be found, implemented and enjoyed. It can be daunting for those just picking up the game as there is a lot to learn, but that can be said for any competitive game, none of us were good when we first played Halo or Call of Duty or Street Fighter, it’s the same whichever game we choose to purchase. The thing with Continum Shift is, all of that hard work is certainly worth the fantastic experience you will become engulfed in once you put the time and effort in. The game rewards you for the commitment and gives back an astonishing experience full of replay value, challenge and fun.

Technical presentation – 9.0

Graphics – 8.0

Game-play – 8.0

Replay value – 8.0

Final score – 8 / 10

CeX UK Contributor

Igor Kharin

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