Monday, 30 November 2015

BlazBlue: Chronophantasma Extend

Developed by Arc System Works and out now on Playstation 4, Playstation 3, PS Vita and Xbox One, BlazBlue Chronophantasma Extend is not, as you may have thought, a random collection of letters that have accidentally formed one proper word. It is in fact the title of the latest entry in the BlazBlue series, a line of colourful anime-styled 2D beat em ups. Tekken and Streetfighter not bizarre enough for you? You've come to the right place!


There are a total of 28 fighters to choose from here, an odd mix of cliches and utterly unique ideas (with uniqueness dominating, to be fair). There's a shapeshifting ghost thing, a cyborg lady who can make swords appear out of thin air at both short and long distance, a chap with a huge sword and equally huge hair, some sort of cat-woman-thing with its face ominously hidden underneath a hood, and loads more. Series fans will recognise those descriptions straight away, and are quite possibly grinding their teeth at my refusal to use their proper names. Give me a break lads and lasses, I have to accommodate those unfamiliar with the series too!


This is a game with an immense amount of content and depth; certainly too much for me to more than dent here. As an example though let me talk about one of my favourite characters, Hazama. This evil hat-wearing chap (I don't think the hat is evil), like every other character, has a unique ability referred to as 'drive'. For Hazama this is his Ouroboros, a spectral chain that shoots out of his chest. He can still deliver bog-standard punches and kicks, but his Drive powers his playstyle. Hit an opponent with his chain, and you can pull yourself directly towards them. Or leap over them to land on the other side. Or leap directly above them, then cancel to deliver an aerial attack. Or immediately cancel the chain without moving, to launch into another attack altogether. Or maybe you've filled your Distortion Drive gauge sufficiently to launch a super-special attack, catching your opponent unawares from a distance. Mess up this or any other move though, and you leave yourself open to a potentially costly counter...

There are all sorts of gauges, techniques and gameplay facets to get your head round, but the excellent tutorial setup will walk you through everything brilliantly if you let it. Anybody familiar with modern beat em ups will already have a good idea of what to expect for the most part. This includes punishment for constantly blocking but not, unfortunately, something in place to punish or prevent cheesy spamming. This is great if you want to breeze through offline modes (unless you try the harder difficulties, which are bloody impossible so far as I can tell). Online, inevitably, there are more spam attackers than you'd like.

Actually finding an online match is a challenge in itself. The online scene for the Vita version is almost dead; and despite the PS3 & PS4 versions featuring online cross-play, the situation is only a little better there. It's a real shame because, as is the norm for BlazBlue, online fights tend to be just as smooth as offline ones. What isn't the norm for BlazBlue is terrible story modes (which incidentally, are oddly absent from the Vita). The dialogue in the main story here is absolutely bloody terrible, the returning 'Teach Me Miss Litchi!' is just kind of boring, and the new 'Remix Heart Gaiden' story is quite frankly embarrassing, encompassing as it does almost every cringe-inducing manga cliché that that some people think represents all such storytelling.


Despite the clear faults – not all of which are the game's fault – I still think this is a fantastic beat em up. That however is because I'm the sort of antisocial weirdo who's happy to play these games offline, with online being a nice bonus but not essential. That said, it's for the same reason that I'm so disappointed with the stories. 

Extend your cash to this one if you're happy to play alone. 4/5.

★★★★☆

Luke Kemp


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