Somewhere between the werewolf butlers and the gun-toting schoolgirls you should realize -- if you haven't already -- the wondrous eccentricity of the BlazBlue universe. Crafted by the folks that brought Guilty Gear into the fighting game space, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend continues the outrageous assault on the senses that its predecessors distributed with reckless abandon. Although much of the content found in this Vita fighter hails from previous BlazBlue installments, a few new additions and gorgeous visuals make this a strong contender in the PlayStation Vita's launch lineup.
As the BlazBlue series has built on itself over time, a little context seems appropriate. The series began on consoles in 2009 with the subtitle Calamity Trigger. A sequel, using some of the same graphical and musical assets, launched with the name Continuum Shift. Other versions of this installment debuted afterward that included the downloadable characters and a few new modes. Finally, Continuum Shift Extend arrives, and represents the most complete package found in the series.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend brims, if not overflows, with complexity. This complexity manifests in almost all aspects of BlazBlue's design, from its massive story spanning multiple time loops to its exhausting battle system. The developers have made efforts to make Continuum Shift Extend as beginner-friendly as possible, but expect to be overwhelmed and riddled with cold sweats when you first boot up.
After peeling away all the complexity, both necessary and extraneous, you have a 2D, one-on-one fighting game left behind. Continuum Shift Extend has so much to offer the courageous gamers willing to get their hands dirty, and chief among those alluring elements is the cast.
With a roster of 19 unique characters, few fighting games come close to the amount of diversity found in BlazBlue. Character-specific Drive attacks fuel this exciting mix of fighters, and each one has a number of special qualities that require specific handling. For example, BlazBlue veteran Carl Clover not only fights his opponents but must also issue commands to his deadly puppet Nirvana. Platinum the Trinity, as another example, randomly equips magic weapons mid-fight, each with its own unique properties.
Mastering just one of these interesting characters requires dozens upon dozens of hours. Mastering all of them requires a genetically-engineered brain and/or some sort of magic lamp. The sheer creativity in this cast alone makes BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend a stellar fighter. The wealth of modes available to this cast simply enhances the flavor.
Few games package their play into so many different shapes and sizes. From the main menu of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, you can select 11 different modes of play, from training and challenges to item-driven survival and network multiplayer. For a fighter with such rich combat, these modes give you more ways to enjoy the BlazBlue experience. Not to mention that almost every character on the roster has his or her own story mode, filled with dialogue, cutscenes, branching paths, and special goals.
To those of you already familiar with the BlazBlue games, rest assured that Continuum Shift Extend continues to engage with lightning-fast play, stable ad-hoc multiplayer, and online support for connecting with other BlazBlue players around the world. Continuum Shift Extend also adds story chapters for Makoto, Valkenhayn, Platinum, Relius, as well as an interactive summary of the events of Calamity Trigger.
A brand new mode, Unlimited Mars, pits you against "extremely intelligent computers." In other words, this mode exists for the masochistic or the mechanical.
Few things stand in the way of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend's greatness. The most obvious roadblock is the sheer density of it all, which often exists just to make BlazBlue more complex. Technical chatter and an infinite slew of names get tossed around in story mode, and many sub-systems within the actual combat ("Guard Primers" and "Astral Heats" come to mind) befuddle those that lack an encyclopedic knowledge of the BlazBlue series.
The amount of recycled content might also disappoint prospective buyers. Although BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend still has almost everything a frothing gamer can dream of, many of Extend's components have existed in past installments.
Wading through BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend’s massive vocabulary and doubly complex battle systems will demand time and patience from any gamer. But the cast powering this engrossing fighter makes all the effort worthwhile, and the huge variety of modes dresses up play in different ways.
Also, you can fight as a squirrel lady that brawls with metal crosses strapped to her arms. Why are you not running to the store right now?