Besting the best? BlazBlue: Continuum Shift

Sep 03

I love you, BlazBlue. I loved you last year when you first invaded consoles. I loved your music. I loved Rachel. And now, a year later, I love your sequel.

Yeah, that’s right, sequel. All this time I thought BLAZBLUE: CONTINUUM SHIFT was little more than an expansion. Two new characters and some gameplay mechanics being balanced. Right? Wrong.

BBCS, like Calamity Trigger before it, has this extensive story mode to it. That’s the essential difference between the arcade cabinet and the console port, right? You have this huge story that fleshes out the “main event” and all things leading up to it from the perspective of every playable character. Like that Faulkner book I hated reading in high school. For those among us who can stand the “graphic adventure / visual novel” non-game experience and enjoy it being juxtaposed to the fighting, The story mode of BBCS is fan-freaking-tastic.

"Teach me: Miss Litchi!" (boobie lady!) is back! The entire 8-part series from the first game is on the disc, as are 5 new episodes. Rejoice!

Every character comes with three endings, which can be compared to the film Wayne’s World. There’s the normal (bad) ending, the silly (Scooby Doo) ending, and the True (generally good) ending. This time around, you don’t need to lose in every fight to get 100% completion of each character’s stories (though *some* fights will require it), and there aren’t any secret paths opened with Distortion/Astral Finish. Generally, it’s easier to get around.

AND, most importantly, it is my opinion that the script and voice acting has improved (how? I don’t know!). For people who really want meat behind their favorite playable character in a fighting game, BBCS offers it in spades. You’ll know in full detail where each character stands in relation to any other character very well if you complete all story paths (as I did). That’s very important, since things change pretty significantly from BBCT to BBCS.

Oh, and then there’s the full plot arc. When we left off in BBCT, Ragna encounters Nu-13, shit hits the fan, and they fall in a cauldron together. If you achieved the “true ending” (finishing all character paths first) in BBCT, you learned spoiler***

Noel jumps in too, saving Ragna, and somehow everyone gets out unscathed. Except Nu.

***spoiler end

In BBCS, the hinted-at villain (Hazama/Terumi) becomes a playable character and is, generally, the true villain, though by the time you reach the true ending in BBCS, you see that even he is a pawn to someone with more power and authority over the world. When you see who it is, you will pee your pants. I couldn’t have guessed, only because I forgot about the character in question entirely up to this point. But those rabid fans who dig as deep into this as they do into, say, Battlestar Galactica, may be able to figure out what’s coming before it hits them like a ton of bricks.

That’s all I’ll say about the story mode.

The “balancing” issues were mighty important. Let’s face it: Jin, Nu, and Tager were overpowered. Arakune could be cheap given the right conditions. Carl and Hakumen were generally useless. Something had to be done about this. And generally, I think Arc System Works achieved their goal. I still think Jin is a little over-the-top in his power. All things being equal, a decent Litchi player is still prone to losing to a decent Jin player. You follow?

Oh, and Nu is gone. Though she is a downloadable character, her spot is essentially replaced by a weaker version of her: Lambda-11. Lambda has her own subplot in the story mode, and it’s actually very interesting. Though it’s mostly about sector seven scientist Kokonoe, the “Scooby Doo” ending for Lambda is actually bittersweet instead of off-the-wall hilarious. Robots make me cry.

So hey, how about those two new characters? We already mentioned Hazama. He wears a black suit, has green hair, and his movements in-game feel a hell of a lot like late ’80s Michael Jackson. He’s a smooth criminal, and he’s got an ability that puts Scorpion’s “Get Over Here!” to shame. Able to release up to 2 “Ouroboros” snakes at a time, he can latch onto the opponent, or to plain air, and then swing himself to the destination point. Handy, right? He also has daggers, and in his Unlimited mode he gets a circle of life-draining awesomeness around him. Makes for a hell of a fight on anything higher than “Normal” mode if he’s your AI opponent.

Did I mention that this game is eye-gasm gorgeous? Because it is.

The other playable character is Tsubaki Yayoi. Once upon a time, we’d understand her to be Jin Kisaragi’s girlfriend, and a good friend of Noel Vermilion during their school days. Today, she is a part of the NOL’s “Zero Squadron,” also known as the “Wings of Justice.” Her job is to run around the NOL (Novis Orbus Librarium, aka “The Library”) and assassinate traitors and defectors. We know even at the end of BBCT that Hazama has ordered her to hunt down both Jin and Noel. That is her primary motivation in BBCS, at least at the start. Outside of plot and motivation, her fighting style is … slightly similar to Ragna. Though, she also has a shield-like thing that immediately makes me think of Sophitia from the SOUL CALIBUR series. However, she’s one of these “I can do the same attack in four ways” kind of gals. Almost all her special movies can be performed with quarter-circles and then A B C or D. Of course, if you use D, you’re using Seithr, which is gaged out very particularly for Tsubaki. It’s not to be confused with the heat bar on the bottom. She has her own five-block bar which fills only when you hold D. So you hold D, then you do a special move with the D button, and it uses one of those five blocks. End result? Said special move is enhanced in one of a variety of ways. Her aerial attacks are especially deadly, or so I’ve found.

I noticed one thing about part of their “balancing” of characters: they changed the inputs for some special moves. It used to be easy as pie to use Rachel’s signature attack “Sword Iris.” Some exposition: Rachel can place up to three lightning rods on the field by shooting flowers out of a shape-shifting cat who turns into a cannon (I know, right? Isn’t she the coolest character ever?!). These three lightning rods will all be struck with lightning, simultaneously, with the “Sword Iris” ability. If the opponent is standing near one or more of these rods — well, as they say: MASSIVE DAMAGE. Sword Iris used to be accomplished with something like, down down B. Now it’s something like half-circle back, forward, C. I don’t have that exactly right, but the point is, it’s a little harder to achieve. Being a career Rachel player, this is the one move that comes to my attention, but I did notice a few other characters having their special ability inputs tampered with between BBCT and BBCS. I guess that’s all part of balance. That, and, reducing the amount of damage characters do. Or, in the case of Hakumen, increasing said damage. And explaining the freakin’ Magatama system a little better.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is basically perfect. It is the 2D fighter. And for $39.99 (compare that to BBCT which retailed for $59.99 last year) it’s a steal. Mind you that these days, BBCT will only by $19.99 at most stores, so you can get both games and sit through a hell of a lot of dialogue if you’re into the story mode, like I am. But even if you hate story mode, this game is well worth the money just for arcade mode and online versus mode. The fighting is intricate, and button-mashing will get you nowhere against a player with the slightest amount of skill and knowledge.

BBCS’s only flaw? EXPENSIVE DLC!! I’m all for adding characters via DLC, but don’t dick with me. They’ve announced that 3 characters are coming, and they’re $8 each. So far one is out: Makoto Nanaya. She’s the third in a trio of gals that were friends in school (Noel, Tsubaki, Makoto). Makoto is a beastkin humanoid (half-squirrel). As a fighter, she’s absolutely great. She uses her fists, and her “D” attacks rely on a small gage that fills and then re-empties quickly (like kicking a field goal in almost every football game ever). That’s awesome, right? Well she’s pretty cool. But she’s eight freaking dollars! That’s one fifth the price of the full retail game! And get this: no single-player arcade mode for her! What?! I wasn’t expecting her to get her own story mode, though at $8, I almost find it warranted. But at a minimum, she ought to have an arcade mode where I play through 10 characters and get some basic exposition on her. Nope! She can only be used in multiplayer versus modes. That is weak sauce. Am I going to pay another $16 for Valkenhayn (Rachel’s butler) and Platinum (some kid with multiple personalities)? Not bloody likely! I’ll wait until they’re included in the third game.

Oh oh oh, speaking of! BBCS makes no bones about whether or not there will be a third game. There will be. And it will take place in Ikaruga. Both BBCT and BBCS took place in Kagutsuchi, the “13th Hierarchical City.” The next game will be in Ikaruga, the land of the ninja clan that Bang Shishigami belongs to. The game’s story mode, and even the arcade mode, clues you in to the fact that this place is little more than rubble now thanks to a civil war that ended in some sort of horrific, worse-than-multiple-atomic-bomb-drop mass death. Whatever happened there has piqued the interest of all characters, good and bad, so that’s where we’re going next. I cannot wait, and they share as hell better make Jubei playable.

Before I forget, I should mention that Nu is also downloadable if you want her back from BBCT (I think she’s like $5 instead of the standard $8), and that Mu-12, a character you’ll meet in the story mode, is free but can only be unlocked by getting the true ending in story mode (or, I think, beating arcade mode with all characters). Either way, she’s cheap as hell and totally worth it. While Lambda and Nu are essentially the same, Mu plays with a completely different weapon type and is almost unstoppable, especially in unlimited mode.

Oh oh oh! One last thing! Do you feel like you can’t get into this game because the complex combos require all sorts of charts, graphs, and practice? They actually introduced a “beginner mode” that you can flip on that turns your assigned buttons into combos. So button mashing CAN work, if your opponent agrees to let you use beginner mode. Even then, though, you better know when to execute them or you’re screwed.

Go get this game. Play it a lot. Be happy. But beware the DLC. It does not get to be a part of the perfect 5-star ranking! Makoto SHUN!!!

Played: 30+ hours
Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Price: $39.99

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