It seems like just yesterday that there was an outcry from the gaming community regarding the decline of the fighting genre, both in innovation and in the sheer variety of titles available. In the last couple of years that outcry has turned into resurgence, leading to a critically and seemingly profitable relaunching of the Street Fighter series, prompting many publishers to take a second look at the genre. While most developers have opted to recreate or relaunch already established intellectual properties, Aksys Games decided to take a risk and launch a new series with the 3DS becoming the home for the recently ported PSP title BlazBlue Continuum Shift 2.
For anyone who has never played a BlazBlue title before there is a surprising amount of depth to this title as well as an abundance of options that aren’t typically seen in the fighting genre. Because there isn’t a rich history surrounding the franchise whereby we can recall fighting mechanics without playing them for years (Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, etc.), Aksys Games has made sure that anyone that is just getting into the BlazBlue series won’t be left behind by including an in-depth tutorial.
Aksys Games has also created some of the most individualistic characters you will see in the fighting genre, each with their own approach and coinciding with the implementation of a new fighting element. Each of the characters has a light, medium and hard attack, but where this series differentiates itself from other fighters is the fourth option of attack: the Drive Attack. Each character’s attack has a completely different outcome, sometimes not even relating to an attack. For example, one character has a staff that when combined with the Drive Attack can execute a different set of moves. On the complete opposite spectrum, one character’s Drive Attack allows him to transform into a wolf, thereby altering the whole field of defense from the opposing player.
From the attack styles to the character artwork, BlazBlue has really crafted something they can call their own. Characters in BlazBlue range from your typical spiky haired anime looking fighter to large and burly Sasquatch characters all the way to kemonomimi inspired cosplay. The artwork that goes into each character as well as their move styles is really astonishing, but on the small 3DS screen it fails to shine through at times and the added functionality of the 3D feature actually hinders the gameplay overall.
Having just played Dead or Alive Dimension for the 3DS I noticed a small amount of lag once the 3D function was turned on, but on BlazBlue Continuum Shift 2 there is a noticeable drop in frame rate that can really make the game seem to come to a crawl. In the fighting genre, where you learn moves frame by frame, a breakdown in frame rate can unacceptably out of hand. Just playing against the computer can mitigate this somewhat, but once you start to take on real life opponents (through Local Play only) frustrations from misfires instantly set in.
Without an online mode BlazBlue still makes sure there is enough content from their single player modes to keep the player busy. Besides the aforementioned in-depth tutorial, BlazBlue also offers a variety of other single player modes including Arcade, Versus, Score Attack, Challenge, Legion 1.5, Abyss and Story. Arcade, Versus and Score Attack are self explanatory, but the other modes offer a fresh take on some older variations. Challenge mode puts the character you select in missions that need to be achieved in order to proceed. Legion 1.5 creates a type of battleground where you earn fighters along the way, allowing you to create a team of fighters until you reach the end. Abyss is a take on Survival, where you keep going until you are bested, but for each win you are granted abilities or power-ups that may be used to help your chances of survival. For the last mode, Story, you can really tell that Aksys Games has a real passion for the world they have created because you will spend hours going over text and listening to voice-acting that will help flesh out each and every character in their universe, but not before laying a very long foundational narrative.
BlazBlue Continuum Shift 2 does many things right, especially for a newer intellectual property in a genre that is hard to break into, but the problems that stem from its constantly hiccuping frame rate unfortunately make this beautiful attempt a frustrating failure.