Arc System Works have put their weight behind the Nintendo 3DS, bringing a handheld entry of their award-winning BlazBlue series to the system. However, releasing after the likes of Dead or Alive Dimensions, is BlazBlue Continuum Shift II able to differentiate itself enough from the rest of the pack?
For those familiar with the series, you will be unsurprised that it’s a stunning fusion of striking art styles with a unique roster of anime-inspired characters, each with their own skill sets. You’ll find all the usual core modes nowadays associated with the fighting genre, including Arcade, Versus, Training and Challenge, alongside the unique options such as Score Attack, Legion 1.5 and Abyss.
Within Legion 1.5, players move across a multi-path layout of nodes, besting foes and enlisting their aid in building an ever-expanding list of combatants to choose from as you strive towards an end-goal. It’s a perfect way to experience as many different characters as possible, and better your skills with those that you perhaps wouldn’t normally use.
Abyss encompasses a unique twist of RPG elements, seeing the player progress through the depths of a dungeon fighting increasingly difficult foes. You’ll level your character along the way, either through the occasional item dropped by bested enemies or by using gathered points at the Item Shop to boost Attack, Defense, Heat and Speed statistics. This is an inevitably lengthy mode, but certainly an enjoyable one.
Story mode becomes an undoubted highlight, although perhaps more so for the hardcore, providing a wealth of background information to the now firmly established characters and lore of the BlazBlue universe, itself accompanied by particularly detailed and luscious artwork. Divided into a number of separate narratives, these explore the relationships and interplay between the character roster with humorous, if not over-enthusiastic, voice-over work which serves to break up the extensive walls of text shown within the visual novel. This is then sparsely interspersed with brief one-round fights and multi-choice dialogue options.
Regardless of which modes you choose to spend your time playing, you are rewarded with P$ and Experience points that will allow you to continually level, as well as continually unlocking Gallery content that encompasses music, voices, videos and illustrations from the game.
If you feel the need for a respite, certain modes also allow you to pitch two CPU opponents against each other, giving you the opportunity to kick back and revel in watching them obliterate each other to pieces.
Combat across the entirety of the game is particularly fluid, if not hampered slightly by the lack of support for the Nintendo 3DS’ optimal Circle Pad. In its place though, the D-pad provides the accuracy to pull off even the most complex combination of moves, but it would’ve been welcome for the player to be provided with the option to choose between the two.
You’ll be able to employ a range of moves including Weak (Y button), Medium (X button) and Strong (A button) attacks, as well as the increasingly more visually impressive Drive attacks (B button), alongside throws and the defensive Barrier Block (L button).
A new addition to the combat system is the new ‘Stylish Layout’, allowing players with less confidence in their abilities to perform more complex combos by repeatedly pressing a single button. Whilst something that those more accustomed to the series will probably choose not to utilise, it’ll boost the confidence of newcomers who’ll witness spectacular moves at the mere press of a button.
Regrettably, BlazBlue Continuum Shift II falls into the admittedly well-populated category of Nintendo 3DS titles that doesn’t support online multiplayer, instead granting the opportunity for two players – each with their own cart – to play over local wireless.
If variety were the spice of life, then BlazBlue Continuum Shift II would be a particularly spicy offering indeed. Encompassing a range of varying modes, there’s enough content here that will leave you confident that you’ve got your money’s worth and then some. Whilst a disappointment that online multiplayer wasn’t implemented, the game offers a well-balanced, stylish experience that surely shouldn’t be ignored.