Last year, the deep and wild 2D fighting of BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger made the game a favorite among those who like their characters crazy and their action complex. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is more of a refinement of the original game than a full-fledged sequel. It introduces some great new modes that make the action more accessible to newcomers, and the new characters and balancing refinements ensure that this is the version of BlazBlue you should own.
As with Calamity Trigger, the greatest asset to Continuum Shift is its tremendously diverse roster of fighters. With 12 returning characters, two new ones available from the start, and a third who can be unlocked or purchased, BlazBlue doesn't have the largest stable of fighters to choose from. But what it lacks in number it more than makes up for in variety. Each fighter feels significantly different from the others, and they run the gamut from accessible characters with movesets that will feel quickly familiar to anyone who has spent time with fighting games, to characters with truly strange abilities that make them considerably more difficult to master. Among these are three new characters who fit right in. Tsubaki is a swordswoman with a shape-changing blade who has some effective combos that are easier to pull off than those of other characters, and whose special ability temporarily increases the power of her special moves. Hazama is a snappy dresser and one of the tougher characters to play effectively. He can unleash a snake-like tentacle called Ouroboros which lets him close the distance between himself and his opponents very quickly. Mu, the unlockable character, is an outlandishly armored fighter whose special ability is placing turrets that blast her opponents. If placed strategically, these can make for some very effective traps, and make her a force to be reckoned with in the hands of those who can use this tricky mechanic well.
Newcomer Tsukabi is welcomed to the roster by Makoto.
Each character has weak, medium, and strong attacks, and a drive, which is a special ability. Those unique abilities are the most dramatic thing that sets BlazBlue apart from other fighting games. On top of that, there are a large number of other mechanics in BlazBlue that can be daunting for newcomers. Heat gauges, barrier gauges, guard primers, and more are on the screen at all times, and making sense of all this is not easy. Making things more difficult is that BlazBlue's fighting system is technical, placing a heavy emphasis on cancels, juggles, and long combos that cannot be escaped. Those who spent a lot of time with Calamity Trigger may notice Continuum Shift's adjustments, but one the whole the refinements are quite subtle. There are new moves for each character, as well as changes to the way the game handles some of the more advanced techniques, yet Continuum Shift's core mechanics feel very much like those of its predecessor, which is no bad thing. It does mean that BlazBlue remains one of the more inaccessible fighters out there, though, and it can be intimidating, even for those who have spent lots of time with other fighting games. Thankfully, Continuum Shift introduces a few modes that make learning the ropes somewhat easier.
The Tutorial mode goes over everything, from the most fundamental basics of character movement, to detailed information about each character's specific movesets and combos, letting you select only those lessons you think might be of use to you. The lectures about all of the various game mechanics are a bit dry and long-winded, but the Tutorial mode is nonetheless a welcome addition. It's also nicely complemented by another new addition, the Challenge mode, which which makes you perform a series of increasingly difficult combos with your selected character. You can display the command inputs on the screen and watch a demonstration of the moves if you're having difficulty nailing the timing. Together, these two modes make an effective and full-featured training tool.