The BlazBlue series started with the suffix Calamity Trigger very late in 2008 in American and Japanese amusement arcades.
It then received a console port and a sequel called Continuum Shift. As makers of 2D fighters are wont to do, Arc System Works followed up Continuum Shift by iterating upon it, first with Continuum Shift II and now with Extend.
Unsurprisingly, Extend is a very similar title to the previous release, right down to the menu layout. For BlazBlue fans and the fighting game hardcore, it tweaks a few systems to better balance characters, but most won't notice these improvements.
If you're new to the franchise, then BlazBlue is essentually a faster paced Guilty Gear: a tale of heroes and villains making their way in an environmentally compromised world, fighting one another to secure a powerful weapon named the Azure Grimoire.
It's a clichéd setup and in the more serious moments of the lengthy Story mode it usually devolves into golden era Toonami Japanimation rubbish: all reluctant anti-heroes, exaggerated posturing, and "is that so... brother!?!" nonsense.
At least the production is high quality, with solid voice-acting and and cut-scenes created by respected studio Production I.G.Hot package
Extend's fighting engine is once again tight and full of combo possibilities for the top-tier players. BlazBlue places a significant amount of emphasis on stringing attacks together rapidly, spotting a weakness in an opponent's strategy, making a well-timed strike, and punishing his mistake severely.
Light, medium, heavy, and Drive attacks form your arsenal, Drive attacks often coming with special properties, such as draining an opponent's health and using it to replace your own. As you build your Heat Gauge with landed strikes, blocks, and so on, you gain access to Distortion Drives, the equivalent of a Super in Street Fighter.
A step up from these is Astral Heats, a brutal finisher should you meet very specific conditions, such as having already whittled your opponent's health down to 30 per cent and built a full Heat Gauge.
Rapid Cancels will consume this Heat in the meantime, while also allowing you to interrupt almost any attack you've thrown with another move, linking together previously impossible sequences.
If this ability has you excited then BlazBlue is very much built for you. It's amazingly deep and immensely rewarding for those who grasp its intricacies.
This shouldn't put off newcomers, though. Extend has a detailed interactive Tutorial mode and character-specific Challenges that teach every level of play, as long as you're prepared to put the time in.
And there are many different ways to put that time in. In addition to those modes already mentioned there are the standard Arcade, Versus, Score Attack, and Training modes, along with Abyss, which takes on a few team-building elements, and the brand new Unlimited Mars, in which you square off against super-difficult opponents consecutively, uploading your total score online.Take it to the streets
As well as leaderboards, Continuum Shift Extend also features full online competitive multiplayer. The encounters I had were mixed: some were laggy from start to finish, some wobbled in the early moments of Round 1 and were then fine, and some showed no issues at all.
Matchmaking was flaky - searching for a Quick Match had me up against opponents at a far higher skill level far too frequently.
If you dipped into the previous BlazBlue outings on PSP or 3DS and didn't gel with them, there isn't anything here to change your mind. But if you're a fan of BlazBlue's showy, combo-heavy combat then the increased fidelity of the visuals, Unlimited Mars mode. and adequate online features are enough to justify a purchase on Vita.
Should you have missed out on the series thus far, this is a good choice for a 2D brawler, as long as you're willing to commit serious time to it.