Normally, I would start a review with some funny or smart quip that would really set the scene for the rest of the piece. Normally, a good intro can get people in the mood and make them want to keep reading. This time I’m doing things a little differently. The reason you ask? I need everyone to know some really important things before we get started. I don’t want you walking head first into this review with high hopes of finding out about the story and what it may have in store for you. I don’t want you to be disappointed when I tell you I’m still a little confused as to what the story is about or why you should bother with it. I must admit, I walked into BlazBlue Chronophantasma Extend (known as BlazBlue from here on in) without a damn clue what it was about. Now that I’ve admitted that, I want to admit another thing: I’ve finished the story mode and I still haven’t got a damn clue what it’s about (OK that’s not entirely true, I’ve got a little bit of an idea). So with that in mind, let me tell you what I thought about BlazBlue.
Some of the sweetest names in the game: Bullet and Bang
I’m a big fan of anime so when I started the game and was greeted by what can only be described as a sensory overload, I became as excited as a 13-year-old boy promised an over-the-pants peckerhead from his sister’s best friend. To say that the excitement faded rapidly would be an understatement. I won’t go into too much intimate detail but the story mode is essentially a digital comic book that you have a slight amount of interaction with. It wasn’t until about an hour into the story, being confused as hell, that I realised that it was a direct follow on from previous games in the Blazblue series. So, if you’re reading this review and you’re thinking about getting this game for the story, just don’t. Not until you play the previous games, Calamity Tiger and Continuum Shift I & II, at least. If you really insist on getting the game without having played the previous titles the good news is there is a section called ‘Teach Me More, Miss Litchi!’. In this section you are able to learn a little more about the BlazBlue Universe lore which I would definitely recommend doing before ‘Story Mode’. Additional sections under the story category are ‘Remix Heart Gaiden’ and ‘Library’ where you can learn a little more still. Within the main story you have a shitload of content to get through, from the Main Story (calling it an episode would be more accurate) to Anthology, Extended Story and Extended Gag. If you’re looking to get into the fight straight away, give the entire story section a miss and move on to the ‘Battle’ section.
Under the ‘Battle’ banner you have a decent amount of choice available. After sitting through the story (which was about 20 hours all up) I embarked on a journey through ‘Arcade Mode’. What I discovered was soul-destroying. In ‘Arcade Mode’ you can choose a character and get a condensed version of their story in 8 stages. Each stage provides a story and if you complete arcade mode for all 26 characters you will have a pretty good idea as to what’s in ‘Story Mode’. If I could go back to the start, knowing what I know now, I would skip the story entirely and play through each of the 26 character’s arcades. As well as Arcade, players’ can tackle V.S., Abyss, Score Attack and Unlimited Mars modes for even more fighting fun. I’m going to take some time to explain each mode as these really are where the fun happens.
BlazBlue Chronophantasma Extend offers a delicious array of modes and content for fans of anime and 2D fighters alike and where its Story Mode falls down, the battle modes manage to compensate.
First up, V.S. Mode, which is rather self-explanatory. If you’ve played any fighting game before you will be well equipped to take on this mode that allows you to battle the computer or friends to your hearts content. The next mode, Abyss, is probably where I had most of my fun. Abyss is the closest you will come to RPG elements in an arcade fighter. In this mode you choose a character that you will use to defeat waves of enemies, strengthening your chosen character as you battle to the bottom level of Kagutsuchi (the 13th Hierarchical City. Previous games Calamity Tiger and Continuum Shift were set in this area). The deeper you go the harder the opponents become and the more money you can make to spend in the store to strengthen you character. At times, during a fight, you will be approached by a new challenger who, if you beat, will give you four rewards to choose from. These rewards can be boosts to your stats, potions to regenerate health, special powers or money. Your character has four stats that you can upgrade: attack, defence, heat and speed. On top of this you can also equip special power that will give you an advantage in the fight. What is really great about this mode is that your health doesn’t regenerate between fights. The more damage you take earlier on the harder it will be to make it to depth 200. Realistically, to make it to the bottom level you will need to be able to get some health at some stage so when a new challenger appears you are given full health again. The new challenger is generally far stronger than your standard opponent and any health you lose will be carried over when you head back to tackle the depths. In Abyss Mode there are 10 levels, each with 200 depths to tackle.
The next mode is Score Attack Mode. In this mode you again choose a character and then attempt to tackle one of three courses, each with ten opponents with the score you accrue being added to the online leaderboards. The opponents will get harder as you progress but the good news is you will regain full health for each round of two against each opponent. Unlimited Mars Mode is almost identical to Score Attack except you are versing opponents who are infinitely better. BlazBlue also offers a Network Mode to allow players to fight against others around the world in the ultimate test of skill. If you’re looking to get brutalised by a human-controlled player then Network Mode is where you want to be.
The actual fighting mechanics in BlazBlue are incredible. The game runs extremely smoothly and the option of two different control schemes, stylish and technical, means there will be a challenge for beginners and veterans alike. Stylish mode is exactly like it sounds, stylish. In this control scheme the attack buttons L (Light), N (Normal), H ( Heavy) and S (Special) will allow players to perform flashy and damaging combos by mashing them all together, best used for beginners. The technical control scheme will require players to press the right buttons at the right time to get a combo happening which is much, much harder to execute. In-game, depending on the mode, players will fight an opponent over one or two rounds, known as Rebels. On top of the normal fighting buttons, BlazBlue offers a unique system called Distortion Drive. At the bottom of the screen each character has a Heat gauge that fills up as damage is inflicted or received. When the Heat gauge reaches 50, players can unleash a super attack that will consume all Heat and do massive damage to opponents, while granting invincibility to the player during the attack. Another feature in-game is Overdrive. When Overdrive is engaged abilities are greatly enhanced, as are certain specials and Distortion Drives. Smart use of each feature could ultimately determine the outcome of the fight.
Teach me, Miss litchi!
Initial character select
BlazBlue offers an extensive tutorial system as well as a Training and Challenge Mode to brush up on combos and improve the execution of special attacks. Players may choose any of the 26 playable characters to train with and become the ultimate fighter. In terms of design, BlazBlue can only be described as a sensory overload. The graphics are fantastic, as is the character design, but the story execution really let it down. The story is mostly 2D, with the exception of certain (very few) cutscenes that are presented in 3D. The voice acting is satisfactory but there is no syncing whatsoever, instead the 2D drawings just flap their mouths a la South Park Canadians. Knowing there are 3D parts (which you don’t find out until right near the end of the story) really ruined the rest of the 2D sections for me. The story also offers very few chances to actually fight. In the 15-20 or so hours I put into the story I fought only a handful of times, the rest of the time I sat bored because I was confused as hell.
Sweet sweet black outfit!
BlazBlue Chronophantasma Extend offers a delicious array of modes and content for fans of anime and 2D fighters alike and where its Story Mode falls down, the battle modes manage to compensate. There is a great mix of humour and bad-assery in the story mode that will keep you entertained (if you are familiar with the previous games) and the fighting is sure to challenge and, at times, infuriate with its difficulty. The sheer amount of content is impressive for an arcade fighter and the presentation is superb. If you’re looking for a fast-paced over-the-top combo-based fighter then this one is most certainly worthy of your time.
Reviewed on PS4