For figting-game fans, the BlazBlue series is comforting – it’s a staple warm blanket and cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day. With Capcom having long abandoned sprites and SNK struggling to stay afloat while rebooting The King of Fighters, Arc System Works continues to prove that classic-style 2D fighters still have a place in our world. Making a name for themselves via the Guilty Gear series, the team at Arc broke off to craft their own fighting franchise, one that would combine a sense of refinement and polish with the courage to continually take chances.
With BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II, the latest arcade release of the series – along with its character balancing and gameplay revisions – has been scaled down to fit the 3DS. The core elements of BlazBlue are all here; even on a smaller screen, this is still a fantastic fighting game, one that – thanks in no small part to its well-executed “Drive” concept (each character has their own unique ability that can affect the overall rules of gameplay) – definitely stands out from its competitors. Control was my biggest concern, but as much as the 3DS D-pad can feel like a torture device at times, it’s surprisingly serviceable thanks to a much-appreciated in-game option that makes move inputs more forgiving. Why you’re not allowed to use the circle pad for anything beyond secondary features, however, is a totally baffling design decision.
The console versions of BlazBlue have always been known for being rich in content, and Continuum Shift II not only retains extended features like the fully voiced story mode, character challenges, and an extensive tutorial, but also adds two new exclusives of its own: Abyss, a progressive “tower” of battles with options for upgrading your character’s stats, and Legion 1.5, an interesting strategy boardgame where pieces are won or lost via fights. A bit surprisingly, Continuum Shift II doesn’t offer online play. It’s a shame, given that Super Street Fighter IV; 3D Edition proved it can be done on the 3DS, and given how well-known Arc is for their fantastic netcode on consoles.
The 3DS version of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II does, of course, include one feature the PSP version lacks: the ability to play in 3D. It’s an interesting effect; though not as dramatic as it could’ve been, it helps characters stand out for better focus during fights. Unfortunately, this comes combined with another difference from its PSP cousin: an overall reduced framerate, even with 3D turned completely off.