Did you wake up wanting to play a game that would tell you a detailed story, then kick your ass, then leave you still feeling the effects after you stop playing? Well, the PS Vita version of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend can do that for ya.
The PlayStation Vita has the d-pad ideal for BlazBlue. Pulling off even the most spectacular special moves and combos can be done with 90% accuracy using this bugger. Analog sticks and the d-pads of other systems have given BlazBlue players trouble in the past, but the PSV ends that with the best controls the series has ever had. The only drawback is the indentation it leaves on the left thumb… even 15 hours after I'd stopped playing. Ouch for me.
Continuum Shift Extend comes packaged with all of the downloadable characters that Continuum Shift received during its time on consoles, then adds Carl's father, Relius, to the lineup. The 19 fighters are varied and make up an eccentric cast whose interactions are always amusing and occasionally hilarious. All of these new (or new-ish) characters come with their own new scenarios in Story Mode, which was already packed with half-hour dialogue cut-scenes.
These new characters and extra dash of story content alone doesn't quite justify a $40 upgrade, especially since owners of one platform version can't join the others, but the tighter controls allowed by the Vita make this handheld more appealing to enthusiasts. On the upside, this version has also received the buffs and nerfs necessitated by having a bunch of extra characters running around, which is something DLC and patches haven't provided. For a new BB player, there's no question that this is worth the money, but the established fanbase does have reason to be a bit miffed.
BlazBlue's fights are fast, yet tactical, affairs. It's not out of place to have both opponents back up and consider their next move. In that way, it not only looks like an animé, it plays like one, at times. The lowest-level opponents can be beaten without getting too into the combos, dashes, aerial dashes, and counters, but players will soon hit a wall if they just start mashing buttons; I know because button mashing is my panic reflex the first time I pick up a fighting game, and it almost never worked in BlazBlue.
You have to spend time getting used to the system in order to get good. Unlike in MvC3, losing in BlazBlue is mainly your fault and doesn't have that helpless feeling and lingering dissatisfaction that commonly comes with defeat. Even when losing big—online or offline—I always felt like I showed up to the fight.
Multiplayer is available via ad-hoc or online play, the latter mode oddly being the only place in which a team match is available. Why a team fight isn't available offline is a mystery. These group battles involve up to six fighters, with each player picking one character and joining whichever side that person wants. This allows four-on-two handicap matches or three-on-three matches, though take note that they play out in a series of single fights, with no tagging out or group free-for-all; you might not even fight, especially if you're the last guy on your team. Team match quirks aside, the online play is done very well, and in my week of messing around with it, I never ran into any lag. Arc System Works did an impressive job setting this all up.
Offline, included modes are the same as can be found in the non-extended version of Continuum Shift, all which put a great spin on the fighting. In addition to the expected Versus, Arcade, Time Attack, Endurance, and so on, Abyss Mode lets players take on a string of challengers with the ability to occasionally buy stat buffs. Unlimited Mars sets players against a gauntlet of characters fighting with the supposed AI of a super computer, sure to challenge even the most seasoned vets. Story Mode delivers lengthy (from 5-25 minutes) fully-voiced scenes interspersed with fights important to the plot. Team matches allowing one player to pick three characters and fight three AI opponents may have been a nice inclusion, but what's already present is more than sufficient for any fighter.
If you've never played BlazBlue, then Continuum Shift Extend is the place to start, and there's no better platform to do it on than the PS Vita. If you have previously enjoyed the BlazBlue series, that's a bit of a tougher call and will largely depend on the value of the added characters and increased control allowed by this new system. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend offers a long list of interesting modes, a cast of 19 unique characters, gorgeous 2D visuals, high-energy music, overall solid multiplayer, and most importantly, some very satisfying combat.