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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Review

BlazBlue: CSII for PSP ScreenshotBlazBlue: Continuum Shift II (PSP)

Itís a little bit odd to see a full-fledged arcade fighter on a handheld, but BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II does a fine job of resizing the fighting game to portable size on the PSP. It has a full compliment of modes such as training, online and more and the complete moves and systems seen in the arcade game are included for a robust experience. An extensive roster of characters and their accompanying fighting styles makes for an impressive game with plenty of depth. Many have written off the PSP, but this release shows thereís still life in the old portable yet.
 

BlazBlue has earned a solid reputation among the hardcore gaming crowd over the past few years and its unique style and rock attitude makes it a nice alternative to Capcomís fighters. Surprisingly, the developers at Aksys have chosen not to release the game on consoles, but have instead developed a version of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II for the PSP. The new game stays very true to the familiar style and formula of the previous installments, right down to the now familiar menus and music. While its been shrunken-down a little bit in terms of scale, the depth that it has been know for is still very much evident. The game offers a robust selection of modes with the standard tutorial, arcade, versus and story modes included. One of the more interesting modes is the Challenge mode, where you go against a series of characters, and you increase your stats and abilities while you level up. The gameís story mode is quite elaborate and allows you to explore the background behind each character as their plotlines unfold between rounds, allowing you to enjoy the interesting, if somewhat disjointed plots. Another interesting mode is the Legion, which plays a little like a RTS. In this mode, you can select several different characters to form your legion, then go against other legions to control spaces on a map. As you win battles, the team will conquer the world and take part in a much larger war among different factions. All of the modes in CSII mentioned so far are for single players, but CSII also offers an elaborate Network mode where you can play against other players. In this mode, you can also earn points that you can use to unlock extras, upgrade your character or view items in the gallery mode. Its fairly easy to accumulate these in a hurry and this just opens up the gameís depth even further. CSIIís selection of modes makes it perfectly suited to on-the-go play if you want a quick fix, but also delivers plenty of depth when you want a deeper, extended play session. All of these modes are fairly easy to understand, and the gameís menus and systems are easy to navigate and understand. The online mode is a little clunky if you donít know what youíre doing, but its still not too bad.

Once you get on the battlefield and begin each match, youíll find that CSII offers the most polished and deepest Blazblue title to date. All of the customary standard moves are available, but the gameís super attacks and elaborate guarding system brings on a new level of strategy and depth to the game. Using the standard attacks helps to build up you characterís gauges, and as these increase, youíre able to use the more elaborate, damaging attacks. When you use these, the opposing character can take quite a bit of damage. Another interesting strategy that you can use is the guard move, which allows you to pin down an opponent in a limited area, which makes them vulnerable to attacks, They can counter this with a super move, but its an effective technique when combined with a super attack. CSII gives you plenty of flexibility in how you approach each fight and each character brings a unique set of moves, attacks and specials that you can master, Some are easier to use than others, but the game remains very well balanced, though some of the boss battles can be quite difficult to master. This elaborate system of counters, guards and burst attacks overlays itself on each battle. Itís a bit complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, CSIIís systems make the game fun to play and brings out some very good design elements that help to keep your interest level high throughout. While many fighting games released lately rely on button-mashing to get you through, success in CSII requires some practice and skill, Most players should find the game relatively straightforward once they learn its quirks, so the game is quite accessible. Its definitely a different style than Capcom fans might know, but those whoíve played the developers games since the days of Guilty Gear, which they also developed, should know what to expect by now. While most of the PSP gameís roster is familiar, there are a few new characters in CSII that have been added that help to keep things fresh while not changing the existing formula around too much.

 From a technical standpoint, the game represents an impressive technical achievement that brings the arcade experience to the handheld in style. Most players will be impressed by the vivid design of each stage which mixes 3D backgrounds with traditional 2D player sprites. This creates an effect that is both vivid and stylish. Its animation is excellent as well, with the 2D characters moving with an excellent fluidity that showcases the PSPís screen effectively. The design of each character is pretty cool and they all share a kind of rock star vibe that gives BlazBlue: CSII a unique feel among fighting games. The music is a bit gothic at points and the overall design is a very nice with a coherent, slightly dark feel throughout. The game uses a very good selection of voice-overs with actors who match the fighters effectively. Overall, the presentation is excellent and despite it smaller scale, delivers a highly polished, anime-style fighter that brings a vivid and exciting style to the forefront. While there are many good points to this conversion the biggest drawback comes with the limitations of the PSP hardware. While using the standard d-pad is acceptable, the gameís lack of support for the analog stick is baffling. This makes doing half and full circle motions a little bit harder than it should be, and makes the game feel a little less smooth control-wise than it should. Itís a minor point, but it definitely draws back the experience to a large degree. This slightly annoying limitation makes an otherwise superb port feel restrained and makes BlazBlue: CSII less than ideal in the control department, players who want to play an excellent arcade fighter in the palm of their hand will definitely want to check out this flawed, but otherwise excellent conversion. 

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B-

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