Top critical review
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Excellent, except for one critical flaw that brings it seriously down.
on August 10, 2012
Nearly everything about this game is a perfect rendition of the console port. Every single thing is intact. And it's BlazBlue on the go. How can you go wrong?
Well, you can go wrong by removing the best mode there was in CSII and then making the remaining unique mode unplayable.
CSII had an absolutely wonderful version of Legion, called Legion 1.5, which was by far my favorite mode. I won't go into what made it wonderful because that's not really relevant in this review. Let's just say it was my preferred mode when I wanted to pick up and play, and beating it on harder difficulties was massively rewarding. Also included was a mode called Abyss, in which you "descended" level after level, with enemies always getting gradually harder until you reached the inevitable boss character, and you would have items much like an RPG. While its difficulty was obscene and a single loss brought you straight back to square one, it was alright, but my real love remained Legion 1.5.
So, what's the problem in this EXTEND version? First, Legion is completely gone. Poof. In its place is a pathetic excuse for an extra mode called Unlimited Mars, which is literally nothing more than fighting a series of boss characters with the difficulty jacked up to 11. It's totally impossible for all but the most skilled fighters, making it largely inaccessible to practically everyone.
So we get Abyss mode, which, theoretically, might not be so bad. It would be nice if they didn't have sudden difficulty spikes that would immediately remove all progress you had made up until that point, but no such luck. You still lose *everything* after one loss, and your only option is to start over with the possibility of finding your stuff later. But here, that's not really the problem. I could even live with that. No, the problem is that it's so poorly created here that it's totally unplayable.
There's a very simple reason why Abyss doesn't work so well on a handheld, even worse than the console version. See, you descend ten levels at a time, every level reflecting how much damage you're doing, or how many hits you're getting in.
Which would be fine, if not for the fact that ten levels is about three-quarters of a normal opponent's life bar, upon which you will face a boss character. See where I'm going with this?
Loading screens. Good God, loading screens. You'll be looking at loading screens longer than actually playing, since you'll *constantly* be switching to new matches without even finishing a single round. And even if you somehow managed to win that round, the counter doesn't reset, meaning that the next few taps you make against your next opponent--after the loading screen, of course--will follow up with *another loading screen*. Beat the boss, and guess what? Back to the loading screen for a new match. Beat up your opponent enough, here's another loading screen. Win anyway, and you'll get what amounts to *two loading screens practically in succession*.
Now, the console version does not suffer quite as bad due to shorter load times. However, the real problem isn't loading so much as the ten-level rule. Ten levels to reach each boss, which is calculated in hits instead of the number of opponents (which it should be, with saving opportunities in-between), makes for so much loading that it's simply unbearable. Why couldn't it be just ten opponents with the last one being a boss? Would that have been so bad? Why does the game insist on interrupting matches to take you to a boss level without even beating the previous battle? Who actually appreciates having their matches completely interrupted so as to never be completed, only to go up against a boss that is either laughably easy, or impossibly difficult, with no opportunity to save?
It's unplayable. Abyss was never properly designed, and the assault of loading screens just makes it even less fun. In concept, it wasn't a bad idea--add an RPG element to a kind-of survival mode. But it's done so poorly that it doesn't work at all, the point where I can't imagine anyone would have the patience to sit through what often accounts for twice the loading times of any other mode.
So, let's say you're like me, and you've already unlocked every single thing in the story mode there is to unlock. Everything's at 100%, and you just want to fight now, preferably in a survival mode. Well, this game's idea of a survival mode is just intolerable, meaning you'll probably just be doing arcade mode, which just...isn't the same. Also, with the absence of Legion, you can't build a team of fighters to fight for you, so you can't switch characters on the fly so one can heal while another fights. Legion was the best mode in CSII, which leads me to bafflement toward who thought it should be replaced with the ridiculous and largely useless Unlimited Mars mode, along with an unplayable Abyss mode.
If we had a version of Legion here and a playable version of Abyss, this would be an easy five stars, no problem. Everything is perfected down to the excellent networking system that manages to keep things flowing smoothly in online or ad-hoc matches. The new characters you can play with, Relius and his gang (and Makoto, Valkenhayn, and Platinum, in case the wildly overpriced DLC didn't turn you away with CS, and you didn't bother with the PSP-exclusive CSII), all of which now have their own story modes, is all good.
The bottom line: Newcomers to BlazBlue, this is your version. People who own CS with its DLC or CSII? Well, you really don't need this version at all. It has minimal updates, and most of them actually make the game worse off, nearly to the point where its previous version would be a better choice, if it wasn't PSP-exclusive, and so had compressed audio and video so bad that it was distracting.
A poor successor to Continuum Shift and its faux-sequel, Continuum Shift II, but still is good on its own right. But, God, why did they make Abyss so bad and just get rid of the best mode? It'll remain a mystery.