|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: ARC System Works|
|Pub: Aksys Games|
|Screen Resolution: 540p|
by Joshua Wirtanen
There's just something about tournament-geared fighting games that keeps the development cycle running long after a game's release. Developers just can't resist the urge to go in and tweak balance, readjust combos, and even add the occasional new character or two. Just look at how many versions of Street Fighter IV there have been.
The BlazBlue series follows this tradition as well, and those who follow the series will remember that BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II recently completely revamped the combos in the game to make it more balanced. Well, yet another version of this fighter has been announced: BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II Plus (working title), a PlayStation Vita exclusive. After Sony's pre-E3 Press Conference, I got a chance to try out an early demo build of the game.
As Blaz fans already know, this isn't the first time Continuum Shift has been available on a portable device; BB:CS2 is already on PSP. However, this is the first time BlazBlue has looked so good on one. The PS Vita supports 540p HD visuals, and BB:CS2+ is going to fully take advantage of that. While the PSP version had to make some adjustments to the game's sprites, The Vita version's sprites will be hard to distinguish from those found in the other HD versions. That means you get a perfectly authentic BlazBlue experience on a handheld device. I saw it for myself, and it's beautiful.
And this HD visual scheme doesn't have to come at the expense of choppy play. BB:CS2+ will run at a full 60 frames per second, even during Distortion Drives. You can rest assured; your Vita Blaz experience will be as smooth as it will be pretty.
In my far-too-brief play session, I was only allowed to play as Ragna the Bloodege versus Jin Kisaragi. I'll be honest, I had a bit of trouble, since my character of choice is usually Noel Vermillion (Arakune is a solid choice as well), and I haven't had much of a chance to play with the new combo sets that were tweaked in the recent revamp. However, I prevailed, and Jin went down in glorious 60 FPS on a 540p screen. (To be perfectly fair, the game was at a pretty easy setting.)
The controls felt surprisingly good. Players who have tried the PSP version of BB:CS2 will tell you the controls feel a little awkward, and thumbs tend to feel pretty beat up after a lengthy play session. While I didn't get to test BB:CS2+ for an extended length of time, I was impressed at how well the control scheme translated to the Vita. For players who have spent a more time than I have learning the new combos on the PS3, the Vita controls will feel natural and intuitive. And that's important in a game like BlazBlue—having to re-adjust to new control schemes would make it a lot less fun for the Blaz pros out there.
This version will most likely support online play on the Wi-Fi Vita model. The Blaz team wants this to work on 3G models as well, but this depends upon how smoothly the experience can run over a 3G network. Sacrificing that 60 FPS would be a downright shame.
Up to this point, it may sound like BB:CS2+ is just a direct port of the HD version of BB:SC2. That's not the case. There are some new storylines that will be exclusive to the Vita. There will be six new storylines in all, though it hasn't been revealed which characters will get them. I know a lot of people are clamoring for a Platinum the Trinity story, but we'll have to wait and see if she's one of the lucky six to get more fleshed out in BB:CS2+.
One feature I'm definitely curious about is the game's support of the touchscreen and the back panel touchpad. I wasn't told how touch features would be used in-game—perhaps there would be "easy mode" combos you could access, similar to the tap combos in Dead or Alive Dimensions on 3DS—but the folks at ARC are pretty creative. I'm sure they'll figure out something both entertaining and functional that won't completely nerf the game's tournament potential.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II Plus is the handheld treatment the Blaz series deserves. It looks gorgeous in 540p and the controls feel quite comfortable. There hasn't been a confirmed launch date yet, but fans of 2D fighters should definitely add this one to their collection whenever it releases.
Editor / News Director
Date: January 16, 2012