It’s Balanced, but Is It Fun?
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift 2 has finally come to home consoles everywhere. Even though it’s been advertised as a balance patch, it’s practically a whole new game. Characters have new moves, game modes have been changed, few tactics that worked in CS1 carry over, and there’s even some brand new voice acting. So how does CS2 compare to its predecessor?
Well, it’s more balanced at least. Honestly, the first thing you’ll find if you log on to CS2’s servers is a whole bunch of fans screaming about how the game is ruined. Now, you can chalk this up to the rabid, frothy ranting nature of the internet, but this time the whiners have a fair point. The gameplay is more balanced, but it’s far less accessible than it was previously. It’s much more difficult to attain competency with any given character, and newbies will flail around for a long while before they even stand a chance against those with real experience.
Let me explain. The average health of a BlazBlue character is around 10,000 points. In CS1, you could easily string together combos that did around 4,000 points of damage without a whole lot of thought. The majority of gameplay was centered on loops and basic combos, and with a bit of training, most gamers could be basically competent with any character by picking up one or two good strings.
However, in CS2, the damage and hit stun has greatly been reduced. Now combos top off at around 3,000 damage in most circumstances, and few, if any, are basic. Moves rarely repeat themselves in combos and most loops have been taken out. Sure, there are crazy examples of 6,000 damage combos with Noel and Arakune that can still nearly 0-death someone when cursed, but damage and combo length has been reduced, and combos have become more complicated.
This is partially because the properties and damage of every move in the game have been changed, and partially because there are new move properties that we haven’t seen before. In CS1, we dealt with characters wall and ground bouncing. However, in CS2, moves can make characters “wall bind,” which makes them hit the wall and fall down, and “spin out,” which makes them tumble end over end in mid-air.
In a way, this makes the game a little easier to understand. For example, forward throws nearly always put distance between you and the opponent while backward throws do less damage but set the opponent up for combos. This is a much better system than the throws-do-whatever-we-want-them-to-do system in CS1.
However, it actively changes character archetypes, making the game harder for people who already knew how to play. For example, Ragna is no longer an easy rushdown character; he’s become more of a middle-of-the-road, jack-of-all-trades type. Hazama’s basic loops have been removed, forcing him to do most of his damage in the corner. This feels counterintuitive, since it lies in stark contrast to his high mobility. The stupid high damage of Litchi and hard-to-beat mix-up game of Bang have both been removed, but now there are problems with Noel’s damage and Makoto’s mix-up. In fact, I ended up dropping all my old characters and picking up Tsubaki, who used to be one of the worst characters in the game. Overall, the core gameplay is better, but not particularly more fun. At least not at this point, anyway.
The game kind of looks wonky because they didn’t add any new animations. Throws that should make a character crumple to the ground, like Tager’s powerbomb forward throw, instead make them bounce across the screen. Moves don’t do what you would think they would do by seeing their animations, and, as a result, it’s harder to make combos without frame data or other external knowledge. In a sense, it’s become a hardcore game, which doesn’t do much for the longevity of the series.
From a hardcore perspective, however, I’m happy with CS2. Even though I’m frustrated that I have to learn my characters all over again—or switch to new ones—I feel like I’m not a victim of “cheap death syndrome” as often as I used to be. I feel like the notion of a one-hit death has been removed from the game, and there are lots of comeback opportunities for every character on the roster. Tiers are also far closer together, and problem characters are nowhere near as problematic as they were in CS1. Like I said, it’s a better game, and it will probably take most players a while to realize that.
Outside of the gameplay, which is really the main reason for downloading the update, we have a few changes to other game modes. Most notable are the changes to online play, beginning with a generous reworking of the netcode. Originally, you needed to have a perfect connection (level 4) in order to play a decent game. However, now games are far more playable at level 3, 2, and even some level 1 connections. (But you’ll still probably be hating yourself for dropping combos at level 1).
Arc System Works also integrated a number of new online options into the lobby system. However, in my book, one simple improvement tops them all: new canned messages. These one-off messages are basically used to send short emotes to the people you are playing with, and there are tons of new ones now. There are messages that mimic Ragna’s “Gauntlet Hades!” quote. I never get tired of sending my opponents mashups like “Gauntlet Bathroom!” There’s even a message that lets you ask your opponent if you want to stop playing Blaz and fire up some Arcana Heart. It’s a nice touch.
Outside the online mode, the game’s tutorial and challenge modes have been overhauled as well. Whereas the challenges originally catapulted you directly from learning special moves to learning hard-to-execute combos, they now teach you the basics of bread-and-butter combo execution by letting you learn one piece at a time. Combos will have the same start-up or ender across missions, allowing you to understand how each character operates gradually. It goes a long way to actually teaching you the game—far longer than CS1’s challenge mode did.
Finally, there are some cosmetic touch-ups to the game as well, but they are mostly in audio form. Characters have new quotes that they didn’t have before. When Ragna fights Hazama, he says, “They won’t find your body.” That’s pretty badass. There are quite a few other quotes too, but, unfortunately, we don’t get the new arcade announcer with this patch: she has to be downloaded separately as a paid voice pack.
Overall, I’d say CS2 is an improvement, but not one that will go over well with the dedicated fan base. I think it’s about time that we turned our sights to a new Arc System Works game. Perhaps a new Guilty Gear?
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.5 Graphics
Unfortunately, no new sprites were added to the update patch, so the reworked characters move in a way that looks sloppy. 5.0 Control
Characters are more balanced, combos look cooler, even the buttons feel more responsive. There isn’t a single problem with the updated control scheme. Heck, even move inputs feel more natural. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The new voice quips are entertaining but nothing else was really updated. 4.3 Play Value
The game is far more balanced, and the challenge mode goes a long way toward teaching you how the game works. However, the mechanics still feel wrong to veterans of the franchise. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best