The BlazBlue series is a 2D anime-style fighting series that has been around for a while now, with the first arcade version appearing in 2008. Over the years, Arc System Works has had time to refine the control scheme and unique gimmicks that most 2D fighters introduce in their installments. BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend is the most recent release in the series and is currently available for PC.
Let me get this out of the way right off the bat: fighting games are not my forte. I’m not particularly bad at them, but I’m definitely not good. Perfectly average, really. I do really enjoy the genre, having sunk many hours into the Guilty Gear and Mortal Kombat games, and the BlazBlue franchise is, admittedly, one I’ve wanted to try but never ended picking up myself, although I have played Continuum Shift. Chrono Phantasma Extend (CPE) has a total of 26 characters to choose from, making finding a character play style to suit your own personal taste a viable option. Each character has their own unique move sets and play styles, even coming with unique character traits that come into play during battle.
For those new to the series, CPE introduces three really great modes to help you ease in to the fighting game genre: Tutorial mode, challenge mode, and the “stylish” play style. The Stylish play style is great for those either new to the genre, or those who aren’t that good at fighting games but still wish to enjoy their time with them. Normally, a series of directional inputs combined with attack button combinations will produce certain moves. Well, Stylish mode removes that necessity and links hits in the combos automatically if you keep hitting buttons. Yes, while this does seem an awful lot like button mashing fodder, there are a few key aspects keeping it from devolving to that point. Firstly, depending on whether you hit the light, medium, heavy, or special attack buttons, the base moves for the combo will change, allowing the choice between fast hits or slow and powerful hits. Secondly, higher level AI, and human, opponents would still decimate you. You can’t just expect to win easily all the time on anything above the default difficulty if all you do is button mash. Finally, you are unable to choose Stylish mode for online play, requiring at least some skill in order to be able to contest with other players. As for the Tutorial and Challenge Modes, the Tutorial mode is extremely in-depth, even going so far as to introduce and explain specific character traits as well as advanced tricks and tips. Challenge Mode tasks you with clearing individual challenges with each of the characters, normally with requirements being “execute this combo”. Since the game tells you the inputs necessary, this is a great way to practice
Basic gameplay is about what you would expect from a 2D fighter. You beat your opponent up with combinations of four different attack types and the directional input. Directional input can range in difficulty anywhere from “hold left” to “double back sweep then forward and ‘X’”. Character specific styles also come into play, for example, Kokonoe has a variety of moves that will cycle based on input, Hakumen has a counter-based play style, and Litchi can drop her staff and recall it. There are basically 26 different play styles to choose from. In addition to standard attacking and character specific moves, there are two burst modes that can be activated, one is defensive and one is offensive. It’s up to the player to decide when and how to use the burst modes.
In terms of game modes available, the non-combat options include: Teach me Miss Litchi, Library, and Remix Heart Gaiden. Teach me Miss Litchi is where you get to learn about past game plot and key events, organizations and people. This is done in a comedic style, usually with one of the characters who are explaining things being the butt of a series of jokes, while still giving important insight into the in-game universe. The Library is a simple glossary of all the terms and people that it may be important to know about, and Remix Heart Gaiden is an…interesting story narrative that, as I understand it, is based on a spin-off manga series.
For the combative modes, there’s: Training, Story, Arcade, Versus, Abyss, Score Attack, Unlimited Mars, and Network Mode. Versus and Network Mode are the two modes that will be used if you enjoy fighting real people. Versus is the mode that you choose when you have friends over and all want to play together. Network mode is for online play. Fair warning goes out to newbies of the series: in online you will be beaten senseless. I tried some online fights and only won one of ten rounds, and I’m pretty sure that one opponent wasn’t very happy about it. It seems like most people in the online mode are much more skilled and used to the series than would be appropriate for the newcomers. On the subject of difficulty, we have Unlimited Mars Mode. This mode basically pits you against aggravatingly tough AI opponents who really know how to spam those moves that make you want to break something. I won a single round, then got decimated in no time flat for the rest. You can select “courses” to go through that send you up against progressively harder opponents until you either win or lose once. The training mode is good preparation for these modes, however, as you can practice moves and tactics against training dummies, as well as set their innate health and AI settings to help you prepare for battle.
For the more “solo play” inclined, there is: Story, Arcade, Abyss, Score Attack, and the Unlimited Mars mode also falls in this category. All of these modes may be played without a player 2, some allowing you to insert a player 2 if you want to. Story Mode is pretty much three city blocks worth of “walls of text” with an occasional fight thrown in. If you want action fast, this isn’t the mode for you. If you want a bit of exposition and plot, then story mode is where you’ll go. Although, if you do choose story mode without any prior knowledge of the BlazBlue universe, you may be rather lost for the first half an hour or so until you can get used to it. Arcade and Abyss mode are where I had the most fun, particularly in Abyss mode. Both modes have you challenge opponents in a row, one after another. In arcade mode, you may get a few lines of dialogue, but otherwise its purely combat oriented. In Abyss mode, each character has individual progress ratings, and clear multi-fighter challenges to hit the final “depth” of the area you choose to fight in. As you progress further down, you can upgrade character stats and buy useful ability items from a store, abyss mode only, that will help you clear future instances. Score attack is exactly what you would expect from the title, allowing you to fight for points, which you can then compare against current rankings through the network mode.
Admittedly, one of the first things that drew me to the series in general was the music. The music is well composed, and not only do characters get their own themes, but there are constant remixes for each iteration, and you also get theme mash-ups between character fights. As an example, Ragna’s theme is Rebellion, and Rachel Alucard’s theme is Queen of Rose, but when you have both characters in combat, you get songs like White Requiem, which is a combination of both characters’ theme songs. I really enjoyed the variety of music you get from the game. The in battle art is also sharp, and while at times seems like it would be more at home in an arcade machine, that was the initially intended platform, and it gives a nice nostalgia feeling. The plot narrative is done via anime-style cut-out static characters, and while there is nothing wrong with the initial character portraits, the way that they’re “moved” can seem incredibly off at times. On the positive side, the voice acting is well done and full of each individual characters personality.
Chrono Phantasma Extend has the ability to both draw in new players with its ease of access “stylish” combat form, as well as sate long time fans of the series with enough new characters and game modes to keep you entertained for quite some time. While the control scheme and plot can be extremely complicated for newcomers, there are an ample amount of resources to at the very least get a basic understanding for the game. If you’re a fan of 2D fighting games, BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend is definitely a game for you to look into.
Arc System WorksT
H2 Interactive Co., Ltd.
Article by Richard