BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Preview

With all of the attention on Street Fighter IV last year, many gamers missed out on a little gem from Arc System Works and Aksys Games: BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger (BB:CT). The spiritual successor to Arc's awesome Guilty Gear franchise, BB:CT offered a different flavor of fighting.

Later this month, Aksys will release BB: Continuum Shift, the revision to the original game complete with balance tweaks, new characters, and a greatly expanded tutorial set.

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Gamers will get three new playable characters (Hazama, Tsubaki, Mu-12) and a heavily rebalanced version of Nu-13, who is now Lambda-11. Additionally, Arc System Works will be adding new characters as paid downloadable content and has the ability to patch the game balance over the Internet.

Besides the new and tweaked characters, the biggest additions will be tutorials and Street Fighter IV-style challenges for each character. The tutorial mode teaches the basics of the gameplay systems, of which there are many, and should really assist new players. As for the challenges, the game will teach you a character's moves and combos. Even better, the game has the ability to playback the desired combo seamlessly, negating a trip to YouTube to try and figure out exactly what the game wants you to do.

Some of the challenges are sure to be difficult, but in general, combos are easier to execute in BlazBlue when compared to other fighting games. Less emphasis is placed on frame-perfect timing and more on chaining moves together. The first two challenges will run you through the special moves and Distortion Drives of a character, while challenges from 3 to 10 will teach you various combos. This is especially important in a game where each character plays differently.

Legion Mode also makes the jump over from BlazBlue Portable (which I reviewed in March), but unfortunately suffers from the same lack of randomness. Three difficulties are presented, but each has a set series of opponents that will never change. This makes Legion something to conquer once, instead of a mode full of replayability.

In general, the console release of BB:CS is looking to be a worthy update, easily worth the $40 for fans of the series. It should also help grow the game's tournament viability, which has suffered due to serious players moving on to the arcade version of BB:CS, while console gamers were stuck with the out-dated Calamity Trigger.

Look for a full review of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift later this month. The game will be released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 on July 27.