Restriction 666 released, Dimensional Interference Field deployed!
It’s been nearly a year since BlazBlue: Chronophantasma Extend (known as BlazBlue Chronophantasma 2.0 to arcade goers) first slugged its way onto consoles last summer, and now Arc System Works’ over-the-top brawler is ready for an encore performance on Steam, allowing PC-bound pugilists to get a taste of the action. The sixth game in the series, the game brings to the table a host of balancing tweaks, two new characters and a veritable smorgasbord of story content to keep fans of the fighting franchise entertained for months on end. That all sounds fine and well, but we’ve seen plenty of fighters stumble when making the shift to the Steam. So, does this PC port of last year’s brawler have what it takes to keep the fighting game community engaged? Read on and find out!
For those unfamiliar with the series, BlazBlue is is an in-your-face 2D fighting series with a strong emphasis on fast and aggressive play. Combat is controlled using four attack buttons to deliver light, medium, hard and special attacks. Pressing all of these buttons together when your Burst or Overdrive gauge is full allows you to perform special abilities that can turn the tide of a battle. Executing a Burst can break an enemies combo, sending them flying across the screen, which can give you some needed breathing room when you’re taking a beating. Additionally, activating an Overdrive which enables character-specific bonuses in addition to upping your stats. That said, there’s a lot to consider when jumping in the ring in BlazBlue: Chronophantasma Extend, as each of the 28 characters featured in the game has their own diverse and unconventional playstyle that makes them all feel drastically different from one another. From Kagura, whose fighting style is wholly dependent on changing stances with his massive zweihander, to Makoto, the hyperactive squirrel-girl with a penchant for dizzying combos dash attacks that can leave her foes spinning, there is an insane amount of variety in the game’s roster is simply astounding.
Unlike Capcom’s recent brawler, Street Fighter V, BlazBlue: Chronophantasma Extend certainly isn’t wanting for modes. The game comes equipped with the requisite Tutorial and Training modes to allow newcomers to master the game’s fundamentals, as well as a welcome Challenge Mode that pits players against 20 challenges of increasing difficulty. After you’re doing finding your footing, you can experience the requisite Arcade mode, which has you battling through each character’s story. One of my favorite modes was the Abyss Mode, which allows you to battle waves of enemies with a single health bar similar to survival mode in other games as you work your way to the bottom of Kagutsuchi. In this mode you can upgrade your character in RPG-fashion, enhancing their attack and defense stats as you encounter random challengers along the way, who each cough up some precious drops when they’re defeated. If you’re feeling especially sadistic you can dive into the Unlimited Mars Mode, where you battle it out against the game’s downright sadistic AI opponents in pursuit of the highest score, which can be shared on the game’s online leaderboards.
While the game has a metric ton of modes to sate players who’re just eager to crack skulls with its exceptionally solid fighting system, those who like a good story in their fighting games will also find plenty of reason to love BlazBlue: Chronophantasma Extend. There are three separate Story Modes to explore, with the main one focusing on the journies of the Six Heroes, Chrono Phantasma and Sector Seven story arcs, which unfold through a lengthy series of visual novel storyboard sequences. If you’re unfamiliar with the lore of BlazBlue, be prepared to be peppered with a litany of quirky terms like “Phenomona Intervention” “Nox Nyctores” and “Arma Reboare”. Thankfully, for those who don’t speak Latin dictionary vomit, the game comes equipped with a handy glossary that allows you to familiarize yourself with the series’ voluminous backstory. If that weren’t enough, there’s even a digest of stories from previous adventures you can dive into if you feel like getting the full picture. Simply put, if you’re a fan of the wacky lore of the series you’ll find a treasure trove of content to explore here. As for the story itself, it’s surprisingly engaging, despite its eccentricities, and the voice cast all does a fantastic job of bringing the series’ story to life with some quality performances.
As enjoyable as BlazBlue: Chronophantasma Extend’s single player offerings are, the heart of any fighting game worth its salt is found in its competitive performance. Having said that, we’re happy to report that Arc System Works has done a standup job in terms of balancing the game’s sizable roster, ensuring no characters feel overly cheap when going head-to-head in versus play. When taking the fight to the internet, Chronophantasma Extend performs admirably, with net code that stays largely stable, even when playing with opponents from across the globe. Matchmaking is also handled through the cute “My Room” system, which allows players to assume the role of a chibi-fied avatar and talk with one another, decorate their room with wall items and furniture and arrange bouts via Team Match, much like last year’s Guilty Gear XRD SIGN. It’s a nice touch, and it’s easy for players to communicate with one another through a wide selection of pre-set text options. Unfortunately, that’s not to say the online mode is perfect: during my time with the game I found it very easy to join public matches against random players, but ranked matches were almost nonexistent – a crying shame for any good fighting game. While Arc System Works can’t really be faulted for this, I really hope the community begins to pick up, as the game is built upon an incredibly solid framework that’s just begging for an active competitive community.
The BlazBlue series is nothing if not beautiful, and the Steam port of BlazBlue: Chronophantasma Extend is certainly no exception. The 1080p visuals really bring the game’s wild cast of colorful characters and intricately detailed backdrops to life. Each of the game’s 28 combatants look simply astounding, and they all feature a ton of unique and interesting animations that we’ve come to expect from the series over the years. The best part – the game performs just as good as it looks, when even with tons of action and particle effects on screen during the insane Guard Crush moves, everything flows without so much as a hitch.
Arc System Works have really outdone themselves with BlazBlue: Chronophantasma Extend. The game features an unreal amount of content for its $30 price tag, delivering a finely-tuned fighting experience that plays great and looks damn good while doing so. The cast of fighters is rich and varied, and new additions Celica and Λ-11- are fine additions to the game’s already burgeoning roster. If the game ends up garnering the community support it deserves, this could well be one of the best one-on-one brawlers to hit steam in quite some time, but only time will tell. Regardless, those looking for a endlessly eccentric figher with a wealth of story and single player content need look no further than BlazBlue: Chronophantasma Extend.
Final Verdict 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed) previously released on PS3, PS4 ; Publisher: H2 Interactive ; Developer: Arc System Works ; Release Date: March 2, 2016; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by the game’s publisher.