Blazblue Chrono Phantasma EXTEND features a fun fast paced fighting game experience that is a feast for the eyes, but the game is hard for newcomers to get into when it comes to its story.
The first noticeable thing about Blazblue is its slick presentation. The game features a beautiful 2D hand drawn art style with stunning 3D backdrops, which blend together well. The animations of machinery in the background and the inclusion of characters looking at the scenery around them really make the stages look incredible on the PS4. As a side note, the frame rate is rock solid in Blazblue Chrono Phantasma EXTEND. The menus are well made, with easy to navigate modes to choose from. You don’t have to wait 20 seconds to get from one menu to the next; everything is all there. The character selection menu is also accompanied by colorful moving machinery in the background, which makes it really pop on the screen. There are also cool animations placed before the battles begin, which showcase the stage and the characters that are about to be played.
Arc System Works manages to go above and beyond to please players of Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma EXTEND. When there are rivalries between characters, a short fighting animation sequence occurs before the battle begins. There are also friendly matches between characters which spur competitive chatter or concern between the two characters. The characters also give each other specific remarks towards the other during the fight. For those who know the story of Blazblue, there is a comprehensive encyclopedia of information available. Blazblue, by far, has the most lore out of any fighting game series. Heck, it might even rival some RPG’s in terms of lore.
However, this inclusion of so much lore can be very confusing for newcomers to the series, and unfortunately Arc System Works has done a poor job at explaining the convoluted storyline. They’ve made an attempt at explaining the story through a side section of the story mode, which is dedicated to those who want to catch up from previous titles, Calamity Trigger and Continuum Shift, but without any background whatsoever and vague ideas being presented, the characters explain the story in such a confusing and long way that will make newcomers scratch their heads. There is also the mode, “Teach Me More, Miss Litchi,” which has characters Litchi, Taokaka, and Luna explain the story of Blazblue, but the characters are irritating to listen to and the explanations are deteriorated by insipid dialogue, which is both unfunny and drags on the scenes for way longer than it should. I am still confused by the storyline, as this mode truly is difficult to suffer through. I honestly couldn’t go through it.
What’s worse is that the story mode is a visual novel. Yep, this game is focused on the fighting game element, and yet they include a visual novel format for its story mode, and it drags on and on. There are some engrossing visual novels out there to watch, including Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos, Jupiter’s Knot, and even a prequel of the Blazblue series, XBlaze: Code Embryo — but the writing constantly drags on with unimportant details and jokes that are simply not funny, rather than explaining what’s going on. Add this to the awkward and stereotypical voice acting deliveries, and this results in a mode that is not worth caring about. However, even though the story is confusing to newcomers like myself, the arcade mode delivers quick interludes of narrative which are actually engaging and showcase great dialogue between the characters of the game.
Every character in the varied 28 person roster feels unique in the game. For those who have played Chrono Phantasma before, the EXTEND version has two new characters: Lambda -No.11, and Celica. Each character feels unique, as they have their own abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Furthermore, every character has a design that matches their personality, and while some characters are cliches, Arc System Works have delivered a product that will please many with its wide variety of characters.
Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma EXTEND has an easy to learn system which is hard to master. Blazblue is a traditional 2D fighting game with a control system similar to the Guilty Gear and Persona 4 Arena series of games. The inputs are easy to understand, thanks to the extensive tutorial mode, with each input corresponding to one button. A is square, B is triangle, C is circle, and D is X. Rather than the confusing low kick, high kick, low punch, high punch system, Arc System Works have gone with an input system that is easier to understand and read on the command list.
There are also multiple strategies that are available in battle, such as special guards (which give you better recoveries so you can counter), Break Bursts (which allow you to cancel someone’s combo like in Persona 4 Arena), and Overdrive (which enhances a character’s abilities for a short period of time). There are many options and combos to learn, plus many unique character quirks to consider. Thankfully, the tutorial system does a fantastic job at explaining how to play the game and goes above and beyond as it explains each character’s main skills and abilities. Lastly, there is the Heat meter, which once activated, allows a character to finish the other combatant with an animated special move. They look fantastic and feel satisfying when you connect them. Most importantly, the action is fun and frenetic, but the game is accessible to both button bashers and experienced fighting game players alike.
When you get into the game, there’s a multitude of modes to try out. There are the traditional Arcade and Vs modes, as well as the following:
- Abyss Mode – A challenging mode which has your character levelling up against waves of enemies.
- Score Attack Mode – Fight against a route of enemies and get the highest score in the rankings.
- Unlimited Mars Mode – Fighting against very difficult enemies and try to get the highest score in the rankings. NOTE: It is VERY hard.
The game also features replay (watch previous matches) and gallery modes (which has arcade mode endings, story events, concept art, promotional art, voice acting clips, old stage unlocks, unlockable character colors, lobby characters for online lobbies, and old music unlocks). The gallery mode is especially cool because there’s tons to unlock for it.
When you take your battles online, Blazblue Chrono Phantasma EXTEND has a solid connection between players, and in the battles I have played, I experienced no lag regardless of connection.
The sound work on this game, on the other hand, is not consistent. The music is outstanding, with its fantastic rocking score underlying the intense battles you can face in Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma EXTEND. However, it may be a bit too overbearing as the initial sound balancing of the game is wrong. You can change how loud every aspect of the sound design is in the options menu, but you’ll have to change it multiple times depending on which song is playing in the background. The voice acting is okay at best, as it features mostly generic robot, anime girl, and tough guy voices as well as the annoying squeaky voice of Taokaka. The voices also get annoying during fights, as some characters state the names of their moves over and over again. The announcer also says “Counter” very often and at one point, I had to set the announcer’s voice to 0 due to that getting on my nerves. The sound effects from the menu sound dated, but the in-game sound effects for attacks are correct and don’t sound out of place.
Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma EXTEND is a great fighting game, and while it has a confusing storyline for newcomers to the series, it doesn’t matter too much, as the battles are frenetic and easy to pick up and play after going through the tutorial. When you do get into it, there are plenty of modes to try and tons of unlockables, which add a lot of replayability in a genre that usually lacks it. The game is also stunning on the PlayStation 4, with great hand-drawn models and beautiful 3D backdrops for each stage.
A code was sent by Aksys Games for the purpose of review.
Blazblue Chrono Phantasma EXTEND$49.99
- Stunning 3D backdrops and 2D animated characters
- Easy to pick up, hard to master.
- Helpful tutorial mode.
- A wide range of characters
- A lot of modes and unlockables.
- Confusing story mode for newcomers
- Generic voice acting.
- Characters saying the names of their moves over and over.
- The announcer saying "counter" many times.
- Dull, annoying, and confusing ways of trying to introduce newcomers to the story.