By: David Tavernier
BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma EXTEND (BlazBlue: CPE for short) is an updated version of Chrono Phantasma, which released last year on the PS3 and Vita, and is also available on the PS4 and Xbox One — making it one of the first 2D fighters on current-gen consoles (joining the likes of Guilty Gear Xrd). Beyond increased availability, there are also some additions to combat such as the barrier gauge, used with barrier guarding, among other innovations. Does BlazBlue: CPE stand up to the level of quality left behind by other versions of BlazBlue? Let’s find out.
Things are extremely tight and responsive in BlazBlue: CPE. Each character has light, medium and heavy moves that feel correspondingly weighty, allowing you to jab at your opponent and string together combos to devastating effect. BlazBlue: CPE has a new barrier gauge system that allows you to pull off barrier blocks. These prevent you from having life chipped away and also allow you to block some attacks that you are otherwise unable to using other standard methods.
It can be hard to memorize each character’s numerous special moves, but this is a good thing as it gives you a wide variety of ways to play. Each character has a specialized overdrive mode that allows for increased damage along with additional advanced special moves that use up heat gauge and do more damage than ordinary special moves. Landing these advanced special moves is a challenge, but the payoff is great.
There are some minor problems with the controls, most notably that sometimes pulling off a special move can be difficult because the joystick motion detection seems a little bit off, though this doesn’t happen too often. Overall, BlazBlue: CPE controls very well and should not put anybody off due to its depth and variety.
Visually, BlazBlue: CPE is very nicely done. The graphics are a mix of 2D sprite art along with backgrounds that are cel-shaded 3D. The music is also good, offering a nice blend of heavy metal. So if you like facing off with your opponents to the sound of riffs on the metal guitar and the pounding of drums you should have no problem here.
Each character’s special moves are also beautiful to watch. Whether it’s the flare of fire trailing after Ragna‘s heavy sword attacks or the laser-like trails of fury left behind Taokaka‘s slashing attacks, combat is a sight to behold at times.
Being a relative novice to the BlazBlue series I found online play, which is the best test of your skills, to be especially brutal. Even after going through several tutorials I found myself being literally stomped on while playing online. I say this because of a particular gameplay factor in BlazBlue: CPE: you can be attacked while on the ground.
During matches I’d often be knocked to the floor and couldn’t get back up, even while using emergency wake-ups among other techniques. While I’m not going to penalize the game due to my lack of experience, it should be noted that BlazBlue: CPE is not friendly to newbies — at least not in ranked online matches. That being said, the fierce competition in online modes will drive the player to use the tutorials and training modes in order to become better and eventually come to excel (or at least stay afloat) online.
Modes where you are fighting against the CPU are another story. I found that, even knowing a handful of moves as Taokaka, I could beat the arcade mode without much trouble simply by mashing buttons and using those few special moves that I knew.
So if you play the game simply to fight against the CPU, you will mostly be disappointed by the lack of difficulty. Arcade mode doesn’t have multiple difficulty settings either, so if you want to increase the challenge on that single-player option you will be disappointed as well.
There’s story mode in BlazBlue: CPE, but it’s, well, nothing but story; so those expecting to have combat woven within a narrative will be sorely disappointed. Instead, what you get is nothing more than a very, very long cutscene where you do nothing but press the “x” button over and over to make your way through endless dialogue. This isn’t to say that the story mode is entirely unpleasant. The characters are quirky and each one stands out with their own distinct personality.
The animation in these cutscenes is lackluster, as most of the time the only animation taking place is the movement of each character’s mouth. In this way the story mode seems like one gigantic color manga where you turn pages with the push of a button. It’s enjoyable to an extent, but most people probably expect a certain amount of combat in their requisite fighting game story mode.
BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma EXTEND is a somewhat lopsided fighting game. Against the CPU it’s noticeably easy whereas the ranked online mode is challenging and entertaining enough to keep you coming back, forcing you to learn the game’s ins and outs and practice to perfection. There are other single-player modes that will provide the game offline longevity, but BlazBlue: CPE truly shines in its challenging multiplayer combat.