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BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . With its stunning visuals, wide selection of characters and impressive single-player modes, there's a lot to like about BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend. However, some may find the excessive learning curve and baffling storyline to be difficult to get into. I'm not sure if I truly like BlazBlue, but I definitely respect it. Rating: 71%
BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend
BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend
  • Review Score:

  • B
As a long-time fan of fighting games, it often feels like I'm being pulled in multiple directions all at once. The games with the best fight mechanics often come in a barebones package, while the titles with all kinds of single-player content are seldom as deep as their counterparts. BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend does a good job of splitting the difference and giving players both involving gameplay and a load of content.

Forget the nonsensical title, because this is an updated port of the third installment in the popular BlazBlue series. Originally released in arcades in 2012, Chrono Phantasma offers the same brand of over-the-top one-on-one fighting action that fans have come to expect from Arc System Works. You get incredibly detailed backgrounds, a cast of anime-inspired characters and lots of busty women. It's a familiar formula that seems to be working for them.

With its good looks and fast-paced action, this is the type of fighting game I should love. But the truth is that most of the BlazBlue series has left me cold. I respect what it's doing and definitely love certain elements, but it has always felt like I need to power through hours of homework just to keep up with what's going on. Sadly, that still remains the case in Chrono Phantasma Extend. It's a dense, almost overwhelming game filled with layer upon layer of clumsily written exposition punctuated by incredible fights.

A lot of fighting games have story modes, but few are as involving as this. Told through a series of chapters on several linear paths, we sit through hours of arguments, love triangles and betrayals, all told as a visual novel. I went into BlazBlue's story mode expecting something like Mortal Kombat, where I watch a short cinema and it's off to the fights. But no, getting through the story takes real effort and is only for the most dedicated. Depending on how fast you read, there's a good chance this will take between 15 and 20 hours to complete.

The good news is that the lengthy story does attempt to give each character something to do. Sadly, some characters get a lot more screen time than others, and the way the story plays out actually made me hate characters I would have normally liked. Worse yet, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It's full of magic and time travel, but the character dramas often feel pointless and the convoluted story is impenetrable.

BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

If you're still scratching your head after the visual novel plays out, BlazBlue offers a completely separate story mode designed to explain the lore in layman's terms. While this definitely helped, it also further underlined why I've had a hard time warming up to this series. I love that all of this time and thought has been put into expanding every element of the story, but wish it was more compelling and better written.

When you're not decoding the game in an effort to figure out how all of the story threads come together, BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend is a deep and involving fighting game with a great sense of style. Featuring more than two dozen gorgeously realized characters to choose from, this is designed for the hardcore fighting game market that demands precision and technique. Casual fighting game fans may want to look elsewhere for their beat-em-up fun.

BlazBlue is not the kind of fighting game where you pick a random character and kick butt, it expects you to stick with a character and master their unique style. While the button layouts remain the same, I had a hard time switching between characters. Once I was used to fighting with Kagura, I had a hard time even controlling Bullet. Her speed and movement felt completely foreign to me, almost as if it came from a different game.

BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

This is something I've always appreciated about this franchise. I like that BlazBlue wants you to put in the work, it only makes the inevitable wins that much more satisfying. But at the exact same time, it's part of the reason I've always been left cold by the franchise.

Things were different this time around, thanks to discovering the staff-wielding vixen Litchi. Although the beautiful doctor of Orient Town has been in previous games, I really spent the time needed to not only understand her complex combos, but how to whip that giant staff around the stage like it's a separate character. Understanding her nuance opened up the game like never before. It led me to hone my skills with several other fighters, giving me a newfound respect for the franchise.

Of course, no matter how many hours I spent reading the visual novel and throwing Litchi's staff around the screen; it didn't prepare me for the aggressively difficult online opponents. Thankfully, BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend has a lot more going on than frustrating online matches. Beyond the lengthy story mode we talked about, there's a bevy of single-player modes to keep you interested in the game long enough to master a few characters.

BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The most interesting single-player mode sends the player into the Abyss. This is the closest the series gets to a traditional roguelike, seeing players fighting waves of enemies in order to level-up the characters. Players start out slow and weak, but you can boost the skills across multiple plays. Eventually you'll be strong and fast enough to make it all the way to the bottom level of Kagutsuchi.

Chrono Phantasma Extend also includes the usual arcade and versus modes, as well as a score attack and the ultra-difficult Ultimate Mars Mode. This pits you up against some mind-bogglingly challenging foes in an effort to earn a high score. None of these modes are as involved as the Abyss or the various story modes, but it does help balance out the package.

Even when I've been disappointed in BlazBlue games, it's the gorgeous presentation that pulls me back each and every time. There were times when I had no clue how to use a character, but still loved watching every second of the fight. There's a flow to the animation that irresistible and I couldn't take my eyes off of the detailed backgrounds. This is an example of a company on the top of their game when it comes to graphics and effects. Best of all, it's restrained. It's never as over-the-top and flashy as something like Marvel vs. Capcom. Well, as restrained as a game starring an invisible blob of goo can be.

Although it's the same game we saw on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and even PS Vita back in 2015, this long-overdue Steam port is worth the wait. Fans looking for hours of story and technique-driven gameplay will find a lot to love in BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend. That said, you definitely have to know what you're getting into with this game, as it's impenetrable for casual fight fans. I'm still not sure I truly like this series, but I definitely respect it.
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