On home consoles, the difference between the two top 2D beat-'em-up series pretty much comes down to individual taste.
On the left-hand side you have Capcom's Street Fighter IV, the everyman's scrapper. Any old goon can pick up its simple controls and start punching away, but its tightly defined rule set opens up a world of advanced tactics once you've grasped the basics.
On the right, there's Arc System Works' BlazBlue. Flashy and showy, its charms too are immediately obvious, but it takes a lot more dedication to decipher the strategy that lurks beneath the blur of fancy explosions and gauge meters. They're both deep, rewarding fighting games you could potentially keep playing forever - picking between them is like choosing between a packet of delicious bacon crisps or... er, a packet of bacon crisps that's a little harder to open.
On 3DS however, the difference between them is far more pronounced simply due to the effort that's been put into porting them over. While Capcom have gone to great lengths to adapt Street Fighter IV to fit the needs of the handheld's svelte form, BlazBlue looks like it's been dragged kicking and screaming onto 3DS.
The game just looks so unhappy to be on a handheld, particularly if you dare flip the 3D slider up. The 2D sprites hover unconvincingly in front of the background - it makes it look like they're fighting in one of those camera booths that lets you superimpose a gaudy backdrop onto your photos. Worse still, the frame rate takes a massive hit with the 3D enabled.
Nailing the slider to the off position improves the performance, but it's still noticeably more sluggish than the console versions - not enough to render it unplayable, but disappointing nonetheless, considering that much of BlazBlue's appeal lies in its visual flair.
It's also weird that there isn't the option to map movement onto the circle pad - weird, and pretty painful after four or five battles in a row. But if you can overlook the slapdash coding, you'll find this to be a far more complete single-player experience than any other fighting game on 3DS.
On top of the arcade and story modes, there's a host of extra modes to hold your interest, including the 3DS-exclusive Abyss RPG mode, where you get to level up your fighters' attributes between bouts. And more pertinently, it's a port of a fantastic fighting game that hasn't even been available on a Nintendo format until now. It's just a shame that it's by far the worst way to experience it.
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BlazBlue's gameplay survives the iffy conversion thanks to its sheer infectious energy, but this should have been a great deal better than it is.
- Attractive style and movement
- High-beat rock and chirpy dialogue
- Pacy, tactically deep fighter
- Washed-out sprites and backgrounds
- Awkward D-pad controls