My 360 is red-ringed (and I still haven't sent it in for repairs, shame on me) but I managed to borrow one for a little while because Blazblue: Continuum Shift came out. For most people, the upgrade of last year's 2D fighting game isn't really a big deal. There are only two new characters: well, three more are coming as download content and they cost $8 apiece.
I will address the player outrage on this subject very quickly: small company, niche audience, and a pile of hi-def 2D animation work for each character, work so difficult that nobody else in videogames bothers doing it. The only reason Arc does it is that their people are stubborn 2D lovers and anime/manga fans. This is the cost of being a niche fan.
Anyway, as long-time readers know, I'm the kind of guy who tears apart and devours fighting games from upgrade to upgrade. I'm the core audience, and Continuum Shift is worth the money to me. If you have the first Blazblue version and you weren't too crazy about that, it probably won't be. Though I should note that if you're a first-timer, the game contains excellent beginner-level tutorials exceeding anything in any other 2D fighting game.
In the week I've been able to play Continuum Shift (it will probably be another month before I'm playing it again), I've been focusing on the new character Tsubaki. She's rather weak from a theory point of view, but she's fun to play as so I don't care that much. As I have done before, I will be jotting down my initial thoughts on the character after a few days' play. I have been egregiously wrong in the past (Juri's Feng Shui Engine is in fact her better Ultra by a mile) but what the hell. This post will be so long I'm already splitting it up and I haven't even finished writing it.
Tsubaki uses a concept that Guilty Gear started with Order-Sol: the character has an Install gauge, separate from the Heat gauge, that can be used to enhance her special moves. However, in order to raise the gauge, Tsubaki has to charge by holding the D button, an action which leaves her immobile and completely vulnerable to attack. The player has to get out, charge up when it's safe, and attack for big damage when they've built up a few charge bars.
Why is Tsubaki weak? There are a couple of reasons. For Tsubaki to do any significant damage, she has to be at point-blank range, and she has to have at least one charge bar. Being a rushdown character isn't so bad: Ragna and Bang are two of the three strongest characters in the game, and they're also in-close rushdown types. The problem is that Ragna and Bang also do so much of what Tsubaki is supposed to do better than she does: longer range, higher damage on average with no need to charge. Tsubaki only really has mobility on these guys, and they're both fast enough.
Charging itself is a difficult business in a game as offense-oriented as BB: Tsubaki's basic combos (I'm not going to get into combos but refer to the Challenge section and this list) are actually designed to get the opponent knocked down and across the screen so that she has a moment to charge. A few characters in the game (Lambda and Litchi, among others) can attack anywhere on the screen and fast, so Tsubaki has even more trouble sneaking a charge in against them.
When Tsubaki succeeds in her rush, two things happen: she pushes the opponent towards the corner, and she eventually runs out of the Install gauge. This situation totally blows! In the corner is a great place to be when you can get some damage in, but Tsubaki doesn't get a lot of damage off no-charge combos. If Tsubaki's attacking in the corner it also means that she has very little time to charge, and if she does she may give up the initiative in a corner situation, which isn't good either. It's a bad way to be in a good situation, you get me?
What Tsubaki needs desperately to compete with the relentless, high-damage assault of the top tier is a move that burns Heat to instantly charge her meter, or a way to build charge meter during a combo: possibly a move that does both. She needs a way to keep the momentum going, but making it too easy to gain charge levels would make her way too strong. A balance patch is coming for CS, and Tsubaki is so low on the tier list that I'm sure she'll be buffed somehow. Anyway, next post (coming one day) I'll run through the basics I've learned for the character.