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BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Makoto DLC Review

Cute squirrel-girl Makoto presents something of a conundrum to fighting game fans, and I’m not just referring to the fact that she’s both dressed like a slut and, you know, half-squirrel. To be aroused or not to be aroused, that is the question every non-furry must ask himself.

The more important issue is what she represents. Makoto is the first character to be added to a fighting game post-release via downloadable content. As such, she represents an important milestone for the genre and she brings to light some of the unique issues of DLC in a fighting game. 

The problems begin with the fact that you can’t test out downloadable content before you buy. There are no DLC demos. Were Street Fighter IV to begin selling us new characters this might be less of a problem because not only does Street Fighter have a longer history including many characters and fighting styles that some players might already be familiar with, but its more accessible nature also means that, for the most part, it’s relatively easy to hop back and forth between multiple characters. 

BlazBlue, however, is almost completely the opposite. Continuum Shift is only the second game in the series and every entrant in its small roster of characters plays totally differently. This is part of the appeal of the game, of course, as the variety of play styles in BlazBlue is nearly unmatched even considering its small cast, but this makes a downloadable character an interesting quandary. At $7 (or $8 for some reason if you’re on a PS3), it’s a relatively expensive gamble as to whether the character will be a fit for you or not. 

If you’re lucky, Makoto will really click with you. If so, the price is easily worth it, as learning a new character in a fighting game, not to mention using it in online battles or against friends locally, can provide potentially countless hours of entertainment. On the other hand, you might immediately find that you don’t like her and never pick her again, having basically flushed $7 down the toilet. 

Clearly the issue is not with the potential value of this piece of downloadable content, but rather with how much value it is to you in particular. Adding characters to a fighting game is a trickier proposition than adding maps to a shooter.

There’s also the potential issue of upsetting the balance of the game, but as a strictly casual fighting game enthusiast this is a little beyond the scope of my knowledge. Suffice it to say that I don’t think it’s a fear worth shunning the entire idea of DLC characters over, but it’s also completely plausible that the balance could be disturbed. Then again, if characters can be added via download, so can patches to fix those characters.

So. Back to the issue at hand. Makoto. Is she worth it?

Well, as I said before, there’s no way to tell for sure outside of testing her for yourself, which is impossible unless you’ve got a friend that’s already taken the plunge. Still, I think that if you like BlazBlue and are generally a fan of playing as characters that bounce around the screen like insane frogs on speed in order to get close and unleash a torrent of rather weak attacks, then you stand a pretty good chance of getting along well with the slutty squirrel.

In other words, Taokaka fans, this one’s for you.

That said, Makoto isn’t that straightforward. She fits the profile of speedy weakling well enough: she’s useless from a distance, all of her moves have a really short range, and you’ll need multiple hits to do appreciable damage. But in BlazBlue, every character has a unique “drive”; a special ability of sorts that basically defines the way you use the character. Here Makoto gets a little tricky.

Certain characters, like Ragna, have a drive that’s easy to understand. His does big flashy moves, usually on the slow side, that give you a little health back when they hit. Jin’s drive is all about annoying the living shit out of the other player by pretending he’s Sub-Zero and freezing them constantly. Arakune’s drive is used to send swarms of bugs at the opposing player. And so on.

Makoto’s drive is, at least to my novice mind, somewhat mysterious. The idea is that a little meter hovers over the Heat meter (which fills as you play and is used for special Distortion Drive moves and the flashy Astral Finishes). When you do a drive attack, the little meter zips back and forth and releasing the button at the right time will unleash a more powerful version of the attack. The idea, I suppose, is to add a tricky element of precise timing in order to make the character as effective as possible.

The problem with this is that Makoto seems to have a lack of effective drive moves on which to use this technique. The result is that I found myself using normal attacks almost exclusively and spamming one or two particularly easy combos over and over again. I must again stress how much I suck at this game, so your mileage may vary, but suffice it to say that Makoto is at least more difficult to use than she at first appears, which may be good or bad depending on what you’re looking for. 

Makoto is not without her strengths. First of all, she’s one of the fastest characters in the game. Also, because she is an extremely close range fighter, a lot of importance is placed on getting close to your opponent. Here she has one particularly useful technique that sends three different ghostly versions of herself flying horizontally across the screen. Makoto will then use a different attack or end up in a different location depending on which button you follow up the attack with. The downside is that this technique seems to be one of her only reliable ways to get across the screen, so it could become predictable if abused. 

I had a lot of fun messing around with Makoto. I still haven’t found the “perfect” character for me in BlazBlue, but she has quickly bounced to the top of the shortlist of characters I’m going to spend more time with to determine who ultimately clicks. Whoever might win out as my main (if anyone indeed ever does), I’m sure Makoto will be among those characters I keep coming back to. 

It must be noted that, especially for the $7 price, it was disappointing that Makoto doesn’t work in several of the game’s modes. She has no story mode, doesn’t work in arcade mode, and won’t work in Legion mode either. She does, however, work in Training and Challenge modes, as well as online and in versus, which is what’s most important in a fighting game anyway. 

Also, I hate to open up this can of worms, but I feel that it’s at least worth briefly mentioning that it would appear Makoto is a legitimate download, and not simply a code to unlock something already on the disc. BlazBlue has a nasty history of selling glorified unlock codes as DLC (there’s currently at least $34 worth of content on the marketplace for Continuum Shift alone that’s exactly that right now), but Makoto seems to buck the insidious trend. 

I’m ultimately in favor of the concept of adding more fighters to a fighting game via downloadable content. It’s something I’ve honestly been wanting to happen ever since Soulcalibur IV came out. The question of whether Makoto is worth the money to you arises primarily from the game itself. BlazBlue is not a game where hopping back and forth between characters is especially easy, so spending what is a decent chunk of change by DLC standards for an extra character becomes trickier than it would be in other games. Her lack of integration in several key game modes is also a downer. 

There’s also the fact that Continuum Shift was a little skimpy on new content to begin with and $7 for an extra character when your $40 for the full game only bought you three in the first place (one of which is pointlessly locked behind hours of play or a greedy $2 download) might be a bitter pill to swallow depending on your inclination.

Still, despite this mess of DLC politics and value quandaries, if you play much BlazBlue, and especially as characters of her speedy disposition, Makoto represents a solid first step into extending the life of fighting games with extra paid characters post-release. She seems well-balanced, thoroughly unique from the rest of the cast, and with plenty of depth to keep you in the virtual dojo for some time to come. 

Plus her theme song is just full of techno-rific goodness. 

Oh, and she’s pretty hot. You know, for a squirrel. 

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