Under the controls menu in the Vita version of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, there is an option to turn on rear touchpad functionality.
Doing so will let you freely map additional controls in one of two configurations: either (i) individual buttons (A, B, C, D, up, down, left or right; but no diagonals) to any of eight sub-sections of the touchpad, or (ii) specific button combinations such as A+B and A+B+C+D to the left and right halves.
Configuration (ii) was by far the better implementation, and in my short hands-on time with BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend I used the right half of the touchpad similar to how I would R2 on a standard PS3 controller – to break out of an opponent’s combo with a Burst (A+B+C+D) with a single tap of the touchpad, because I wasn’t sure if my right thumb could hit all four face buttons simultaneously.
Configuration (i), on the other hand, didn’t seem to have any practical purpose. I tried sliding my finger down the sections of the touchpad assigned left, down, and right respectively in quick succession, and followed that up with an attack button thinking this would make Ragna execute his Hell’s Fang special move. Instead, the silver-haired protagonist had other ideas. With his usual surly expression and moving only his left arm Ragna punched at thin air, as if to curtly remind me that this isn’t Mortal Kombat – missing diagonal inputs were unacceptable.
In addition to the rear touchpad, you can also map any button press or combination you like to the left and right flicks of the second analog stick. I’m not sure if this feature is also found in the console versions of Continuum Shift Extend, but I certainly found it useful for barrier-blocking. While blocking, I flicked the second analog stick to the left (having assigned A+B+C to that motion) every single time my opponent struck at my defenses, activating the barrier – which lessens the amount of block damage I take – only when I need it, thus conserving energy in the barrier meter.
Okay, enough about different ways to hit multiple buttons, how does it play with the Vita’s d-pad/analog stick?
The Vita’s d-pad is one of the smoothest, most snugly design made for any default controller.
That said, when playing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on the Vita I experienced some difficulty pulling off dragon-punch motions, as well as quarter-circle back + S, quarter-circle back + S, quarter-circle forward + S in rapid succession (part of Strider Hiryu’s reset chain at the end of a combo) with the d-pad. So, I took to playing with the analog stick, and never looked back.
Until I played BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend on the Vita, that is. Oddly enough, dragon-punch motion moves were a lot easier to perform with the d-pad here. I attribute this to the slightly lower revolutions-per-minute gameplay pace in BlazBlue, affording more time for precise directional inputs or perhaps BlazBlue is just a tad bit more lenient when it comes to pulling off commands.
Conversely, it was harder to play using the left analog stick for movement in BlazBlue. When I tried to execute a dash (forward, forward), sometimes an instant air dash comes out instead (up-forward, forward). I did not encounter this problem in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom at all – but if I did, I could always opt to dash by hitting two attack buttons anyway. In addition, I could not perform instant air dashes on the analog stick as quickly as I could on d-pad. It looks like, as far as this game is concerned, the Vita’s d-pad mightier than its stick.
I can’t speak for every pad player out there, but personally I very much preferred playing with the PS Vita’s d-pad to playing with the one on PS3’s Dual Shock controller. So if you play fighters exclusively on the pad, then the Vita version of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend might be your preferred choice when it comes out alongside Sony’s shiny new next-gen portable next month.