A lot of gaming genres are heavily targeted at those already invested in the hobby. First Person Shooters and Real Time Strategy games come with a lot of rules - both in terms of game mechanics and controls - that prevent anyone and everyone being able to play from the word go with little prior experience. Trying to take part without that baseline of understanding is... arduous; and if you're up against someone more experienced, a far cry from fun.
The same is true for the Fighting game genre, although with some slight differences. Fighting games definitely are more accessible - back in the day, I played Tekken 3 despite not understanding its finer points. Where Fighting games become daunting is with its userbase. Long-term Fighting fans are just as dedicated to their hobby as the FPS and RTS elites are; but considerably less tolerant to new blood.
This means that if the Fighting game genre is to gain new fans (a necessity for staying relevant), the onus is increasingly put on new games to attract and ease new players into caving in skulls. To that end, Blazblue Continuum Shift Extend (hereto referred as BBEX)tries its hardest, and doesn't do too bad of a job.
As a frame of reference, BBEX is the 4th and last Blazblue title, each game adding new characters and refining the system to be more engaging and balanced. To go into the finder details would be dull; but bear in mind that long-time fans find the initial title, Blazblue Calamity Trigger, comparatively unplayable.
All good Fighting games pay heavy attention to having a diverse cast of characters - though unlikeStreet Fighter and Tekken, which base their cast diversity around global nationality; Blazblue has a cast taken from a host of anime archetypes. The cast includes magical puppetmasters, a homunculus with oversized magnetic fists, a butler werewolf, and an amorphous heap of goo hiding assorted weaponry.
Single player is robust; most of it designed to show you the ropes. Tutorials starting from the very basics, a mode to teach you basic combos for every character, and a Story Mode that lets you try out all of the cast. The story itself plays out like a visual novel interspersed with fights (fully-voiced, no less) - but the plot is a confusing mess, and painfully cliché.
I found it easy to find characters that I enjoyed playing as, and the game encourages me to improve with subsequent fights; but I profess that I am rather awful at Fighting games in general. Like all games of skill, your proficiency is all down to how hard you practice; and that's not fun for everyone. The game does offer a 'Stylish' mode, which makes fighting in a flashy way much easier for those who don't want to take the time to learn the mechanics, but I advise anyone who's interested in the Fighting game genre to ignore that function.
Multiplayer functions are what you'd expect - there are both Online and local mulitplayer modes, and playing with your friends is infintely more rewarding, as you can enjoy and improve your game together, and at your own pace.
Blazblue Continuum Shift Extend is available for PS3, 360, & PSVita (360 version reviewed).