Fans of the series are already going to be picking this up. Playing the most current revision of a fighting game is mandatory and this version will be patchable for additional balance tweaks. What about players that had a tough time with the first game or never played the game?
Good news. The tutorials and challenges presented here are excellent. Not only will the challenges teach you useful combos and moves for each character, but the tutorials range from the basic -- explaining all of the game's various systems -- to character-specific strategies. For instance, playing Ragna, who is a rush-down character, the lessons focus in on being aggressive and mixing low and high attacks to create an opening.
Each character is completely unique from every other character in terms of playstyle, movesets, and even mechanics. Learning one will take some time, but the game is extremely satisfying when you start hitting your bread-and-butter combos consistently. Some characters are much more popular than others, as expected, but it is not uncommon to see a large set of characters online.
Like with any fighting game, it is more satisfying to play against human opponents so your enjoyment of BlazBlue will depend on your desire to play online or with friends. The AI is good, but gets a bit cheesy with a few characters, especially those that have dragon punch-type moves -- those that have a lot of invulnerability and can quickly hit you if you make even a small mistake in your timing. The offline modes are nice, but most of my time was spent playing online. Up until now only Japanese players have been online and the latency has been decent. This can only improve as players start jumping online in the US.
An all new narrative is presented in the game's Story Mode, but it will likely only be enjoyable for fans of the game's fiction. The mode is convoluted, requires multiple playthroughs for many characters in order to see each one's true ending, and is very heavy on the dialogue. Seeing the true ending is required to unlock Mu-12, one of the game's hidden characters new for the console version. I ended up just buying the character unlock DLC for $2 because I was that annoyed with Story Mode.
In the end, Arc System Works didn't have to put any effort into the home release of BlazBlue if it merely wanted to keep the current audience playing. Their decision to invest in developing the game's tutorials and challenges shows me that the company is serious about attempting to teach less experienced players how to play the game. The new story will largely go unplayed, but fighting fans have yet another great multiplayer game.
Developer by Arc System Works and published by Aksys Games, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is released in North America today for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.