X-Blades PS3, Xbox 360
Just by looking at the case of X-Blades, you can tell one thing. Whoever came up with the design of the character is obviously trying to sell the game on sex appeal alone. When it comes down to it, I don’t have a problem with that. If the game is good, then a bit of eye candy doesn’t hurt anyone.
X-blades tells the story of a treasure hunter, who goes by the name of Ayumi. The game’s opening scene starts off with Ayumi finding the other half of a relic she owned. The relics fuse together to reveal a map of the location of two powerful artifacts, the dark orb and the light orb. These two orbs contain the power of two entities that ruled over the world. Ayumi is on a mission to find these orbs and make them her own treasures. The game begins with Ayumi already at the dark orb location and starts off with you fighting against a guardian of the dark orb. Unleashing the dark orb has released the dark entity and infused the island’s monsters with darkness. Ayumi’s quest is to cure herself of the curse and get rid of the darkness. The story isn’t the game’s strong point as it’s quite forgettable.
Instead it seems the makers of X-Blades, Gaijin Entertainment, were more focused on creating the game’s heroine. To say Ayumi is battling a horde of infested spiders, monsters and other weird creatures, she doesn’t wear much armour; actually she wears next to nothing. The box art for the game shows exactly what she wears in it: a bra and a thong so thin that it might as well not exist. The model in the game looks like she doesn’t even have anything covering her arse crack; you can’t see the thong unless you zoom closer to it. I advise you not to do that unless you know you are alone in your house. Don’t want some unexpected guest coming in catching you looking closely at some polygon anime-inspired girl’s bottom.
When it comes down the meat of things, X-Blades is purely a hack and slash game. Looking at screenshots, it gives you the vibe that the game might be something along the lines of God of War or Ninja Gaiden. I’ll state right now that it is nothing like those two games. X-Blades falls more into the category of Dynasty Warriors or Onechanbara (yes, that game that features hot girls in bikinis killing hordes of zombies) because as a game it is a lot shallower than the two big giants mentioned above.
Instead X-Blades feels like an arena based fighter. The setting is an island, split into areas by loading screens. Finishing an area will display character data information about what you accomplished in that zone. The bulk of the game requires you to guide Ayumi to these locations. Whenever you enter a location for the first time, you’ll be trapped in the area by those infamous red walls that block you from leaving. Enemies will then spawn into the area and it’s down to you to kill all of them before you move on. There’s a bar at the bottom right of the screen that indicates how many you need to kill.
And many you will kill, because X-Blades sends so many enemies at you to slay, it feels like you are committing genocide. The fact is that you never really know how many you need to kill. The red bar that measures the amount of enemies that need to be defeated moves down slowly as you kill them, but you can never figure out the exact number from it. It leaves you just hacking away till the enemies don’t spawn anymore. Multiply this for all the areas in the game, and it gets very repetitive.
Boss fights are done in the same way as well. The red bar in the bottom right represents the boss’s health rather than how many enemies you need to defeat. A lot of X-Blades’ boss fights just take too long. The Galapagos boss took me the best part of 20 minutes to defeat. The bosses focus too much on using your magic skills, rather than just hammering the enemy. The game forces infinite spawning monsters on you to build up your rage metre. Then, the rage metre is used for the effective magic skill that the boss is weak against. Rinse and repeat this and you have your X-Blades boss fights right there. They’re just too drawn out and tedious.
The fighting itself at times can feel satisfying. If Gaijin Entertainment had not clogged down the gameplay with blocked arena based fighting and instead pushed it more onto the action adventure side, X-Blades would have been better. As it stands though, X-Blades is a perfect example of taking the hack and slash genre and turning it bland.
In the PS3 version, which was used for this review, the fighting is controlled mainly with the square button. Square uses your twin blades to attack enemies. The blades also have built in guns, which are fired with the R1 button. Attacking enemies with these moves builds up your RAGE metre. Using magic requires a certain amount of RAGE, so you need to be slicing and dicing a lot of enemies to keep your RAGE metre built up.
The one thing X-Blades gets right is the amount of moves you can purchase. Accessing the skill menu can be done at anytime throughout the game with a simple press of select. The further you delve into the game, the more skills are unlocked. Skills need to be purchased with the souls you collect from the enemies. Ayumi sucks in the enemies’ souls to use them as currency. The skill menu also allows you to heal yourself at the cost of your soul collection. The setback is the more you use it, the more expensive it gets, so it’s best to only use it when you really have to. It’s a nice feature, because they are points where you can’t find any health to pick up, so a simple purchase of health puts you back on track.
Ayumi’s blades and guns can be upgraded by finding hidden coloured artifacts. Players don’t have to be hardcore to get an idea of where about the artifacts are hidden. Leaving an arena brings up the stat screen which shows you how many artifacts are in that section and how many you need to find. The stat screen also shows other random stats, like how much of the scenery you’ve smashed, and how long you took to pass through the level.
Even though Ayumi’s pleasing round bottom is all out to see, X-Blades is a pleasant looking game artistically. The game uses a hand-drawn anime style look for Ayumi and while it doesn’t reach the detail of the anime cut scenes that are incorporated within the game, the model is still fairly detailed. The levels themselves are occupied with great architectural designs that have a clean sharp look to them, bordering on detail that looks realistic. The game doesn’t have the polished graphical look of Ninja Gaiden, but it’s not too shabby either.
There is, however, an abuse of the bloom effect in X-Blades. Stepping into the light requires the player to squint or put on some shades, the bloom is so powerful. Ayumi’s character model glows so bright and her swords are sparkling constantly when you explore in the daylight. If it had been toned down a little, it would have looked fantastic, but as it is, it just seems like Ayumi is suffering from some sort of crazy sun burning, while the level is roasting hot in the blooming sun. Guess her skin colour makes sense now when you look at it.
Usually a game is mediocre because it’s either broken or just doesn’t have the standard to hold up well. In the case of X-Blades, it’s different. As a game, it could have actually been decent enough for hack and slash players. The designers really did make some bad choices when it comes to the bulk of the gameplay; a simple focus switch of the gameplay from the arena style combat to more fluid type of exploration gameplay would have done wonders.
It also doesn’t help that X-Blades likes to reuse a lot of the locations. Once you’ve reached the end of the island, you have to backtrack all the way back in an alternative “night” version of the levels. It’s just the areas at night time and feels like it was tacked in to extend the game time.
Some gamers might enjoy this for what it is: a simple hack and slash game, with some annoying design flaws, and frustrating boss fights that will test your patience. There’s plenty other choices for gamers on the market, but if you’ve exhausted all those options then the invisible g-string of Ayumi might supply some fun from time to time. Just don’t expect to get anything more than an average shallow game.