It is a time of sequels in the world of gaming. Well-known (read: money-making) entities are turning into franchises that spawn video game entries every one to three years. Some sequels are necessary in order to further plotlines (Mass Effect, Halo) and others are necessary for the publisher’s bottom line (Call of Duty, Battlefield). Then a game comes along that isn’t really considered a sequel, but more along the lines of a “spiritual successor”, which can have the same characters and game mechanics as its predecessor, but very little else in common. Blades of Time, developed by Gaijin Entertainment and published by Konami, is just such a game.
Blades of Time places you in control of a blonde sword- and gun-wielding treasure hunter named Ayumi. If this character sounds familiar, you must have played X-Blades, the aforementioned predecessor, which was released in February of 2009 for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. This time around, Ayumi finds herself in Dragonland, a place possessed by something called Chaos magic. She must fight dangerous enemies and solve puzzles in order to find her way out, but all along, I was asking the question: why is she there in the first place? The story is presented through cut-scenes, character dialogue during game action, and journals that can be found strewn through the levels. Despite the many ways of telling the story, it still comes across as disjointed and ultimately, confusing.
It’s.....good, but after finishing the game, there’s the sad realization that Gaijin Entertainment really couldn’t do much more with it.
The game is a mish-mash of many different gameplay elements seen before, but in less successful ways. Imagine a combination of the beautiful heroine and puzzle-solving from Tomb Raider, the hack-and-slash routine from Devil May Cry, magic elements from Fable, fighting combos from Bayonetta, and the admittedly cool addition of a time-rewind feature that lets Ayumi fight alongside her own clone from a few seconds previous, much like the mechanic used in Braid. Taking all of these gameplay elements and throwing them into the gaming oven should produce a golden-brown supergame, but instead Blades of Time falls short in almost all of these facets. It tries too hard to be great at too many things, and ultimately is unable to master any of them.
On the positive side, the locales looks quite good. The environments are lush, full of color, and are quite pleasing to the eye. Ayumi and the rest of the character models are passable when in motion during gameplay, but the cutscenes that spoil the production. Up close, the faces are expressionless and they suffer from the dead-eye look. The voice acting is uninspired, and in some spots it bordered on being deadpan. I got the impression that the developer wanted desperately to make the characters interesting, but the delivery falls short. A confusing story, shallow characters, and dead eyes do not make for a good experience.
While the presentation leaves a lot to be desired, the gameplay itself is good, for a hack-and-slash. The swords that Ayumi wield are customizable. Weapons of varying abilities and powers are found throughout the environments, and are immediately interchangable. The inclusion of a shotgun is curious though. In order to use it, you must click the right analog stick, which equips it, and has you looking down its sight in third-person view, similar to Gears of War. Shooting some enemies is necessary in order to defeat them, but it is awkward to use while running, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. The controls beyond that, however, are straightforward. The buttons are mapped for jumping, kicking, swordplay, and dashing. Button combos come into play when you want to use any kind of magic power-up, which is obtained by finding mini-temples and choosing between two or three items to be used in combat. The button combos for magic are simple and easy to remember, which is refreshing (if you’ve read any of my reviews from the past, you’ll know I’m not a fan of complicated button-mashing). The left bumper button is used for Time Rewind. This feature lets the player to rewind time up to 30 seconds previous, allowing Ayumi to fight alongside as many clones as she wants. Some enemies and puzzles require this mechanic in order to advance, and it is a welcome breath of fresh air to an otherwise mundane battle scene. All told, Blades of Time is easy to pick up and to control, but there is little else to keep one’s attention.
There are multiplayer features in the game, although they seem arbitrarily tacked on, and are unnecessary. You’ll find both competitive and cooperative options, but neither of them are interesting enough to draw anyone online to play with. I did get into one competitive match, however, and was alarmed to find that the time-rewind feature had been taken away. Without that feature, the multiplayer was just plain boring.
Blades of Time gives me an odd feeling. It wants to be a great game, throwing all sorts of elements at me. It’s.....good, but after finishing the game, there’s the sad realization that Gaijin Entertainment really couldn’t do much more with it. A fantastic storyline could have saved it, but it was not to be. Save for the time-rewind feature, this is a genre that has been played out over and over again, and Blades of Time finds itself buried in the Devil May Crys and the Bayonettas of the world...hopefully never to resurface again.
Release date : 2012-03-06
Publisher : Konami
Developer : Gaijin Entertainment
Gameplay : Action-Adventure
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