The PSP is slowly becoming the hot spot when it comes to portable RPG goodness. With companies like Nippon Ichi and Atlus pledging full support, fans of the genre have had lots to cheer about. Blade Dancer is yet another pint sized RPG that packs plenty of game play into that little UMD. Does it have enough to separate it from the pack, or is it simply another palette swap from a previous title? Find out if Blade Dancer is really worth all of your hard earned dough right now in our full review.
The story is based on a young man named Lance; one day he decides to sail away to the land of Foo, (I really think they are running out of names for these places) and Foo is not surprisingly full of needy people. The land was originally ruled by a peace-loving race known as the Zeimos, and initially Foo was considered a utopia to all who lived there. That is until one day when a member of the royal family decided to partake in the dark power which in turn brought with it war, anarchy, and necromancy. This evil was finally defeated by a warrior known as the Blade Dancer, which ironically sports the same tattoo design found on our current hero Lance. Coincidence or plot point? You decide!
The narrative of the game is typical RPG flare, but surprisingly you can choose to switch between Japanese and US voice overs, which is a rarity for a PSP title. However, even with spoken dialogue the game still lacks character depth and sometimes the conversations leave a little to be desired when it comes to developing the characters themselves. Regardless if you enjoy saving the world in other RPG titles, Blade Dancer will certainly satisfy your hunger for being the hero.
The battle system is a nice mix of turn-based mixed with real-time elements, which leads to some unpredictably intense battles. Each character has a moon clock next to their name, this lets you know when their turn is coming up. When it does you will have to manually select them to attack. Striking enemies with melee attacks also fills up your magic meter which allows you to unleash super attacks known as lunabilities. The catch here is that this meter starts out empty at the beginning of every battle. You can increase the size of this meter by completing quests for the townsfolk, but you have to fill it each and every time during battle.
There is a nice little tidbit of strategy involved here as the enemies can also draw power for lunabilities in the same fashion. You can prevent them from using said abilities by attacking while they are powering up, however do note that they can do the same to you. If a lunability is interrupted the points go back into the pool for anyone to claim. This adds a nice layer of strategy to the battle system and it does keep you on your toes for the later battles against more formidable opponents.
Outside of the battle system the biggest mechanic that sets Blade Dancer apart from similar games is its crafting system. This allows you to combine different items collected from either merchants or defeated enemies to create more powerful weapons, armor, and items. Crafting is much more than a side item in Blade Dancer simply because all of your items have limited durability and can break after being used for an extended period of time. Combine this with the fact that there is simply no way to repair your items and you are left with being forced to forge new weapons in order to continue fighting. You can take your broken down weapons to certain merchants and have them break down the weapon and give you the parts, but if you let it shatter you can no longer use it and it becomes worthless. There are a plethora of pre-built weapons you can purchase in shops but in the long run it is better to craft your own from pieces you collect around the world.
Thankfully crafting can be done anywhere on the fly by simply pulling up the crafting menu. Each character in your party has a specific element they are suited for; earth, fire, air, and water, so it is certainly in your best interest to craft a weapon that suits your particular avatar. If you fail to create a weapon that suits them your endeavor will fail and you will lose one of the pieces. Recipes for certain weapons can be found while browsing through local shops at the pre-made ones, so finding just the right mixture is usually just a matter of research. Crafting is certainly this games main focus and you can easily spend hours just toying around with the mechanic.
The visuals found here are a mixed bag. While the cities themselves are usually very colorful and lively, the outside world is chock full of bland textures and repeating patterns. Think of it as a virtual wasteland with not a lot of eye candy for your viewing pleasure. The character animations are also hit and miss; while the look and feel is there the animations tend to lack a certain aspect to make them stand out. The magic effects are also not as visually pleasing as other titles in the genre but they certainly get the job done.
Alongside the deep crafting and unique battle system is another nice addition; multi-player. Gamers can link their PSPs together wirelessly and load their saved character for a little co-op dungeon crawling. The game even lets you modify your characters level to coincide with whoever you are playing with. If that wasn’t enough you can also obtain certain items that you can use in the single player adventure. Needless to say the multi-player is more than just a flashy add-on that makes the overall package more appealing.
On most levels Blade Dancer is an extremely average RPG, in fact if you already own one of the many currently available on the handheld there is little reason to pick this one up. However if you have been waiting to join the handheld RPG revolution this game lots to offer and is certainly more enjoyable than some of the others in the genre. The crafting and battle system alone are worth the price of admission and the multi-player really seals the deal. While the storyline and character development are certainly below average Blade Dancer is still worth picking up if you are a huge fan of the genre.