Finding someone who played the original X-Blades is a challenge; almost as large a challenge as finding someone who really enjoyed it. I qualify in both of those categories. I played through the original game, and while it had some serious issues, I did enjoy my time with it. Fast forward and Konami is following up X-Blades with a title that you wouldn’t know it was a sequel, unless I told you. Funny enough, the game is also what we call a “stealth release,” so the fact that you even know it exists is even more impressive.
There is a storyline here, but honestly you won’t care about much, if any of it. You once again take on the stilettos of Ayumi, a treasure hunter who dons less apparel than some working girls. You are in the world of Dragonland (I swear I am not making that up) and constantly narrating your adventure with annoying observations about how you don’t understand what is going on around you. Don’t worry, Ayumi, we don’t understand it either. Annoying voice work plagues every character in the game. As for the writing, well, let’s just say it won’t be winning any awards anytime soon.
That said, there is a solid game underneath the mess they try to pass off as a narrative. Blades of Time is an action game. You have standard melee attacks with your blades and ranged ones with a rifle you obtain relatively early in the game. Melee attacks are limited to two buttons, but it is the variety of other things you can earn over time that spice things up. Ayumi can manipulate time, which becomes the focal point early on. You can rewind time and create multiple versions of yourself, thus allowing you to attack enemies with a barrage of clones.
This is easily one of the game’s strong points, but it does take time to comprehend. Learning the best situations and the timing to execute these maneuvers is something the game fails to guide you through. This leads to lots of experimentation, dying and restarting. Quickly, this becomes frustrating, but might not be so if the game didn’t require it so often. Combat often leans on this mechanic that sadly is never properly taught.
Ayumi will also learn magic attacks along the way that can affect foes using elemental damage. You can earn fire, ice and others to stun enemies and even damage them over time. You’ll build up a meter by performing combos, and then unleash attacks with an awkward button arrangement. Tapping one button, then a combination of two others executes the attack, which also can lead to mis-timed attacks. The whole combat system flashes moments of brilliance while fumbling with basics. Still, once you get it down, you will be whisking around the battlefield, slashing enemies with a smile on your face.
To mix things up, there are various segments in the game that force you to use stealth or solve a puzzle, but none of them really push the limits of the genre. Blades of Time isn’t shameful in what it does, yet it holds a certain appeal that keeps it from being one of those games that is easy to poke fun at. You will enjoy some of what it offers, but never feel the need to convince anyone to purchase it. The level design is decent, featuring typical themes mixed with repeating enemies. I did enjoy the dash and snap-to mechanics for moving around the worlds. There is also an upgrade system that seems half-finished. You collect souls from the dead to offer at statues, but it really doesn’t matter how many, because he always offers up gifts regardless of the amount.
In addition to the campaign, there is also an online mode called Outbreak. These are one-off missions you can complete with a buddy or use to compete for high scores. Either way, neither will entertain you for more than an hour or two. Combined with the campaign, you have a solid offering of nothing special. It is weird how some games still retain a bit of charm regardless of how short they fall in most categories.
Blades of Time is a game that people will forget before they even know about it. However, for those that play it, you will find it has a certain charm that makes it worth seeing through to the end. It might not be a game that you rush out to buy or even rent, but if you do come across it, I bet you will find yourself smiling while playing it. Ayumi never seems to catch a break in her starring roles, but this is with the second game she’s starred in that I’ve enjoyed. Now, if she could only get past these stifling hurdles.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.