|Release Date:||February 20th, 2009 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
There's nothing quite like a good hack-and-slasher for killing some time (and any homicidal thoughts you may be having after a hard day at work). X Blades certainly lives up to the creed set by the great hack-and-slashers of our time, such as Devil May Cry 4, but sadly falls short of greatness.
My first impression upon seeing X Blades was that the game had 'anime' written all over it- not that that's a bad thing at all. My second impression was that the girl on the front cover seemed to be wearing nothing to cover her backside, at all, and also had massive red boots on. But, scantily clad heroine aside, X Blades is a pretty decent slash-em-up, if flawed in a few places.
The storyline centres around treasure seeker and lack of clothing expert Ayumi, who uncovers an ancient evil and accidentally releases it, forcing her to rip around the world trying to force 'the Dark' back where it came from. The plot is pretty thin, but X Blades' action makes up for this shortcoming. And it's all about the action. Ayumi is armed with a pair of 'pistol-blades'- short swords with semi-auto pistols built in- and a huge number of magic spells and enhancements.
There are literally dozens of magic attacks at Ayumi's fingertips, stretching from ground-pounding earthquake moves to fire and ice attacks and dozens of others. She can also learn special attacks for her pistol-blades, giving them particular elemental bullets perfect for taking on the elemental-type enemies.
Upgraded weapons and magic spells are bought with a certain number of 'souls', which can only be garnered from defeated enemies or from the thousands upon thousands of sarcophaguses, gargoyles, pots and boxes which litter the levels. She is also a bit of an athlete, and capable of all the usual back flipping and double jumping one would expect of an action heroine, while also having the cool ability to keep up a constant stream of attacks without needing to learn any complicated combo moves.
This is a two-edged sword however. As the basic slashing button (X) is just about the only attack you would need for the majority of the enemies thrown at Ayumi, the action can start to get a bit repetitive after a while, especially as the magic abilities only become usable once Ayumi has built up enough 'rage' by slaughtering enemies left, right and centre- it's a vicious circle.
Another annoyance is the game's obsession with blocking a door and not opening it until a certain number of enemies have been killed. While this is common in hack-and-slashers, X Blades seems to have one of these rooms every 100 metres, and the number of enemies to be defeated seems to last forever, spoiling the experience somewhat.
The enemies themselves, however, have a very nice variety. The game throws everything from scurrying spiders to dog-like monsters to glowing balls of light at Ayumi, and the wide variety of magic and magic-charged ranged attacks does an admirable job of tearing everything to shreds in gory detail.
The boss battles are also varied, with some of the bosses seemingly filling the screen with hooves or horns and proving quite a challenge.
A rather nice touch to the combat is the ability to slow down the carnage for dramatic effect by holding down the X button, rather than just tapping it. This adds a nice bit of variety to the constant button-bashing style of the game, as well as looking really cool.
Graphically the game is pretty good looking. The environments are rendered nicely, with very little pop in or blurring, despite the fast nature of the combat. The game also has a slight cell-shaded look, which gives it as lot of character and pays tribute to its anime style brilliantly.
The downside to the graphics is that they are not used to their full potential, as Ayumi seems to spend the entire game wandering through ruined temple after ruined temple. A little variety would really have bought the game to life.
The cutscenes, while not particularly thrilling, are fun to watch when the camera eventually settles, as it seems to have a nasty habit of jumping from wall to wall and avoiding the action at all costs - but with such a weak plot that's no major issue. Sound quality is also a mixed bag, with the roar of battle and the magic spells sounding particularly clear and loud. The downside is the voice acting, which is haphazard: while some of the bosses are pretty terrifying, Ayumi herself sounds like a whining teenager with an attitude problem (but that could be because she is wearing nothing to protect herself from the legions of hell trying to kill her…)
All in all, X Blades is a reasonable decent hack-and-slasher which is let down by repetitive battles, a weak story and an annoying heroine. While it is an enjoyable blast for a while, it can eventually start to become boring as Ayumi fights through yet another jungle temple and yet another blocked door battle scene. One to buy if you're a fan of blood and magic, or perhaps if you've got a thing for anime girls wearing little or no underwear.
- Cool anime style
- Loads of magic to use
- Constant flow of enemies
Not so good stuff
- Annoying heroine
- Repetitive battles
- Repetitive environments