Review / X-Blades (PS3)

As you can see from the picture above X-Blades’ main appeal is the blonde, half naked gunblade wielding heroine Ayumi. She spends her days looking for rare artifacts and slaying ungodly creatures that threaten to impede her progress. One day she comes across one such artifact and against the wishes of a wolf-like creature, touches it. From this point on, Ayumi is possessed with a dark force that threatens to awaken from inside her unless she reverses its effects. There’s also some back story about two divine beings – one dark and one light, who eventually fight each other until the dark one gets trapped in an artifact. Basically Ayumi’s greed could bring about the return of the dark God unless the player does something about it which is much easier said than done.

X-Blades is a action adventure game but it’s hard to see where the adventure part comes in. Each stage is an arena that spawns a ton of enemies that must be defeated so the next sparkly door can open to a new area. There is little to no platforming, character development or story to speak of. Any instances of storytelling is done by brief cel-shaded cut scenes accompanied by bad voice acting. What players are left with is roughly 10 hours of nothing but hack and slash gameplay. X-Blades doesn’t try to shy away from the fact that it is a square button spammer, but it’s just not enough to recommend paying $60 for.

I’ll start with the good aspects before touching on its faults. First of all, X-Blades is very simple in nature. Every stage is an arena that has the singular objective of destroying every monster you see. Sometimes the arenas can be cleared by constantly mashing the square button for sword attacks and R1 for gunplay. There are many instances where players will need to rethink their approach to combat as some enemies can only be killed in a specific way. For example, there are these crab creatures that are too fast for melee attacks. Therefore the only way to kill them is to use guns.

X-Blades’ combat may sound similar to Devil May Cry – but it has more differences than similarities, the first big one being acrobatics. Even though Ayumi can jump ten feet in the air and double jump, she can’t do it while shooting for some reason. When using her guns, Ayumi can only jump straight up. She can’t run up walls, twirl in mid-air or anything fancy. The pace at which the guns shoot is constant no matter how fast the player taps the R1 button. Granted, faster shooting and stronger shot types can be acquired later but the somewhat slow pace of shots makes the guns an afterthought for half the game.

Melee attacks are much better by far. Ayumi has two blades that can be used with several spells. The spells require rage which is another way of saying magic points. Rage is gained by hitting enemies through melee attacks or by Ayumi getting hit herself. The bar decreases slowly but it doesn’t matter because you’ll be knee deep in baddies all the time. When enough rage has been acquired Ayumi can perform an impressive amount of magical abilities that range from a simple fireball to a powerful group clearing attack. X-Blades offers a lot of spells to use and they seem to unlock constantly. Purchasing spells requires souls that are gained from defeating monsters. More powerful spells costs more souls and affording them can be done by retreating through previous arenas and racking up more. Skills can also be powered up by finding pieces of artifacts scattered around the arenas. Collecting 3 pieces can either increase Ayumi’s melee attacks, air attacks or gun strength.

It wouldn’t be a hack and slash game without some kind of super ability and that’s where Dark and Light forms come in. Dark form can be purchased from the spells menu and Light form is gained through the story. Personally I never used Dark form because the game’s ending is affected by what spells you use and it later became unselectable after I got Light form. The transformation makes Ayumi stronger and faster and lasts for as long as the crystal bars in the top left of the screen will allow.

Even though X-Blades succeeds in attack variety it fails in gameplay variety. The arenas last too long and some enemies are a chore to take down because there’s so many of them. Imagine having to kill countless fire guardians with an ice spell for close to ten minutes. It quickly dwindles into break the red crystal, shoot ice until rage runs out, look for another crystal and repeat. Just when you think the stage is going to end you’re greeted with another wave of enemies you’ve fought a zillion times before.

The game’s framerate drops if you allow things to get too hectic while fighting, audio cuts out when using the wide shot ability and the quick roll maneuver, which is crucial to completing the Deadly Passage level, tends not to work unless the camera is positioned on Ayumi’s right shoulder. The game even tries to justify going into the same arenas twice by calling it the evening version. You really can’t tell it’s the evening because almost everything is always red. The environments are like ruins with ancient designs made of stone. It doesn’t stand out and quickly becomes boring to look at. The battle music is generic electronica that’s replaced with more somber music that sounds like it was lifted right out of Tomb Raider or Uncharted. The icing on the cake is when one of the bosses glitched right out the game and forced me to start over.

I honestly can’t recommend X-Blades at its current $60 price. It’s far too repetitive and the story seems thrown in for the heck of it. The attack graphics are pretty and the amount of spells and abilities are great but this is an example of quantity over quality. It’s going to take more than a half naked woman with gunblades to get players to enjoy this one.

+

  • Vast amount of special abilities
  • Pretty special effects
  • Easy enough for any gamer to play

  • Horribly redundant combat
  • Tacked on story
  • Boring environments and music
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