Like the martial arts movies, the combat system features different fighting styles. The systems are broken into five main categories: magic, weapon, martial, transformation, and support. Each style is exactly what it sounds like with magic styles allowing you to cast spells, weapon styles allow you to wield a variety of swords and pole arms, and martial allowing for hand to hand combat. Support styles are a little different as they don’t do damage directly to your enemies but rather do things like allowing you to drain chi from your enemies, paralyze them, or shock them. The cool thing about the styles is that you can combine them to create harmonic combinations which will instantly kill almost every enemy in the game. For example, you can petrify an enemy and then switch to one of the weapon or martial styles to finish them off. Transformation styles are one of the cooler styles in the game as they allow you to change shape into defeated enemies. As you progress through the game, you will have the opportunity to collect the souls of defeated enemies and then transform into them while in combat. There’s something very satisfying about turning into a large horse demon and laying waste to a large group of enemies.
Combat styles are learned from certain NPC’s in the game, purchased through shops, or gained by completing questions. As you level up, you will be given points to increase the effectiveness of these skills as well as your core set of attributes. The styles can be enhanced by increasing the damage of the styles, adding chi damage to the attack, or by reducing the cost to use the attacks (Magic styles consume chi while weapon styles consume focus). For the most part, I stuck with a core set of martial and weapons skills and rotated in magic, support, and transformation styles as necessary but that’s only one way to play the game. I’m already planning to go back through the game and play with more of a magic focus.
Once you learn a style, you can assign it to one of the directions of the d-pad. Switching styles is just a d-pad direction away. Once you gain more than four styles you can assign a style to the d-pad by holding down that direction. This calls up a menu of styles and you can quickly cycle through styles and pick the one you want to use. This is critical as some battles will require you to switch styles to defeat certain types of enemies. For example, the various demons roaming the country are not affected by magic enemies while the undead spirits roaming the country can not be harmed by weapons. This forces you to round out your character a little more as focusing on one style means you will be hosed when facing certain enemies.
The rest of the combat controls are easy enough to master. The A button is your main attack button with the B button allowing you to charge more powerful attacks. Hitting the A and B button together will perform an area attack which is helpful when you get surrounded by a group of enemies. The B button is one of the more important ones as it controls how you defend yourself. If you press the button while standing still, your character will initiate a small defense shield which can only be broken by a strong attack. However, if you move left or right while pressing the B button, you will roll left or right. Moving forward or back while pushing the button will initiate a forward flip over your enemy or a back flip. The Y button initiates bullet time…errr…focus mode which allows you to slow down the action and figure out exactly who and what you want to attack. The left and right triggers cycle the targeted enemies while pushing both will toggle you in and out of the locked fighting mode. Finally, the white button allows you to heal yourself by converting chi to health and the black button allows you to charge your attacks with chi to do additional damage.
Switching styles is also critical if you want to survive some of the larger battles in the game. Since you can convert chi to health, switching to a style that regenerates chi will allow you to heal yourself or provide chi for bigger attacks. Since the support styles don’t do any damage (without adding Chi power to them at least), this adds the choice of either stretching out the duration of the fight or trying to finish it up quickly.
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