The heroine of X-Blades, Ayumi, is a blonde petite athletic treasure hunter that has very few other traits to her character than the ones I just used. Not only is the heroine of X-Blades shallow but every single aspect of this hack and slash looks good on the surface but doesn’t add any depth whatsoever. The game is meant to be taken in small bits and over a long time, at least that’s what I assumed after an hour of playing when the gameplay got stale. Save your money for the next Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden, or even Ninja Strom.
After retrieving a crystal skull (as seen in Halo, 50 Cent:Blood on the Sand, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull) along with some other artifacts Ayumi goes to her latest procurement. While the shop keeper looks over the skull Ayumi finds an artifact on display that matches one that she had recovered previously. It turns out to be a map to a ruin that legend says (legend says a lot) contains two artifacts which are the by-products of two different gods immense magic power distilled into globes. Ayumi goes to the island and proceeds to screw up the status quo in her search for riches. That’s the whole story and while most hack n slash aren’t known for being plot developed, it would have been nice to see some more character development from Ayumi.
X-Blades doesn’t look that bad at all for a PlayStation 2 game, but this is the Xbox 360 we‘re talking about here. Environments look nice but just offer noting but the same broken ruins and sand over and overagain. Dare I say, this is a game that could have used a fire and an ice level. Ayumi is well *cough* drawn *cough* and she’s the only part of the game that is interesting to look at(if you don’t mind her being orange). There are less than a dozen monsters mostly consisting of balls of energy and triangular lizard or bug things and sometimes I felt like I was playing some weird version of 3D geometry wars. The cut scenes are short enough that they’re not boring but not long enough to expand the story in any meaningful way and they don’t look much better than the games graphics.
The one feature of X-Blades I liked was the magic or “fury” power meter that was the source of most of Ayumi’s abilities. The fury meter will fill if you charge a magical attack, hit an enemy with the blades, or take damage. This meant that while in combat the ability to use magic was something that was always at hand but it prevented the use of tactics where you just sit back and spam magic. The interchange of magic and physical attacks in the heat of things was genuinely enjoyable for the first couple of levels.
Physical attacks and magic attacks are easy to pull off with a touch of a button with jump being A, swords swings being X, and the B, Y, RB, and LB buttons being mapable for different magic attacks. The gun blades can also fire bullets, which is done using the right trigger and the left trigger is the lock on. Not a bad set up for hack and slash 3D adventure game and I would have welcomed such a control scheme for something like an MMO or JRPG like Final Fantasy XII on the Xbox 360. However bad and lazy game design meant that there were a lot of magic attacks that were useless and some that could be spammed for a greater effect than all other attacks. The magic attacks are cool and slow motion and have all sorts of pretty light effects however the glitz and glam wears off quickly when you have to use 3-4 super ultra mega attacks to defeat a normal enemy. Most boss fights require a specific combination of sword play and magic use and the encounters are not intuitive to the point where a mini guide for each boss encounter is included with the games manual. That’s with a bestiary already built into the game the fact that the designers didn’t think to include this pertinent information in the game itself is a good example of a little thing that could have been done but wasn’t considered.The dodge move is particularly difficult to pull off. To get Ayumi to dodge, the player is required to double tap the right analog stick forward and press the jump button at the same time. The absurdity of interrupting the flow of combat long enough to pull off this maneuver is gigantic but instead of it being a tiny little flaw this one move is the biggest reason why this game is getting the score it is getting. The reason being is that, like for most of the other controls, there is a tutorial level where you must learn the move and put it to practical use. The level in question is an L shaped hallway with a few oversized guillotines hanging from the ceiling. To pass these guillotines you must perform a dodge roll. Sounds reasonable right? However there is a magical ability that allows Ayumi to teleport a short distance that has the same effect as the dodge roll. I died a number of times because I could not believe that any designer would include a move like teleport and not let me use it to get past a falling guillotine. Sure enough time and time again Ayumi was brutally cut in half and I was left turning off the game and screaming that such a terrible mistake could be made. This happened a week ago and I still feel angry and bitter about it, and it was made even worse by the fact that after you get half way through the game your required to turn around and go right back through the whole entire map. This meant another encounter with the guillotines of frustration.
Aside from the music that plays on the title screen (also featured in the game’s trailer) there is a rock sound track that plays during combat which never changes. Ugh. The sound effects for the swords and the different magical attacks were ok but the voice acting was atrocious with a whiney female voice for Ayumi, a whiny male voice for the character Jay, and some sort of garbled barely understandable filtered voices for immortal gods that guard the artifacts.
Achievements consisted of collecting objects and killing monsters. If you can stomach the gameplay you can get some easy points with X-Blades.
Killing monsters, collecting power ups, enjoying a dumbed down story you don’t have to think to much about, and boss battles these are the things that made me love playing Gauntlet Legends on the Nintendo 64 but with Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden leading the pack in hack-n-slash action platform games there isn’t much reason to give X-Blades a second glance.