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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (478)

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Eiyuden Chronicle: Hund... 2/5
Pikmin 4 4/5
No Man's Sky 4/5
Dragon Quest Monsters: ... 4/5
Assassin's Creed IV: Bl... 2.5/5
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands 3.5/5
Ratchet & Clank: Rift A... 4.5/5
Super Mario Bros. Wonder 4.5/5
The Alliance Alive 2/5
Catmaze 4.5/5
Turnip Boy Commits Tax ... 4.5/5
Seasons After Fall 3/5
Rayon Riddles - Rise of... 0.5/5
World to the West 4/5
MechWarrior 5: Mercenar... 4/5
Streets of Kamurocho 2.5/5
Aeon of Sands - The Tra... 2.5/5
Greak: Memories of Azur 3.5/5
Yaga 2.5/5
Riverbond 3/5
Bug Fables: The Everlas... 4.5/5
Front Mission 1st Remake 1.5/5
Middle-earth: Shadow of... 3.5/5
Bladed Fury 3.5/5
Ruzar - The Life Stone 3.5/5

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Bladed Fury   PC (Steam) 

1000 Years of History Compressed into 4 Hours    3.5/5 stars

The 2018 release of “Bladed Fury” marked the third officially completed project out of Shanghai-based Indie developer, NExT Studio. It also marked the first – and last – title from the studio that actually caught my attention in any way. “Bladed Fury” really does stand out from everything else the studio made before and since, presenting itself as yet another Chinese game attempting to steal the Japanese Indie studio, VanillaWare’s, thunder.

Presentation
“Bladed Fury” puts forward a very pretty face. The hand-drawn, hand animated 2D visuals are a mix of Ancient Chinese styling with a touch of modern Asian pop-art. The result is gorgeous, with detailed environments, unique characters, and incredibly-detailed enemies, culminating in a number of large, intricately-designed bosses. NExT Studio, like VanillaWare, is also not afraid of putting some sex appeal into a modern product, as “Bladed Fury’s” heroine wears such a short outfit that her ass is hanging out of it most of the time. Ultimately, the game’s visuals were what initially piqued my interest, and they’re the aspect I feel was done the best.

Audio, though, is a close second. The game is fully voiced… but only in Chinese, with subtitles. The soundtrack is likewise very Chinese, clearly pulling inspiration, once again, from Ancient Chinese historiography/mythology. While the music is a great match for the visuals, I can’t say that any of the tracks got enough runtime to really turn into an earworm.

Technically, “Bladed Fury” is pretty close to immaculate. My experience was completely bug-free. It supports Xinput out of the box and, while the default bindings leave a bit to be desired, allows the player to freely rebind any and all commands to whatever Xinput buttons they want (or typewriter keys, if the player is retarded). Load times are zippy, but I found the load screens to be a bit obnoxious, as they are full of flashy, overly-busy tutorials that look like ads for mobile games, and that cycle on repeat until the player notices the tiny “hit A to continue” down in the corner of the screen.

Story
“Bladed Fury” tells the tale of a young noblewoman named Ji who lives during the Warring States period of Chinese ancient history. When she uses an ancient, inherited artifact to kill a demon who possessed her father, Ji quickly takes the blame for his murder and is forced to go on the run. The conflict between the nobility and the commoners and the ongoing warfare between different factions has torn open the barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead, and thus Ji is forced to make her way through several discrete regions that are a blend of supernatural and real-world horror in search of someone who will believe her account of her father’s death.

“Bladed Fury’s” narrative is painfully short, clocking in at around 4 hours, which prevents it from really blossoming. Likewise, there are a number of bizarre supernatural beings who are introduced with little fanfare or explanation, clearly assuming the player already has a foundation in Chinese mythology… which is not even something most Chinese people have these days, since the Chinese Communist Party actively discourages the consumption of media featuring gods, monsters, or the supernatural in general.

While I enjoyed the narrative for what it was, I could have gone for a lot more exposition and backstory, plus a lot more length overall. A 4-hour game has to be REALLY good in order to make a lasting impression in such a limited runtime, but, sadly, “Bladed Fury” isn’t quite there.

Gameplay
“Bladed Fury” is a fairly basic side-scrolling Beat ‘em Up with some light platforming mixed in. While it might give an early impression of being a Metroidvania, it absolutely isn’t, as each of the games 6 stages are fully self-contained and generally linear. Likewise, there are no mobility upgrades or power-ups to speak of, and both no ability and no reason to backtrack.

Our heroine, Ji, can perform a light attack using twin daggers, a heavy attack using a huge cleaver, a dodge, a double-jump, and a block – with a perfectly timed block opening the enemy up to a counter or reflecting projectiles. She can also heal herself at will a limited number of times, with these uses refreshed at every save point. And that’s all there is to it.

Killed enemies drop green souls, which restore a small amount of Ji’s health, and yellow souls, which can be used to purchase the small number of upgrades in Ji’s three skill trees. These trees cover the twin daggers, the cleaver, and ‘common’ skills, but none of them are particularly revolutionary, evolutionary, or interesting. They mostly revolve around damage boosts to certain skills, allowing attack canceling to dodge or block, reflecting projectiles on perfect block, enabling counter attack moves, and the like. There are just enough yellow souls in the game to buy all of these upgrades before reaching the final boss, provided the player is thorough and aware of the fact that there are a specific number of hidden soul blobs in each stage to seek out and collect.

Exploration is not, however, a particularly large aspect of the game. Nearly all of the soul blobs are in not-particularly-well-hidden rooms just barely off the beaten path, or just out of sight at the edge of the beaten path.

In addition to the fairly basic combat system described above, the game features the ability to collect a handful of Soul Slivers from mini-bosses and bosses. These are not random, but guaranteed drops from these encounters. Ji can equip 4 of these at once (out of a total of 6), with each Sliver having a certain number of uses (also refreshed at save points) and a short cooldown between uses. But, honestly, most of these abilities are useless or situational… except the one that gives an extra three full heals and the one that drops a rain of arrows that can really deal a lot of damage to a large, slow-moving boss.

In general, though, I didn’t find the gameplay in “Bladed Fury” to be particularly compelling. The moment-to-moment combat is functional and feels fairly balanced. Most of the bosses are fairly simple and telegraph their attacks well. However, there are two bosses in particular – one being the final boss – that don’t telegraph their attacks very well, and for whom the perfect block timing feels suspiciously picky, after being so generous throughout most of the game. Then there’s the fact that the achievement list wants the player to replay the game on Hard Mode, Challenge Mode, and do a whole bunch of annoying things without taking any damage that just isn’t appealing at all.

Overall
“Bladed Fury” is a gorgeous piece of art that draws heavy inspiration from China’s ancient and semi-mythological past. While this premise could have been amazing in an epic RPG or, really, any genre with a longer runtime, “Bladed Fury” comes and goes far too quickly to make any kind of lasting impression.

Presentation: 4.5/5
Story: 4/5
Gameplay: 3/5
Overall (not an average): 3.5/5

 

 


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