Blade Dancer: Lineage of Light
We danced with blades, and came out unscathed. OK, that made no sense... but read our preview anyway!
It's no secret that the PSP is seriously lacking in the RPG department, which may be playing a part in the console's sluggish sales in the Asian territories. Here in America, the PSP is entering its second year of service, and sadly I can name only a couple of true RPGs off the top of my head. Unfortunately, neither PoPoLoCrois nor Legend of Heroes appear to be doing it for much of anyone, leaving gamers in search of a decent handheld role playing title. True, history shows that this genre is one of the most hard to come by, especially during the first year of a console's life. The problem stems from the public's big expectations, which is a direct result of Sony's storied track record with RPGs.
The good news for RPG fans is that 2006 brings a wealth of new role playing titles to Sony's handheld. The Hit Maker developed, Blade Dancer: Lineage of Light, is one of the many RPGs scheduled to hit store shelves this year. But with high profile titles like Suikoden, and Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth in the works, it may be easy for this promising title to get lost in the shuffle. At E3, we sat down within the comfy confines of Sony's handheld booth, spending ample time analyzing this promising RPG.
Blade Dancer's storyline is your typical RPG fare, thrusting you into the shoes of the main character and protagonist, Lance. Lance arrives in the town of Foo, after a series of dream sequences and cut scenes which reveal some of the game's back-story. We won't spoil too much of the story, but there's a dark lord who once wreaked havoc on the kingdom in years past, and afterwards vanished. Of course, now he's back, and it's up to you to bring a stop to his madness.
If you're an avid RPG gamer, then Blade Dancer's gameplay will be second nature to you. The setup involves your basic third person camera angle, with means to adjust the camera mapped to the console's shoulder buttons. One of the unique things about the game's control scheme is the lock-on button. You can lock on to townsfolk, doors, treasure, and more, all with simple taps of square button. I think this setup is a great idea, and prevents you from accidentally engaging someone or something that you didn't intend to. For example, if two NPCs are standing next to each other, the lock on button negates the risk of you accidentally talking to the wrong person and it identifies the characters by name. It's also a good means for realizing what can be touched and interacted with, and what can not.
Battles are a "best of both worlds" scenario, as the game takes aspects from both real-time and turn-based battles. First of all, it's entirely impossible to pick and choose who you go into battle with, as you can actually view your enemies on screen as opposed to being randomly vaporized to the battlefield. Once you get into actual battle however, things resort to the tried and true familiarity of turn-based gameplay. Unlike most RPGs, the enemies start off pretty aggressive, and I died during my first battle. Maybe I should have utilized the game's extensive crafting abilities to create myself a weapon to take down those scavengers! Yes, as you might expect weaponry is a big deal in Blade Dancer, as they can be crafted from recipes, but they can also break, so keep those recipes handy.
Mission based gameplay also plays a huge role in Blade Dancer, as I was able to acquire one just a few minutes into my experience. One such mission had Lance playing the role of delivery boy, in an attempt to deliver a "Mama's Lunch" to one of the townsfolk. The missions are plentiful and varied, and as the Sony rep denoted, are an integral part of the overall scope of things.
Overall my experience with Blade Dancer: Lineage of Light was very promising, and shows why gamers have plenty of reasons to be optimistic in 2006. Sure there are plenty of big name RPG's coming down the pipeline this year, but it would be unwise to overlook the smaller budget games. Blade Dancer is a title that looks to offer plenty of depth, tried and true gameplay, and even a few innovations thrown into the mix for good measure. We're sincerely looking forward to reviewing this game upon its release this summer.