Unfortunately, Blade Dancer can’t get by on personality alone. by Cass Andrusiak
July 26, 2006 – The story of Blade Dancer revolves around everything lunar, so there’s no need to “moon” this game as it does a pretty good job of doing that itself. The game has some really interesting features but unfortunately they are embedded in a hackneyed story rife with cliché characters.
Blade Dancer is a slightly better-than-average RPG for the PSP. You’ll have to overlook the predictable narrative and characters to enjoy the gameplay which is challenging but very easy to understand and execute. Beginners should take advantage of this fact. The gameplay is far from redundant and as far as RPGs go, this one will give you plenty of ever-changing action. With a multi-player mode you can also expect good replay value. Just don’t expect to become emotionally invested in the characters.
Some of the key features to Blade Dancer are the expansive item crafting, the easy-to-access menus and the combination turn-based and real-time combat system. They are well integrated into the game; marinated, if you will. They don’t feel like disparate elements tacked onto the gameplay just to give it some variety. Sure there are countless melee fights and dungeon crawls but with these new features there are a myriad of ways to approach these situations and make them all feel fresh.
Lance is the main protagonist in the game. He is compelled to venture to the land of Foo in search of adventure and to shed some light on his mysterious background. The land of Foo was once inhabited by a race of peaceful utopians called the Zeimos. They were very powerful and when one of their own turned to the dark side, that power was used against them as demons and monsters fed on its energy; thriving on their destructive nature and evil fortitude. One man stood alone with the power and conviction to keep the evil ones at bay. He was called the Blade Dancer. One fateful day he disappeared, never to return again. Lance learns that he has the same lunar markings of the Blade Dancer and as he goes about helping those in need, he discovers that he is capable of harnessing great powers. Could it be that the Blade Dancer has finally returned to fulfill his destiny?
Enemies roam the outlying areas. They are represented by differently colored floating skulls. These skulls can be avoided providing they don’t see you, but if they catch a glimpse of you they will give chase. The skulls come in three main colors: Red; white, and blue. The blue skulls are the weakest and can usually be easily defeated. However, when you run they can assimilate and turn into one black skull which is capable of an incredibly destructive attack. Whatever you do, you don’t want the black skull after you so it’s advisable to stay and fight the blue skulls if they’ve been alerted to your presence. The white skulls will be evenly matched with you but the red skulls can really kick your ass. Even when you do eradicate the skulls, they will respawn and regroup so it’s always a good idea to keep moving. The game can’t be paused so if you want to access your inventory or any other menus, you would be best to do that when you’re in the clear.
Each party member has a moon clock icon that signals his or her turn. During battles, a luna meter will fill allowing you to access it for powerful magic attacks. Strangely enough the meter fills whether you or the enemy is doing the pummeling. Because of this, the enemy also shares in the access of the luna meter. The only way you can stop the enemy from draining the meter is to attack them when they are charging a magic attack. This will neutralize the magic attack and not only save the juice in the meter for your next attack, but it will also save you from being on the receiving end of a devastating magic attack. By performing side-quests for the townsfolk, and there are plenty of them, you will be able to increase the size of the luna meter so that it can hold more juice and thus be capable of unleashing more powerful attacks, which will be necessary when you encounter more powerful foes.
Crafting items plays an integral role in the gameplay. By combing various objects and pieces, you will be able to create new weapons, protective armor and other items such as healing potions. The reason that crafting is so important is because every item in the game has a limited shelf life. For instance, a magic sword may only be capable of a small number of hits before it loses its power and breaks, never to be used or seen again. Many of these weapons and other items can be bought, found, salvaged or awarded to you. Each will have a recipe for creating a replica. Some of these recipes come with the item like an instruction manual while other items have to be taken to a special shop in town where they are broken down to their base components by an appraiser who then uncovers the ingredients and gives you the instructions for crafting them.
Crafting is less expensive than purchasing these items and you can also make them more powerful. With the easy-to-access menu system, crafting is as simple as combining a few ingredients that you can select from your inventory. It’s always a good idea to keep a lot of ingredients and parts on hand in your inventory. You can craft items anywhere at anytime, even in the heat of battle if you so desire. Each item and each party member is affiliated with one of four elementals: Earth; air; fire, and water. It’s best to let the appropriately aligned party member craft his or her own item to ensure the success of the creation. If the crafting fails, you lose those items for good. By having the ability to create new items in the field you reduce the need to go back into town to acquire more supplies since you can keep your party safe and healthy for as long as you have supplies left to combine. If you feel adventurous you can experiment with combining items to see what new things you can come up with. There are certain items that can’t be combined but the interface will let you know beforehand. If you do manage to create a new hybrid, the interface will add the recipe to your list.
There is a good amount of recorded dialog for the characters but the characters really usually don’t have anything interesting to say. They all exclaim things in the overly-excitable anime style that seems geared toward five-year olds. The music is sparse and so are the character animations. There is a lot of fog surrounding the environments which means less drain on the CPU to process graphics, but the results are a claustrophobic atmosphere with only a hint of spaciousness.
The four-player mode lets you take part in dungeon crawls, and allows you to collect items that you can use in the single-player mode. All playable character can be instantly transformed to the same level so that all players are relatively equal. There is no co-op mode but you will get a few good hours out of this mode, as well as few interesting goodies.
- A fantasy adventure story with emotionally compelling characters.
- Full 3D and realtime world that captures the essence of Blade Dancer.
- A revolutionary real time battle system that adds strategic game play like SRPGs.
- Extensive and experimental item crafting
- Multiplayer mode to play in cooperation with your friends. Up to four players can be played simultaneously.
- Many mysteries to be solved even after the story is complete
By Cass Andrusiak
CCC Freelance Writer