I just recently started digging into a game I was curious about for a while before it's release a month ago, "X-Blades" for Xbox 360 (available for PS3 and PC also). Actually, I played a couple of hours of it last week, but then got pulled away in several directions for most of the week. But, I got back into the swing of things last night for another couple of hours, enough so that I can deliver some impressions to any of you as curious as I was about the SouthPeak-published title.
However, I do have to mention one major sticking point before getting into anything to do with the game play. As you can see in the box art to the right, the protagonist, Ayumi, is a young scantily-clad girl. If it were to end there, I would be OK with it. I mean, I've played too many SquareEnix games to count featuring similar heroes. But, I can't help but feel like SouthPeak is really trying to stuff sexual appeal down our throats here. What you can't see on the box (though Japanese box art did show it) is that she's wearing ASSLESS CHAPS. Unless she's planning on performing "YMCA" down at the Blue Oyster on karaoke night, there's no reason for us to see Ayumi's buttcrack every time she runs forward. Further, when she is running toward you on the screen and comes to a stop, there is a definite ... umm... jiggle in her top floor. Is that really necessary?
Heck, the PR sheet SouthPeak sent out ends with a note saying to contact them with any questions about the game or about Ayumi's turn-ons and turn-offs. Really, guys?
Well, I can't hate on the good people at SouthPeak too much, they are my video game sugar daddies, after all, but is all this sex really necessary? I don't know about you, but I don't think there are very many of us old enough to play this M-Rated game that will fall for such tactics.
All SouthPeak really needed to do was let us play a few levels of this hack-and-slash to justify purchasing. So far, three hours or so into "X-Blades," I'm having a pretty good time.
You've played games like this before, where armed with a couple of swords (which double as guns) and a growing number of spells, you fight off hordes of demons. The slight twist on it here is an almost old-fashioned level structure. Each level is a small section of the castle/ruins place Ayumi is exploring, with a set number of demons that must all be vanquished before you can move on to the next section with its own demons. Whereas most hack-and-slashes go hand-in-hand with dungeon crawlers, "X-Blades" simply wants you to achieve a set goal before moving on. Which means, in the words of King Leonidas, "no escape, no surrender." Each level also has hidden artifacts to find for points that can be used to upgrade your attributes.
At times, yes, the battles can get repetitive. For instance, when fighting enemies on ground, all you really need to do is fight with your swords just long enough to build up enough magic to cast an "Earthquake" spell knocking everyone back. Then you do it again, and again, and again. I had a bit of a tough time fighting a giant fire-breathing monster a couple of levels in, until I realized all I really needed to do was stand underneath him, and keep on using that same "Earthquake" spell.
On the other hand, as I am progressing and there are a larger assortment of demons in each area, including flying ghosts that remind me of the poes (which used to be named Wizrobes) from "Legend of Zelda," "X-Blades" definitely takes on a much more reflex-based frenetic pace. I am quickly learning, this is not the game to play at 6 a.m. right before trying to go to sleep.
When I stopped playing last night, I was just about to fight an enormous spider, who has little demons circling him to block spells ... which, again, reminds me of old-school original "Legend of Zelda," which is a good thing.
You might have noticed, I haven't mentioned the storyline yet. Well, it involves good and bad talking wolves and dark and light magic. So far, though, it's really not much to speak of. Hopefully once I kill this spider, I will learn a little bit more about why I should care about this girl's story. For now, though, if you like hack-and-slash games, this has not been bad a couple of hours in. Check back later tonight (hopefully) or tomorrow and I'll have more on the next few hours of action.