| Fantasy Violence, Language
| The Good
Nice mix of real-time enemies and active turn-based
Crafting is both easy and necessary
| The Bad
Graphics could be flashier
Story is a bit stale and by-the-numbers
Blade Dancer is another RPG brought out by NIS America
for the PSP, developed by Hit Maker for SCE. This RPG offers
up an early PS2-quality polygon-based experience featuring
real-time enemies, active turn-based combat and a crafting
system that both easy and necessary. On top of that, there
is an interesting four player ad-hoc mode.
The game begins with the young hero Lance sailing to the
island of Foo, where he looks to test his blade. It's not
long before you realize that Lance with do anything for some
adventure (he's really needy when it comes to "testing himself").
Fortunately, the place is lousy with monsters and people too
incompetent to do things for themselves. Of course, there's
a story about a utopian-like society that was ruined by dark
powers until the legendary Blade Dancer arrived. As these
stories go, Lance appears to share a similar tattoo and the
story plays out, telling his tale of self discovery. The story
plays out with a fair bit of script, fleshing out the characters
without filling them out too deeply. For purists, the vocal
tracks include both English and Japanese.
In towns, you can talk to people to get some flavor of the
game world. Some will have missions you can complete outside
of the main story's mission path. Towns have stores where
you can purchase items, weapons, equipment, appraise items
you have and even a crafting guild. As you move around, you
can select targets to interact with the Square Button and
interact with them using the X Button.
Outside of town, you'll find floating skulls that represent
enemies. Depending on the color of the skull, the enemies
can be easier, on par with you or just harder. Each of these
skulls tends to have a set pattern and can respawn after a
limited amount of time. Because of this you have to be careful
if you want to sneak through an area without getting attacked.
Since everything is in real time on the field, you have to
find a safe place to access the pause menu to equip your allies,
craft or tend to your team formations.
Once you enter combat, actions play out in a active turn-based
fair, not unlike Final Fantasy. Players each get a
turn that can be activated when their gauge fills. Enemies
also takes turns as their gauges fill. When a character has
their turn, you can choose to attack, use Luna, items, run
away or equip (which is helpful if your weapon breaks). One
of the more unique features is that both enemies and allies
share a single Luna pool, which is charged through attacks.
Because this is shared, players have to hope to use it before
the enemy does. If they start charging attacks, you might
want to attack them to interrupt it, or else, they'll steal
the Luna you worked to build up.
Probably the best thing about Blade Dancer is the
Crafting system. While adding Item Creation or Crafting has
certainly seemed like the in thing as of late (Star
Ocean 3 and Atelier Iris
come to mind), what Blade Dancer has done is both easy
to get into, useful and quite necessary. As you buy or gain
items through your travels, you can create new items and weapons.
Some times you find recipes, other times you'll just need
to pay some gold to get an item analyzed so you can make it
on the field. Since your weapons deteriorate in combat, it's
to your benefit to keep pieces around to build new weapons.
Also to take into account is how each of your party members
is strong in one element, making them far more successful
at certain recipes.
Along with the main story is an additional ad-hoc multiplayer
mode where the player and up to three friends can work their
way through dungeons. This mode is a nice addition and can
add more life to the game once you've completed the main story.
Visually, Blade Dancer doesn't really do anything
spectacular, but it does provide a solid polygon-based world
that feels pretty well fleshed out, much like an early PS2
RPG squeezed onto the handheld. Because of this, the gameworld
is sizable without being overly detailed. That's not to say
that the details available aren't nice, because they are.
The character models are decent, though the standard NPCs
are a bit more boring than the essential players. Both ally
and enemy models look pretty good on the PSP screen, due largely
to the unique artistic style that helps define the cast of
characters. Overall, the polygon-based graphics are good,
but with some flashier effects, they would have stood out
The audio package is decent without standing out. Music is
fairly dramatic and sets a nice tone well in the heart of
the genre. Sound effects are decent and the voice acting is
okay. I've heard far better performances and purists will
probably want to switch to the Japanese track quickly. It's
not that the English VA is bad, it's just that it feels a
little stilted and stale.
If you like an average RPG tale with some fun combat and
great Crafting, Blade Dancer is worth your time. The
RPG genre isn't overly deep on the PSP and this title certainly
fills a hole for JRPG fans.