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Unchained Blades Review

Unchained Blades Review

The first-person genre is a little known genre with hardcore fans and brutal difficulty. XSEED Games catered to that market with last year's PSN release of Wizardry, but this year they have a new title which attempts to appeal to those interested in the genre, but are not confident enough for an old-school approach; Unchained Blades. Known for its unique mix of art styles due to its collection of various well-known character designers in Japan, it attempts to bring together the first-person dungeon RPG genre with some of the gameplay elements common in Japanese RPGs. How this works in practice, however, is somewhat of a mixed bag.

The story revolves around an alternate world inhabited by an omnipotent goddess known as Clunea, who has the ability to grant the wish of anyone who undertakes a "holy ordeal" to prove themselves worthy of her power. The main character Fang, a renowned and extremely arrogant Dragon Emperor, angers Clunea and is stripped of his powers. Furious, he vows revenge and takes on the holy ordeals for a rematch. Aside from Fang, you have a group of interesting but predictable supporting characters such as a tsundere Phoenix clan princess, a shy Medusa clan girl and a big but cowardly Golem clan prince, just to name a few.

While the plot is generally simplistic and most of the twists can be seen a mile away, it does do a respectable job of keeping the player engaged, as opposed to a typical dungeon RPG which only features a bare-bones story at the most. What makes the story work is how it slowly fleshes out each of the character's personalities and breaks them away from their generic cliches. The only disappointment is that because the game focuses so much on the characters the world itself isn't touched upon much at all. For a game that features multiple clans from all different walks of life it doesn't give any sense of how they operate, outside of them all working together towards a single goal. Developer FuRyu does develop the world and the clans to some degree, but it feels half-hearted and immediately focuses back to the characters.

Much like the story, the gameplay is a mixed bag depending on your experience with the genre. As standard for the series you have the typical first-person turn based battle system, but it does include a few key differentiators. Similar to Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei franchise, Unchained Blades allows you to recruit monsters to fight alongside your party by "unchaining" them. You can have up to four attached to a character at any given time, which can deal supporting damage or take the brunt of an enemy's attack. The fault with this system is that getting the enemies to that unchained status feels exceptionally random as it only occurs when the enemy has a fraction of life left, but the range varies widely between each enemy.

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