Xblaze Code: Embryo Review

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Title: Xblaze Code: Embryo
Developer: Aksys Games, Arc System Works
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.4 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Currently Unavailable
PSTV Support: Yes

Visual Novels are something interestingly tied to games, nowadays.  Within visual novels normally shows scenes that show character artwork on either side of the screen, along with text and dialogue along the bottom of the screen.  This has been a growing trend in gaming, especially with RPGs and more.  Not only visual novels themselves, but just story scenes in that style.

Many games are now abandoning scenes that show cinematic cutscenes, in favor of easier, visual novel-style visuals in the scenes.  There are many different examples I could give you of games that do this, even on the PlayStation Vita.  Demon Gaze.  BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma.  Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection. Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars.  The list goes on.  While it isn’t bad to have this sort of scenes, it is becoming a very rapid trend.

While more and more games are having scenes like this, there are full-blown games as visual novels that are coming out as well.  In Japan, there is going to be a new Fate / Stay Night game based around being a visual novel.  However, that’s not all.  Recently, Aksys Games and Arc System works released BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma onto the PS Vita as well as a Visual Novel game that takes place in the very same
universe.  Here is our official review of the Visual Novel game, Xblaze Code: Embryo.

Story

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In many games, the story and plot of the game can be important, but can also be not-so-important.  Thinking back, there are many games that don’t even need a plot to be fun.  In a visual novel, though, the opposite is true.  When you’re running through a visual novel, story and plot are everything.  This isn’t going to be like BlazBlue, where you can skip scenes and fight opponents.  Visual Novels are just like watching an anime or reading a book, so story is very,  very important.

The story of XBlaze takes place 150 years before the events of the BlazBlue series, so don’t expect to go in and see Rachel Alucard and Ragna the Bloodedge from start to finish.  The story revolves around a young man named Touya Kagari, a seemingly-normal man leading a normal life, working in a diner and going to high school.

One day, on the way home from work, Touya encounters a man seemingly going mad, whom attacks him with magic-like powers.  After a long fight and being saved by a young soldier by the name of Es, Touya’s life is thrown upside-down, identifying him as someone whom can seek out and identify powerful, infected people known as Unions, and is tasked by Es’s employer to track them down, entering a life where death is around every corner as well as many familiar things to BlazBlue fans, like the Azure and Seithr.

The story of Xblaze feels like you’re watching an anime.  From start to finish, even the dialogue feels like it is taken straight out of an anime series to be put in front of you.  There are serious moments, and there are a lot of clichés and funny moments, from the tsundere Mei to the overbearing Soichiro that appears along with her.  From the moment you hit Auto-Play on the game, you will be sure you’re watching an anime and not playing a game.

Gameplay

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The gameplay of Xblaze is not something you will come to expect, given how similar the game is to BlazBlue.  This is a story-driven game, so you will be spending 90% of the game watching scenes and reading through biographies, character descriptions, news articles, and more.  This is a game that is 100% about the story and not about the type of gameplay you are tackling, though you can move back and forth between certain scenes and events from the Extras menu.

When you’re playing through the game, you will be watching scenes, but things are a little more interactive than that.  This is a choice-oriented game, despite the lack of actual dialogue choices throughout the game.  When you’re watching scenes, you will have access to pressing buttons to do various things, like saving, reading character Bios, and more.  However, the most important part is being able to access the TOI system.

TOI is a system that showcases character information and news articles about the world around you, and is something that is completely optional to do.    You can go into this menu and read about the characters you’ve encountered thus far, which will be constantly updating their profiles with new information as more time passes by and you learn new things about them from the story scenes.

The more important part of the TOI system is reading News Articles.  As you play through each chapter, you will come across news articles, though the game won’t notify you when this is updated.  Reading these articles is a key aspect of the game.  The game has several different endings you can achieve and what you can do depends on how much you know.  The more articles you read, the more you know, so it’s important to constantly check up on this to find new information to affect the story in different ways.

For all intents and purposes, that’s all there is to the game.  There is no physical gameplay at all.  You will simply be watching the story unfold, and checking the TOI system for new information and articles, along with experimenting to see what changes what.  For a visual novel, it doesn’t need more than that, given how much content is in it.

With Auto-Play available, the game should last you a good 10-12 hours for one time through the game.  That’s roughly the equivalent of a 30-episode anime series.  If you think of it as watching an anime series, imaging buying a 30-episode series for the money it normally takes to buy a game.  While this is nothing compared to BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma’s story mode, it is still quite a bit of content to play around with and read up on.

Controls

Controls are pretty light for this game, given how it plays out, not having much physical gameplay and more story elements involved.  Still, you will be using both the touch screen and the buttons on the system for the game.  The touch screen can be used to cycle through dialogue as well as choosing menu options.  Otherwise, you’ll be using the physical buttons of the system.

The Left Analog Stick can be pushed up or down to perform a Quick Save and Quick Load, allowing you to return to a specific part of a scene quickly, without completely re-loading a save file.  The X Button, like the touch screen, is used to cycle through the dialogue of the game’s scenes.  The Square Button is used to pull up the TOI menu, and the Circle button can cancel out of menu options.  The L button is used to enable Auto-Play, and the Start Menu will take you to the main menu.

The controls could have been explained a little better, to be honest.  While it only takes a few minutes to figure out what does what, the game did not go out of the way to explain what each button does.  I had no idea the game even had a Quick Save feature or how to save the game until I accidentally pressed the buttons that did those features.

Presentation

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The presentation of Xblaze has ups and downs, like most games.  First of all, the amount of detail and quality of the artwork present in the scenes is done really well.  You can definitely tell its part of BlazBlue as you play through the game, and there are some sections with motion scenes thrown into the mix to surprise you.  Even when models are zoomed in on, the quality doesn’t lessen.

The main gripe with the presentation that people will have is the audio.  While the audio quality is just fine, the only language available to listen to is Japanese voices with English subtitles.  This is nothing new to anime fans, but with how well BlazBlue’s voice-overs have always been, it is a shame to see the game without any sort of English voice-overs.

Otherwise, the game plays fine.  The load times are nice and short, never taking any more than 3-5 seconds to load up each section of the game, and everything plays through smoothly, even without the now-available patch that improves the stability of the game.

Overall

All in all, Xblaze Code: Embryo is a great way for BlazBlue fans to explore some deeper part of the universe’s background, especially about the Azure that has been the focus around Ragna the Blood-edge since BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger.  While the game only has Japanese audio options, there is a lot of content to explore, especially with the TOI system and how it affects the game’s endings.  This is a must-have for BlazBlue fans and a suggested title for any anime fans.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network Rates Xblaze Code: Embryo an 8/10.

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