Xseed Games have always had an upstanding reputation of publishing great RPG titles in the North America region like the reputable Ys series; Unchained Blades is no different. The game was developed by FuRyu, and released on June 26, 2012 as a DLC on PSN for the PSP, but a confirmed release date is listed for the 3DS, as well in the North American region. The game itself is a dungeon crawling role-playing game, which also guarantees a satisfying story along with gameplay.
You, the player, follow the Dragon Emperor, Fang, who travels to the goddess Clunea to find and fight the strongest person alive. However, Clunea finds Fang to be arrogant when he decides not to ask for a wish. Due to this, Clunea strips Fang of all his power and sends him back to Temple of Trials. Fang then embarks on a quest to find the goddess Clunea in order to exact his vengeance. Along the way, he meets up with a cowardly golem prince who wants to be reverted back to his child form to avoid marriage; the phoenix maiden who wants to live a different life rather than be a princess, and many other mythical characters such as a shy medusa and a mandrake.
One of the strong points of the game is the strength of the story. Characterization plays a key role in the game and is one of the strongest contributing factors to the story. For example, the Golem Prince Hector is described as a coward within the first 20 minutes, but they further add and expand on how he is a coward by telling anecdotes through dialogue. To add to that, each character’s art design gives them a distinctive look pertaining to his/her race, and makes them very enticing.
Another strong element to the game is the art direction. The game does not focus on having the most cutting edge graphics; however, it shifts that focus to its characters. Each of the characters that you meet in the town are so distinctive that it makes apparent the shortcomings of the game. For example, the dungeons themselves are poorly designed. They hardly look different, and lack a certain appearance that you’d expect from the game. It appears to be wall after wall with coloring attached to them, and some dungeons, such as Titan Darius, have a little bit of magma added in order to break up the monotony. This scheme could have easily been altered to add some visual interest to the design and made the dungeons more appealing to quest in.
Audio is somewhat in the same category as the graphics, as well. There are some great audio tracks within the game, but they are very limited. However, on the plus side, the tracks themselves are
amazing to listen to and very intense, especially during dungeons, but they do get boring.
The voice acting is another part of Unchained Blades that makes the game great, but only for about 20 minutes. The reasoning is that the beginning of the game, which introduces all of the characters, is the only part of the game with full-fledged voice acting. Unchained Blades seems to forget that it even had voice acting after the first 20 minutes.
However, gameplay is where the game shines. Characters are split into two roles, masters and followers. You control a total of 4 masters, and a total of 4 followers, which you can recruit by “unchaining” them, hence the name of the game. Followers themselves play a specific role in this game because they help link powers with your masters. For example, Fang links his skill with his follower Lloyd, which enables him to use his skill burn slice. However, the follower’s happiness also is very important. If a follower is not happy, they do not fight for you, and sometimes will stop helping you link skills together. Getting back to the topic of how to recruit followers, it’s very similar to how you catch Pokemon, to be frank. You have to weaken the enemy to a state in which the masters are able to “unchain” them, prompting the game to ask whether you want to release them to help you or release them into the world. Like Pokemon, this seems like slavery. The use of followers does get more in depth as you get into the game. The system can get rather complicated, but if you go through the tutorials, you’ll see how powerful your fellows can become.
Other factors that play into the gameplay are the skill map that is available to the masters, and crafting items for battle. Each master has a skill map, similar to that of Final Fantasy X’s skill map, which has the player going around in circles unlocking different abilities. However, the difference is that all abilities are unlockable for each character. To add to that, money is very difficult to get in this game, and weapons and items seem to be overpriced. For example, in missions you get materials, rather than money, which are useful for crafting items. The downside to this is that it’s very time consuming, and really seems as if the developers wanted to make the game seem like more of an RPG by adding a crafting system.
Unchained Blades is a decent game. The game itself is fun, but some parts dragged on like all RPGs in some form or another. Unchained Blades could have been better if the developers had added different designs to the dungeons and added more tracks to the game. The variety would have lengthened the game and made it more interesting over long period of gaming. The crafting system left something to be desired due to the fact that you could purchase the items you were creating, which would save the player lots of time and frustration.
Final Verdict: As the game stands now, Unchained Blades is fun, enjoyable, and very much worth at least one playthrough. If you are a fan of RPGs, you’ll certainly get your money’s worth.
This review is based on a review copy of the PSP version of Unchained Blades by FuRyu distributed by Xseed Games