In video games, there are a few assumptions that you can almost always count on:
1. Being able to control a beautiful woman for the entire game is always a good thing.
2. Killing massive amounts of enemies is always a good thing.
However, combining the two does not always mean success, as proven by Gaijin Entertainment’s X-Blades.
Feb. 10, 2009
X-Blades (available for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC) is a third-person hack and slash adventure where you control the (barely clothed) Ayumi in her quest to search for treasure, killing everything you see in the process.‚ This game is essentially Tomb Raider on steroids; it stars a more scantily clad heroine fighting larger amounts of enemies with unlimited ammo. However, as fun as this sounds (and it is pretty fun, at times), X-Blades is spoiled due to an almost invisible plot, repetitive levels and an annoying main character.
The game begins with a short monologue by Ayumi explaining that she is searching for an ancient artifact which she believes will grant her limitless powers, fame and fortune.‚ You can tell she is very cocky and confident.‚ Though initially I found it cute, Ayumi’s dialogues with the bosses and other characters became quite annoying.‚ I quickly learned to skip past cut scenes as quickly as possible.
From the tutorial, you start the first level, which is appropriately named “ËœEntrance into the Ruins”.‚ This stages serves as sort of a tutorial, allowing players to get a good grasp of the controls.‚ The controls are pretty easy to get a handle of.
Here’s a quick rundown of those controls: You press X to slash with your blades.‚ You can also press X multiple times to do long combination of hacks and slashes.‚ To use the guns, just press the trigger.‚ For a steady stream of shots, hold down the trigger.‚ Toggling the A button serves as the jump function, allowing you to leap in the air and slash at airborne enemies.‚ X-Blades is equipped with an auto-aim feature that isn’t great.‚ Basically, you turn Ayumi towards an enemy and it aims for you.‚ However, due to the massive amounts of enemies, the auto-aim system is somewhat pointless to pay attention to until you’re facing a boss.‚ The tutorial also explains how you can slot your special moves into certain buttons in the controller.‚ As you add more and more special moves (by purchasing them with the souls you collect from the enemies you kill), you can slot them in the Y, B, RB and LB buttons, giving you easy access when you need that extra oomph in battle.‚ You can also change where your specials are slotted by going to the game menu.
Though the tutorial did a good job explaining the battle system, it did not go over the interface at all.‚ I wasn’t sure which bar on the screen represented my health, my rage (a mana-like meter for special moves) and my progress in the level. I eventually figured it out, but it would have been nice to know from the get-go.
The actual game gives you very little background and history of Ayumi, which will leave many players wondering why she seems so motivated to find the treasure at seemingly any cost.‚ People who purchase the game will be able to read the manual booklet for the brief history behind the protagonist.‚ For renters?‚ Well, they may be SOL as many game renting services lose the booklets within the first week of availability, if they even provide them at all (for example, Gamefly does not).
Without a background and without a good sense of the plot, you continue to explore through different stages whilst fighting waves of different enemies and bosses.‚ You eventually cross paths with a young male character named Jay who serves as a source of dialogue and aids Ayumi on her quest to”¦ wait”¦ what was the main quest again?
Along with the poor plot development, X-Blades takes you through many levels that pretty much look and feel the same.‚ Though the enemies change in shape in size, they all attack you in similar formations and styles.‚ The wall textures seemed fairly uncreative, as well.
The positives of this game, though hard to identify at some points, were present during the campaign.‚ First of all, being equipped with “Gunblades” (which are exactly what they sound like “" Guns with Blades) is always a good thing.‚ When I first heard about these weapons, I thought to myself, “I don’t know what those are, but I like them already.”‚ The hacks and slashes of the blades, though boring from an animation standpoint, are able to supply unlimited combination potential.
Speaking of animations, some of X-Blade’s most entertaining graphics come from Ayumi’s special moves, which tend to be quite effective against large hordes of enemies.‚ Some of the foes in the game can work together for a special move of their own.‚ They do substantial damage to Ayumi, but are also fun to watch.
The fact that this game had two different endings was a worthy addition to the game and added some replay value as well.‚ The endings are brought about depending on whether you align yourself with light or dark magic, which means that your play style will be different the second time around. Also adding replay value were the collectible artifacts, which are hidden throughout stages, but when the game is this repetitive and lacking in plot, you may not want to go through all of it a second time just for some treasure or a different ending.
Overall, X-Blades just isn’t that good.‚ The flaws in this game are much too visible and annoying not to damage the entire experience.‚ There is very little reason to actually purchase this game for the $59.99 sticker price.‚ If you’re going to be supremely bored for an evening, sure, drop a few bucks to rent it.‚ Beyond that, it’s not a great value.
Let me put it this way, X-Blades, like Ayumi herself, might be worth taking home for a night.‚ However, if you spend too much time with her, you’re going to regret it”¦ no matter how hot she looks.