The PSP has long been the home for some of the best modern role-playing games. From must-own modern remakes like Tactics Ogre and Persona 3 Portable, incredible original titles like Crisis Core and Valkyria Chronicles II, and a collection of strong PlayStation-era RPGs (Final Fantasy VII, Vagrant Story, etc.), the PSP has the strongest library of adventure games of any system. Now, even after the PS Vita has taken its place, the PSP is still attracting niche role-playing games, like Unchained Blades, Xseed's newest portable outing.
Unchained Blades is a traditional Japanese role-playing game through and through. The game hits all of the cliches, including random battles, a nonsensical storyline, busty anime girls, an emo hero, old-fashioned turn-based combat and hours of tedious grinding. If it wasn't for the PlayStation 2-quality graphics, you might think this was a port of a Super NES adventure game.
You play Fang, a cocky dragon who has gotten used to his life as an immortal. One day his powers are taken from him and he's reduced to being a mere teenage boy with questionable style. Fang is filled with anger and will do whatever it takes to claw his way back up to his former glory. But he can't do it on his own. In order to survive the many challenges, Fang will need to make friends and work as a team to take down titans and save the day.
In true role-playing game fashion, you lead a band of characters through dungeons and towers. The action is told from the first-person point of view, similar to classic adventure games like Phantasy Star and Double Dungeons. The map fills in with each step you take, forcing players to be thorough in order to find safe camp sites, treasure chests and other hidden goodies. But stay vigilant, because you never know when a random battle will strike.
The combat will be instantly familiar to anybody who has played an old school Final Fantasy game. Each side takes turns setting up an attack plan, which can involve special skill attacks, magic abilities and more. Or, if you're low on health, you can use items to take care of your wounded characters in the middle of battle. It's all fairly standard territory for Japanese role-playing games.
Unchained Blades does offer a few additions to the regular turn-based action. For one thing, you'll be forced to battle several pages of bad guys at once. The game isn't afraid to throw a dozen or more bad guys at you, which means that players will need to use the left and right shoulder buttons to flip between several groupings of enemies. This adds a lot of strategy to the battles, especially late in the game and with multi-sectional boss battles.
Unchained Blades is ultimately marred by a narrative structure that works against the best elements of the role-playing game genre. Just when things are about to get good, the game throws you for a loop and hits the reset button. The simple gameplay and paper-thin characters aren't enough to make up for this unfathomable design decision.
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!