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   Blade Dancer: Lineage of Light - Reader Review  

A window to the tough games of yesteryear.
by Chris Eisman

PLATFORM
PSP
BATTLE SYSTEM
5
INTERACTION
3
ORIGINALITY
3
STORY
3
MUSIC & SOUND
3
VISUALS
4
CHALLENGE
Medium - Hard
COMPLETION TIME
20 - 40 hours
OVERALL
3.5/5
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Once upon a time, in the magical land of Foo there was a spiky haired young man with a mysterious bright red tatoo on his forehead, A young man with a dream, riches? power? saving the world?. No, he dreamt of a red haired elven girl with a desperate need of saving, locked up in a far away tower, And, in this dream, the girl reveals the tale of an evil to come, and that, this being a dream, neither will remember anything when they wake. And thus, our hero, Lance, sets out on a quest, promising that he will help the first person that asks him, hoping to eventually make his way to his damsel in distress. His trip is told through a quest that will involve minimal music, some decent animations, an intricate crafting system, a very good and strategical battle system, a so-so plot, a white monkey, lots and lots of loading screens, in a fairly lenghty adventure, as well as an interesting little take on lan multiplayer.

   Blade Dancer's story will feel familiar to most that have even had a passing encounter with Anime, or JPG's, sporting the stereotypes and cliches that you would expect from the genre, while managing to have just enough heart, charm, and twists to keep you playing, especially in the later half of the game, where most of the plot is delivered, it is also helped by the fully voiced scenes where the story makes its delivery, sporting competent english voice acting for the most part, and thankfully including the option for full japanese dialogue for the purists that would rather play it in its original language.

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   So how enjoyable is it to play?

   Very. Blade Dancer has one of the most engaging and strategic combat systems I have encountered in any RPG, just like ATB, a small meter spins by each of your character names, indicating the time until your next action, which can consist of your typical attack, equip, run, and item, plus lunability, a category including both magical and physical techniques that draw off a Luna meter that is shared between you and your enemies and that fills as either group takes damage in combat. This meter also turns into an experience bonus at the end of battle. Adding to the strategy and franticness of battles is the fact that there is a delay between the selection of a lunability and its execution, giving monsters a chance to disrupt your techniques, or savvy adventurers a chance to disrupt those of their enemies and making precise timing of your attacks important.

   Blade Dancer is one of the few RPGS in recent memory that is HARD, choosing the wrong ability, or taking too long to choose will often mean certain doom for your party against the stronger monsters, and, even though there are no random encounters, you'll be hard pressed to fight as much as you can in some parts to keep up with the enemies that you'll encounter.

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   Groups of monsters in BD are represented as floating skulls, their color representing their power relative to that of your party, blue skulls (weak) will run away from you while white, red, and black (medium, strong and nigh impossible) will chase you relentlessly if they catch sight of you during their patrols. Bosses are the only enemies represented by their actual model rather than a skull and it's highly recommended that you save before braving them in most cases, as quite a few of them will have little trouble helping you reach the tittle screen quickly.

   During his quest Lance will come across plenty of locals with quests for him, ranging from "kill a unique monster" to "take this whatever to whoever" upon which completion he will be rewarded with increases to the Luna meter used for abilities in battle .

   Weapons in blade dancer tend to degrade rather quickly, which would be a quite frustrating affair if not for the fairly robust crafting system that enables you to create pretty much any piece of weaponry or equipment in the game from the bits left over from your constant encounters with your varied enemies. A quick trip to the current town's appraiser will give you the recipe to create most any item or equipment you show him, and as you play it'll become easier and easier to guess what the components of higher level equipment are, lending to quite a bit of interesting experimentation, and substantial savings, as just like in real life, the raw materials required to craft something are quite cheaper than the finished products.

   The graphics in Blade Dancer are a mixed bunch, sporting detailed characters with interesting designs and details, weapons that show on your characters in battle, and an animated intro with high production values, as well as varied combat animations that come off naturally, and a few detailed towns and locations, unfortunately most of the fields and the actual interiors of said locations look unrecognizable from one another, greeting you with similar looking hallway after another or plots of terrain that look exactly alike, the available map doesn't help things much either, as it only shows the screen you are currently in and its exits, without revealing what ultimately awaits at the end of each road, making it easy to get lost while traveling to and from some locations.

   The games soundtrack is okay, if sparse, lacking any sort of music while in the field, and repeating the same few themes in towns and battles. The English voice acting is competent, and fortunately the option to listen to all of the games speech with the original Japanese voice acting is also included.

   Blade Dancer also includes a fairly interesting multi-player mode for up to 4 players, in which each player starts in a different section of one of four unique multi-player dungeons and makes its way through it. At the beginning of the session each player selects their character and level and whenever any player comes across a monster all of the other players are also brought into battle. The game ends whenever the dungeon boss is slain or all 4 party members die, and at the end the players are rated according to the number of monsters they killed and rewarded with items that can be used in the single player game.

   At the end of the day, Blade Dancer doesn't bring a lot new to the table, but it manages to do what it does well enough to position itself as a solid addition to any RPGamers Psp collection

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