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Developer:
Hit Maker
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PSP
Release Date: July 18, 2006

by Josh Ferguson




While the PSP has seen a decent quantity of RPGs as of late, the problem is that the quality of many of these games is merely average at best. One of the latest RPGs to be released for the handheld is from NIS America and titled Blade Dancer: Lineage of Light. Is this the RPG that PSP fans have been eagerly awaiting? Read on to find out more.


The story of Blade Dancer: Lineage of Light follows a young man by the name of Lance Bennet. Early in the game, we are shown that Lance has set off on a boat in search of an adventure. Also, it seems that Lance has been troubled by visions of a young red-haired girl, begging for his help. Not quite understanding these visions, Lance continues forth on his adventure and arrives at the mysterious island of Foo, where he sets out to test his skills as a swordsman. Of course, like any RPG, a few other characters will join Lance, and a whole storyline about trying to save the world will be revealed.


If you have played an RPG before, then the storyline in Blade Dancer will seem quite familiar. These days it is common to encounter a story where the game's main character sets out on an adventure so that he may test his skills. The game has a decent cast of characters, but they are also somewhat clichť among the genre. These include the energetic, clueless, youth-seeking adventurer who ends up saving the world, the quiet but massively strong powerhouse, and even a young woman suffering from amnesia. Aside from that, the game doesnít feature too much interaction among your party, leading to times where the adventure can be somewhat dull and boring. In other words, as long as youíre not looking for a unique and exciting storyline with Blade Dancer, then you may not be disappointed.


As far as the combat goes, Blade Dancer is somewhat different than the traditional RPG. Rather than featuring random battles, the enemies actually appear on the screen as floating skulls, and if they notice your character wandering the map, they will often attack--that is if they donít see your party as being much of a threat. There are a few different colors of skulls, which indicate the strength of those enemies. For example, the red ones are supposed to be tough, while the white ones are fair. On the other hand, the blue skulls are the weakest and easiest type of skull. These blue skulls will often retreat if your party comes near, but these blue skulls arenít stupid. Rather than just merely running away from your party, a skull will often seek out other skulls and then try to gang up on your party. This is made even more difficult because it isnít possible at any point to actually pause the game, and enemies can also quickly respawn and attack while you are cycling through your menus. If youíre thinking, "wow, that sounds a little bit harsh," well, at times it definitely can be--especially when it comes to the beginning, because chances are you will be spending a couple hours just on the leveling up process so that you may be able to successfully battle some of the earlier enemies.


The game's combat is basically turn-based, with something known as a lunar clock next to each of the names. Once the clock completely revolves around, an exclamation point will appear, indicating that the character can perform an action. Each of the game's characters have the same basic moves that usually appear in RPGs, including physical attacks, items, the ability to retreat from battle, and special abilities known as lunabilities. These different lunabilities range from healing spells and physical attack spells, to stat increase spells and group lunabilities that are very powerful attacks. Unlike many RPGs, your characters donít have MP, and instead their abilities come from the use of the lunar gauge. As your characters deal damage or receive damage, the lunar gauge will begin to fill. Of course, each of your lunabilities requires a certain amount of lunar power on the gauge, and once that amount is acquired, that ability may then be used. However, the twist to this whole thing is that the enemies also use the lunar power to perform their abilities. This adds some nice strategic elements to the combat, and with the large quantity and different types of lunabilities, it adds a little extra to the gaming experience.


Aside from the combat, one of the strongest areas of the game would definitely be the item creation. Each of the weapons found throughout Blade Dancer has a certain amount of life, and as you continue to use them in battle they will begin to dull until eventually they break. Rather than continuously purchasing weapon after weapon, the game allows your characters to craft their weapons and items if you have the appropriate recipe on how to create that certain item. These recipes can be acquired by taking the item to an appraiser, who will then separate and hand out the recipe. It is also possible to try and create items without the use of a recipe, but you may often encounter combinations that donít work. Luckily, when a recipe doesnít fit, the items arenít lost, but occasionally when you are using a recipe to create an item, the process will fail and you might lose an item. It is also nice that you can basically craft items at any point in time, which will definitely help make the journey a little easier.


To aide the player as they travel throughout the game, the select button can be used to open up the world map. While it is always nice to have a map, the problem is that it could definitely be a little more detailed and maybe list out the names of different locations, including shops, towns, and trails. This would have definitely been helpful, because occasionally I would find myself backtracking and going completely in the opposite direction than I should have. Plus, with the large amount of walking that the game requires, it would be very nice to know for sure that you were traveling in the correct direction.


Concerning the graphics, Blade Dancer is an overall good-looking title. The character models for each of the game's playable characters are detailed and look nice, as well as the character models for each of the enemies. Character animations are also pretty nice looking. Sadly, though, many of the enemy character models are constantly recycled in the early part of the game, but they still look nice. Many of the game's environments are done beautifully, but some of them are occasionally recycled throughout the adventure. On the other hand, the towns arenít quite as detailed, but they are still decent looking. There are also some noticeable pauses during the beginning of combat and when you are leaving an area.


As far as the sound department goes, Blade Dancer is somewhat of a mixed blessing. While the game's soundtrack isnít done poorly, there really isnít anything remarkable or memorable. Plus, the quality of the voice work ranges from good to poor, with the main character being one of the worst and most annoying. While some of the characters arenít quite as bad, the overall quality is average at best.


While Blade Dancer is certainly a game that can be enjoyed alone, there is also an opportunity to play the game alongside your friends. The game allows for up to four people to join up and play through the storyline together. If you do play through the game co-op, there will be some opportunities to pick up certain weapons that arenít available in the single-player mode.


With its somewhat clichť story and characters, this certainly isnít an RPG without its share of flaws. Still, with its interesting combat system and great item creation, Blade Dancer: Lineage of Light is an RPG that definitely deserves to be checked out by any PSP owner who is a fan of the genre.


Final Grade: 78%


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