Remasters have been a great way for studios to bring old classics to new audiences, and give fans a chance to replay the game on the current gen consoles. More often than not, games that get this treatment are games from beloved series, cult classics, or games that just never got their due. Then along comes Blades of Time, a game released on last gen consoles back in 2012 and now remastered and only released on the Switch (so far). A Sequel to X-Blades, neither game was received well so it's time to unravel the mystery of why this game has been remastered.
It all starts off with Ayumi the bikini-clad Treasure Hunter, in a place called the Dragonlands looking for treasure. Here is where the problem lies with the story. I was pretty sure I missed some kind of cutscene (the game is pretty broken) or introduction of some sort, as I’m just thrown into the game with no explanation. Ayumi would suddenly talk about what’s happening but with no context, she keeps bringing up a friend called Zero like I should know who he is. If it’s not that confusion, then it’s talking about being in this new fantasy style world or location with absolutely no background of where she came from. Throughout the story there is a whole saga between two races that have a war simmering behind a truce, and wanting to prevent a great evil being unleashed. Even with all of this going on, the story is pretty predictable and has no impact on the game. Ayumi only cares about the treasure and getting home. It all gets off to such a rough start it’s hard to recover.
Blades of Time plays as a hack and slash in the vein of God of War or Devil May Cry, or that’s at least the company it hopes to keep when it comes to comparisons. With other games, it feels like there is some method to chaining combos and using other weapons while hacking and slashing. But in Blades of Time, you’re given two equally average methods of attack that never make combat enjoyable. When you’re not swinging Ayumi’s twin blades around, you’re in third person shooter mode. Click down the right analogue stick and you bring out a gun to shoot down flying enemies or attack shielded ones. The shooting feels awful too. Often you’re in situations where you need to slice and shoot, and you can’t do both fluidly. While there is a lot of combat in Blades of Time, there’s also some exploration and adventuring. Exploring is often for chests that hold new weapons or equipables. Adventuring is what happens outside of combat, usually it’s having to grapple around in the air from floating creature to creature to avoid falling to your death and so you can progress. Like combat, the adventuring isn’t very good. Controls, camera and the layout of the world all work against you. Even when it looks straightforward, it’s not hard to wind up falling down a pit because you can’t see something until it’s too late.
You are given time powers early on in the game. This involves rewinding time to make another copy of yourself. You stay where you stopped, as your past self goes back and repeats her actions. This is used for switches and attacking or sneaking past enemies. It would be a really cool feature if it wasn’t implemented so blandly. Puzzles boil down to making a time copy of Ayumi press down a floor switch so you can hold down two buttons at once, or some other variation on that. The combat is already unreliable, let alone making you have to keep reversing time so you can attack a shielded enemy. The framerate often makes it a game of chance you won’t crash the game.
Controls are just the start of the issues of playing this game. The jump button for a game that uses it as much and is focused around fast paced combos, it is not in a good place. The attack buttons never feel in the right place either. Unfortunately like the rest of the game you better get used to it, because it’s not remappable.
Frame rate is all over the place in Blades of Time, strange given the age of the game being remastered. The more busy the game gets the worse it gets, which makes it all the harder to play. Then there’s the camera, the camera is even more dated than the game. Good luck keeping track of an open area with enemies surrounding you.
As a plus, the visuals are colourful and at times imaginative. But it’s still impossible to ignore that the visuals are very much from 2012. The main character gets around in essentially a bikini top, the male human characters are essentially the exact same model, and there is a fairly limited variety of enemies. The music is completely forgettable, as are the sounds of Ayumi boredly reading off her script. She is often talking to herself as there’s very few people you do interact with along the way.
Before a patch halfway through playing the game, it froze and crashed whenever the Switch came out of sleep mode. The patch seems to have fixed that, but then caused the game to crash three times in the same area. I was forced to repeat a tedious fight several times before I could finally move on. It went on to crash several more times over the course of the game, to the point I was ready to stop because it was nearing the unplayable point. Not only is the game is prone to crashing, other people have encountered a bug that required them to start a new game several hours in. While the initial sleep mode freezing and crashing had been patched out, the game is still as unstable. Buy at your own risk.
Surprisingly, Blades of Time came out with a new multiplayer mode to accompany the story. Outbreak multiplayer mode is a capture and defend the base multiplayer mode. Ayumi (or whatever skin you unlock/purchase) leads their soldiers/grunts to the enemy's base tree that needs to be destroyed to win. Playing this mode was as bad as story mode. It was a slog to delve into, worse was at launch it was pretty broken. It’s really hard to see who the Outbreak mode is designed for. The controls and combat aren’t fun enough to want to sink time into. What really surprised me was that there is in-app purchases to buy gems, these go towards purchasing characters, weapons, items and consumables. As you progress through story mode, you get extra gems to put towards this mode which is nice, but those gems will only get you so far.
Blades of Time is a strange entry to find suddenly showing up on the Switch. A follow up to a game that was hardly well known, but assumes people have played the first game. Even without the bland story, tedious combat and mildly interesting time mechanic, the real enemy of this game is technical issues. Crashing every time the Switch was put in sleep mode was bad enough. A patch fixed that, but made the game so unstable that after 10 crashes throughout I was on the verge of writing the game off as too broken to complete. This was on top of an ever-looming possibility a game-breaking bug could erase my save and send me back to the start. Blades of Time is a product of its time, and even then it would have still been a very average game. The technical issues can be patched out, but given what the last patch did I would be very wary. Approach Blades of Time at your own risk.
Review copy provided by Gaijin Entertainment