The last game in the world I expected to like anything about is X-Blades – it’s a blatantly sexist, shallow anime rip-off with a paper-thin plot.
But it turns out that this blatantly sexist, shallow anime rip-off game does a few things so well that I can almost overlook the sexism, the shallowness and even the plot.
Economy of motion – X-Blades is one of the smoothest gameplay experiences I’ve had all year (granted 2009 is only one week long). Never during combat did I find myself fiddling with controls, wondering which buttons to push or scrambling through a level at a loss for what to do. The controls – which carry over almost identical to the 360 version – are intuitive with L stick mapped for motion, R stick mapped for the camera and the face and shoulder controlling all the hacking, slashing and spell-casting. So a button-masher like me was completely able to pull off wild combos of airborne sword attacks and fireballs, racking up 150-some odd kills in one wave of enemies.
Easy leveling – All the upgrades and spell advances in X-Blades have to be bought. I’m totally down with this because it means I can pour efforts into one category without the game deciding what levels when based on how many things I kill. Sure, I might have to grind once in a while be replaying levels to earn enough cash for a max level gun or skill – but at least I won’t have to calculate XP earned per encounters to know when I’ll get that gun.
Hack-‘n’-slash glory – I don’t want my button-mashers to be complicated. If I’ve had a lousy day or I just want to zone out and watch pretty things happen on screen, I need a game like this to unwind with. Unlike Heavenly Sword – which people seem determined to compare the game to – X-Blades demands very little from gamers in the timing department and even less in terms of strategy. You will never have to guess which spell defeats which enemy, never have to fret about the preferred combo for defeating a boss and never, NEVER perform a quicktime event. For this, I can almost forgive the game for having the main character’s ass hanging out the whole game.
X-Blades has gotten most of its attention based on the main character, the Light and Dark magic paths (which lead to one of two endings), and the art style. But there’s more to this sexist, shallow anime rip-off than what you see in the screens. Come February 10, we’ll see how much more there is to this cross-platform title.