Title: Bladed Fury
Developer: Next Studio
Release Date: March 26, 2021
Reviewed On: Xbox One
Publisher: PM Studios
2D action comes in all shapes and sizes, but you can expect skill to play a role in these titles. Developer NEXT Studios initially released Bladed Fury in 2018, and they have finally brought the title to consoles. This means that I have no other excuses but to dive in and see what I’ve been missing.
Unlike other hack-and-slash 2D action games, Bladed Fury is fueled by its narrative. The entire adventure begins after princess Ji is framed for her father’s death. With her father out of the picture, an evil officer named Tian rises as the ruler and orders to have Ji executed as he plans a wedding to her older sister.
Things move pretty fast in these opening moments, but you quickly get accustomed to the straightforward combat that doesn’t change too much in the later hours of the game. Bladed Fury happens to be one of the more toned-down action games that I’ve played in a while, as they don’t shove several unique fighting systems in your face. I appreciated this as the combat and navigating the environment had a familiar fill to it.
The flipside of this is that I found the game fun for only about an hour before I wanted to take a break. The experience suffers largely from repetitive action button presses and waves of the same enemies. While there is a good helping an enemy variety encounter in each stage, the busy work required to get through stages just weighs on the experience.
Gameplay combines two different weapons that each have their benefits of speed and power. I loved how the developer made it impossible to just rely on one weapon combo as some enemy types require a shield to be broken or have a projectile launched back at them. It keeps you invested in all of the action, which is probably why I was exhausted by the end of it because each encounter felt like they played out the same. I wasn’t really doing anything different besides adjusting to whatever enemy type they threw at me.
What’s remarkable is just how well the action flows, though. Button presses are responsive and feel natural in execution. Most enemy types are damage sponges, so getting through the stages is kept at a high pace. The difficulty is standard, and I don’t feel like Normal was too hard or easy, but there is a more manageable setting if you find yourself dying too much. Through gameplay, you’re also able to collect spirits that you can summon into battle for a few quick strikes against enemies. It’s a nice inclusion and had me looking forward to the varied summonable spirits in the later parts of the game.
After defeating enemies, you’ll collect these souls that can be used to upgrade Ji’s skill set. Upgrades are tied to the two weapons and her own strength. It’s pretty standard fare here regarding what you can upgrade, you know, longer blocking, double dash, extra combo, etc. But it was nice to have something to show for the hundreds of enemies I was taking down. Other upgrades can be found in the environment, such as health and secret stones for extra souls.
Bosses are pretty excited to face off against. These encounters make up some of the best moments of gameplay and only get better in the later parts of the game. The first couple encounters, I must say, were rather dull, but then the gloves come off, and the developer puts your skills to the test. I loved everything about these fights, from the character designs to their attack patterns. I felt like all the skills gained during the waves of enemies were worth it to get the chance to take down these formidable enemies.
Environment design is impressive. I know, this is just a 2D action game, but the developer does some really cool things here, such as providing gimmicks to progress the stages and even obstructing your view. The level themes are creative to provide a sense of progress, which really sells the fact that Ji is getting closer to her goal.
Story scenes have a well-illustrated version of the characters, but sadly these are static. They went for a strange effect where Ji is always on the left, even if she approached characters from the right. Further, her back is always to the camera, which I didn’t like. Ji’s personality rarely goes past revenge and clearing her name to the point where I knew little-to-nothing about her. To mend this early on in the game, I wouldn’t have minded a few flashbacks of her and her family hanging out so we can see who she was before all this.
Bladed Fury’s console debut has not gone unnoticed. This is a great game that takes clear inspiration from Vanillaware action games. It’s mindless hack-and-slash with a purpose and is exceptionally fun in short bursts. I ended up playing for the challenge and boss battles alone; the environments and plot were engaging enough to see the adventure through until the end.
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