Coming from developers NExT Studios is a game that is set in Ancient China, by the name of Bladed Fury. Promising to deliver a goodly slice of Chinese history and mythology, NExT have delved deep into Eastern storytelling history to bring a game with a promising narrative, alongside that of plenty of action. So, come with me to a world of swords, souls and slaying, as we explore Bladed Fury!
The story is an appealing one here, and full of the sort of scheming and double dealing you’d expect. The developers describe it as a 2D fantasy game, “Based on Chinese history, mythology with a dash of surrealism in the mix”. And to be fair, that pretty much sums it up.
We play as Ji, youngest daughter of the Duke Kang of Qi, and we have an older sister named Shu. Tian, an officer in the Duke’s army, sets a trap that not only kills the Duke, but frames us for his murder, setting himself up to marry Shu, thus cementing his position as the new ruler of Qi. Now, as you can imagine, someone killing dear ol’ dad, and blaming us for it, doesn’t sit well with Ji, and so she embarks on a quest for justice that largely involves hitting various people and monsters with pointy bits of metal; Bladed Fury is the journey she undertakes. With the help of Chinese Deities like Hou Yi and Jingwei, how can we fail?
First off, the look of the game is very striking – there is a beautiful hand-drawn style about it. The princess, Ji, is very well-animated, whilst the fighting style is pleasing to use, being both fluid and responsive. Ji has two main weapons: a massive slow sword called Crimson Mass, and a pair of faster blades; these are great for slicing and dicing smaller enemies, faster ones, or even for putting the hurt on bosses. The Crimson Mass, on the other hand, can again be used for smaller foes, but it comes into play more when you see guys with “super armour”. This is displayed as a yellow outline around them, and a few smacks with Crimson Mass is enough to shatter this armour, making them vulnerable again. Crimson Mass can also deflect projectiles, and so keeping on your toes and using the right weapon at the right time is key to success.
Luckily, Ji also has a block move which, if perfectly timed, can lead to a counter attack. There is also a dodge move to get out of trouble quickly. Add in a double jump and aerial attack combos and you can see she is tooled up for all eventualities.
In terms of the audio and Bladed Fury works really well, with fully voiced cutscenes in the original Chinese language and haunting music married to the clang of swords and the cries of your victims. Presentation-wise this is all top drawer stuff.
As you progress through the land, you will not only find smaller enemies to batter, but there will also be bosses to keep you on your toes. Taking these down is a real chore sometimes, as they usually have three layers of health to whittle away, while also come complete with some screen filling attacks. In an interesting move, once the bosses are beaten, you obtain a sliver of their soul, and can then summon them to fight for you a limited number of times. Some fire a rain of arrows into the sky, others summon a black hole to damage foes, and more either heal you to full health or slow enemies on the screen down. Best of all, you can stack these, so freezing a boss, then unleashing arrow-based justice or a black hole on them, is a good way of melting their health away. This Soul Sliver system is very clever indeed, and while you can only have four souls usable at once, you’ll soon find your favourite combos and stick with them.
The fighting system is the star in Bladed Fury; it is a sheer joy to let Ji loose. As she kills and gains souls, she can trade them in for either new moves or more charges on the healing flask she carries. This RPG element is very welcome, bringing a nice counterpoint to the constant battling. As Ji gets stronger, so do her foes, and by the sixth level the enemies that are initially seen as bosses on the first stage are popping up two or three times on the same screen; only a constant combination of dodging and using her mixed arsenal of moves will allow Ji to deliver a mythology-sized beatdown. It’s a tough gig though – by the time you get to the final boss, your fingers will have had a work out. This is one of those games where it’s a good job the controls are as fast and responsive as they are, or you’d really be in trouble.
Bladed Fury on Xbox has been a joy to play through. It’s fast, (bladed) furious and a lot of fun, especially the first time you meet a boss and have to figure out how to take it down. There is an element of puzzling included, but it really is nothing more complicated than figuring out which order to light torches in, or reflecting a projectile back to hit a switch. And while the game doesn’t hold your hand, it’s never too overwhelming. The combat is a particular highlight, so if you like brawling or Chinese history, Bladed Fury is an easy sell. Even if you don’t, it’s worth a punt, if only so you can dash about with twin blades.