Orangeblood is an old-school RPG with pretty visuals and decent music. If this convinces you to have a gander at it, I’d probably look a bit further. On its surface, Orangeblood offers something interesting, but delving a little deeper shows some of the fundamental problems at its core.
In Orangeblood, you play as Vanilla – a world-famous criminal who can earn her own freedom in return for investigating a crime city and the secrets underneath it. You are dropped into New Koza, a bustling futuristic city with flying cars and rowdy people, before being set on your way. The majority of your progression through Orangeblood is oddly telegraphed. You meet a new character after getting beat, and move to a defined place. You defeat a boss in that place, you go back. You never really feel that attached to the story and you simply let it take you along with it.
Usually, in games where the story takes something of a backseat, the characters are placed at the forefront. Orangeblood is not like this. Characters never manage to feel all that human, and dialogue often feels strange, complete with random lingo thrown in for an even more confusing appearance. At its best, it is unnoticeable. At its worst, it feels very “How do you do, fellow kids?”. Describing a town as “skanky” or a car as a “hoopy-ass lowrider”, is all very off-putting and fundamentally makes things feel a little insincere.
This insincerity starts to infect the other functions of Orangeblood. Its old-school RPG combat systems are fine but a little limited in scope. You and your team are placed on the right of the screen and enemies on the left. Your individual speed dictates the order of each attack and which characters fight first. This means your action must be planned based on who will fight first. It sets this up like some tactical battle of wits where gear and stats matter, but they never really feel like they do. Gear is randomised and very common, and characters have an auto-equip function that puts the best gear on them. If you regularly click that and loot around areas, you feel consistently overpowered. This is only furthered through more party members, skill types and gear. As you defeat enemies, your characters level up and earn money and keys useful for getting even better gear.
The entire nature of Orangeblood is rather cyclical. The areas feel similar, combat doesn’t change and the story moves at a very slow pace. Even the main facility that you work through for huge chunks of the game are split up with meaningless meanders, artificially inflating playtime. This only really works when you don’t notice it happening, and the second you do, that illusion breaks. It starts to feel very video-gamey, and not in a way that feels particularly fun. Levelling starts to lose its meaning and so does upgrading your gear. This illusion breaks down even further when one lucky gun drop can carry you through huge percentages of the entire game.
Luckily, Orangeblood is a pretty good-looking illusion. Its pixel art style is reminiscent of old-school Final Fantasy or Pokemon, and whilst most of its mechanics try the same, they don’t feel nearly as full or charming. The art looks much better outside in the crisp air of New Koza too, as some indoor areas have strange filters and weird cut-off points. You see, battles inside seem to have 30% of the screen cut off by darkness, ensuring it feels oddly claustrophobic – this could be intentional but doesn’t add enough to feel justified. The music itself feels like a nice mix of ‘90s hip hop and an orchestra. Sometimes, those synths and vinyl scratches are interjected with a piano or horns to a pretty good effect. This is let down by some very annoying audio effects played throughout all battles. A special chest enemy can be found at random to provide you gear, and killing them fills the air with an annoying air horn. Enemy and character guns feel awfully tinny and most activities are accompanied by distracting sounds.
Orangeblood on Xbox One is a game I wanted to adore. It looks stylish, feels nostalgic, and I’m in serious need of a great RPG to sink my teeth into. Unfortunately, its mediocre combat, slow-feeling story and cringe-inducing writing leaves me wishing I had spent my time on something with a little more substance.