Developed by Arc System Works and released in North America through Akysys Games, Xblaze: Code Embryo is a visual novel prequel to the Blazblue fighting game franchise. Taking place 50 years before the Dark War and 150 years before Calamity Trigger, the first game in the main series, the game follows Touya Kagari, a Japanese high school student who discovers the Power of the Azure and is quickly thrown into a huge series of events, which have him talking with a bunch of different people and factions, both good and evil, all while he tries to retain the innocence of your regular high school student.
From a storytelling standpoint the game is really quite deep. There is a lot going on at the same time and it’s easy to get lost if you’re not somebody who has spent a good amount of time studying Blazblue’s lore. That being said, there is a glossary if you ever get lost and it always remains incredibly well written, even when it delves into cliches or silly asides that are put in as a joke.
One thing that makes Xblaze stand out is just how many alternate paths and extra side stories there are in the game. Once you get past a certain point in the game, the floodgates open in terms of possibilities. Based on how you interact with your TOi you’ll experience everything from a gag scene to a scene that expands on a character that didn’t get much screentime in another playthrough to one of the many and various alternate endings in the game. Either way there is a ton of replayability to be had in this game, especially if you’re a die-hard Blazblue fan who wants to see everything.
The presentation is also another area in which this game shines, though there are a few hitches here and there. The score is absolutely gorgeous, blending ambient noise with familiar tunes and always fitting the mood no matter what the scene. The graphics, as you can probably tell, are also amazing. Whether on the Vita or the Playstation 3, you’re bound to be drawn in by the super detailed, clean and colorful artwork. There are a ton of variations with the portraits and during action sequences, the game really stands out with dramatic cuts and camera angles to really make you feel engaged. Where I found hitches was in the stability of the game itself. Sometimes the touch controls would freeze up and not function until I restarted, sometimes the game would crash upon booting up and sometimes the text would get jumbled up and I’d have to restart. None of these things happened with enough frequency as to take away from my overall enjoyment of the game, but did happen often enough to warrant mentioning.
If you’re a fan of Blazblue, Xblaze should be a no-brainer. With a phenomenal story, great graphics, an awesome soundtrack, tons of in-jokes and references and more than enough variety in terms of story outcomes, this is bound to make even the most casual Blazblue fan incredibly happy. Even if you don’t know anything about the series it’s still a highly enjoyable visual novel and one worth playing again and again.