Wednesday, March 23, 2016

XBlaze Code: Embryo (PC) Review

Many moons ago I reviewed XBlaze Lost: Memories on the Vita, which was a visual novel set in the BlazBlue universe.  Unfortunately, I had not played the previous game, Code: Embryo, so there were gaps in the story that were likely filled in there.  Now that XBlaze Code: Embryo has been released on Steam, I have a chance to review it and see the story from its first perspective.

While the art for the game looks good, it ends up looking a bit jagged.  This is because the aspect ratios that it has don't quite match my monitor.  If I run it full screen, then the edges are cut off slightly, but windowed mode compresses the look to be jaggier than it should be.  I'm sure it would look really good on the correct screen size.  I mostly used a controller because I prefer it, but the keyboard worked just fine.  If you do want to use a controller, plug it in before booting up the game.

XBlaze is a visual novel, so there is a lot of reading involved.  Many of the lines of dialogue are also voiced, which is really nice.  Instead of a more traditional choice-based system to determine the story route, it is handled by what articles you read on the in-game news feed, called TOi.  The TOi contains the info on the different characters (and updates it accordingly) plus different news articles from around the area that add some extra depth to the world.  It's a unique system for choosing routes/endings, and is a really neat idea.  Well, mostly.

The system does have a few drawbacks.  It can be very easy to miss when new articles appear if you are getting invested in the story.  If you are worried about missing one, you end up checking the TOi every scene or so, which kind of breaks the immersion.  I would be like talking to someone who checks their phone every minute.  Well, there are actually people like that, so maybe that was the point?  Anyway, besides easily missing an article, missing even one that you need can ruin an entire run of the game.  I didn't see any real form of chapter select, either, so you are stuck running through again if you don't make enough saves.  The one saving grace is once you get at least one (non-bad) ending, you can see who has read what article to better control the ending.

Going through your first time will run about 8 hours or so (assuming you are reading and not skipping text).  If you want see the other endings or fill out the extras/achievements, you will have to play through the game a few times, even with good use of saves.  You can skip dialogue you have already read, which will cut down the time needed for subsequent playthroughs.  There are also a few bonus routes known as the gag reel, so you get a good amount of playtime with the game, as long as you seek out a few of the endings.

XBlaze Code: Embryo is a fun visual novel.  I like the idea of the TOi branching paths.  I felt it could have been a little more forgiving, considering how easy it is to mess up an entire playthrough.  It ran well on my PC, save for the display not matching my monitor.  I will say that I prefer playing visual novels on a handheld.  I like to sit or lie down comfortably while playing/reading them, so the smaller, portable consoles is what I like better for them.  It is by no means bad on the PC, and VN fans should probably check the game out.  While it is set in the BlazBlue universe, knowledge of that game is not required, so new people can easily jump in.  If you have any interest in the follow up game, XBlaze Lost: Memories, start with this game first.

(Review code for XBlaze Code: Embryo was provided by the publisher.)

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