They say that good things come to those who wait, well if that is the case Xblaze Code: Embryo should be an exceptional game. This prequel to the popular BlazBlue series appeared in Japan back in July 2013, but has only now reached European shores. I suppose we should just be grateful that the title ever saw the light of day over here, as visual novels aren’t very popular in the west. Thankfully the times are changing. On the PC side of things Steam is doing a bang up job of accommodating consumers with a steady stream of digital reading material, whilst handheld owners have in recent times been treated to some quality titles including 999 and Danganronpa.
Xblaze Code: Embryo stars Touya Kagari, an unassuming high school student who works part time as a waiter at a local curry house. One evening, after serving spicy dishes to the restaurant’s patrons, he ventures into the Restricted Ward – a dilapidated area where his mother vanished a few years prior. Drawn to the location by the sound of a ringing bell, Touya encounters a crazed magic user amongst the ruins of a research lab. The insane mage attempts to assault our teenage hero, but he is thankfully rescued from harm by a blonde cutie who sports a ginormous sword and even more ginormous chest.
Touya’s attractive protector, who answers to the name of Es, is an agent for the clandestine Mitsurugi group – an agency charged with hunting down out of control mages (better known as Unions.) When it becomes apparent that Touya has the ability to sense the presence of Unions, he is promptly recruited by the Mitsurugi Agency who require his skills to track down a serial killer known as The Ripper. With Es in tow, Touya sets off on an incredible adventure that will pit him against both The Ripper and three rogue members from the powerful Ten Sages faction. Hopefully he will survive the ordeal, as I am peckish for a curry and a good waiter is so hard to find.
All in all, Xblaze Code: Embryo is a decent sci-fi visual novel that will appeal to anime/manga fans (specifically connoisseurs of the harem genre.) Aside from Es, the emotionless bodyguard, Touya gets to interact with a bevy of other good-looking girls. The list includes Hinata the bespectacled childhood friend, Mei a spell caster who has a short fuse and Kuon an apprentice sage hailing from the magical kingdom of Ishana (her mix of pigtails and sorcery reminds me of Rin from the Fate franchise.) During key moments in the story players will receive various written articles courtesy of the portable TOi app. In a system reminiscent to Steins;Gate’s mobile phone messages, the articles you choose to read will ultimately determine which girl Touya hooks up with.
Despite not being acquainted with BlazBlue’s lore I found Xblaze Code: Embryo to be an enjoyable read. Compared to other visual novels I was impressed by the title’s production values. There’s a good selection of background music to listen to and the script’s dialogue is fully voiced in Japanese. Unlike other visual novels, which rely on static pictures to tell their tale, the onscreen visuals contain a fair bit of movement. Character portraits zoom across the Vita display during battles, camera angles frequently change position mid-scene and whenever someone speaks their lips actually move. These neat little touches make Xblaze feel more like a high-end motion comic rather than a text heavy novel.
My final rating is three and a half stars. I don’t know how fans of the action packed BlazBlue brawlers will react to this slower paced wordy prequel, but for what it’s worth I enjoyed it. Given the opportunity, I would gladly check out the recently released follow-up Xblaze: Lost Memories. Hopefully Europe will not have to wait another two years for a localisation to reach us!