The Princess Is In Another Castle (Murdering Everyone)
HIGH Fluid and fast-paced 2D hack-‘n-slash action.
LOW The English translation is (I assume) hurting the story.
WTF I’m guessing the names would mean more if I knew Chinese lore.
While still unknown to many in the West, Tencent is one of the biggest names in the videogame industry with a wide range of influence including a large stake in Epic and full ownership of Riot Games. However, these big studios tend to overshadow their own development team, NExT — a studio whose small size is contrasted by the near-limitless budget provided by its mother company.
NExT Studios is a company whose work I had not played before Bladed Fury. After a bit of research, their titles consist of what could be called ‘indie-style’ games. While the titles tend to be modest in scope, this studio is by no means independent.
Bladed Fury is a 2D actioner set in ancient China that follows the tale of a young princess, banished from her city after being accused of killing her father. Players take control of Ji as she slashes her way through waves of enemies ranging from soldiers to mythical beasts, on her quest to discover the truth and prove her innocence.
The story is simple, and unfortunately barriers of both language and culture prevented me from full appreciation. Much of Bladed Fury seems to refer to Chinese lore and history, so recognizing names and characters would require that knowledge coming into it. Unfortunately, the dialogue didn’t help, as it felt very stilted and often cheesier than I suspect was intended.
The game is easy on the eyes, with an art style inspired by historical Chinese paintings. Bosses exemplify the style with creative and unique designs, and gorgeous backgrounds frame every screen.
Stages get more complex as the campaign goes on, offering environmental puzzles and diverging pathways that can sometimes lead to extra souls (currency which enemies also drop when defeated). These souls can be used at lanterns (which also act as save points) to obtain or upgrade Ji’s abilities.
Combat is where Bladed Fury gets a chance to shine. Players hack and slash their way through enemies, screen-by-screen. Ji’s main attacks are a pair of knives that offer quick cuts and a slower, higher-commitment greatsword with bigger damage and range. Ji also has a dash and a double jump for movement, as well as a shield that (if timed correctly) can allow for counters. Using souls, options can be expanded including new attacks and things like a second dash.
This combination of attacks and movement options give way to a frenetic and fluid combat style that’s easy for gamers to sync up with and enter a ‘flow state’ where they’re almost mindlessly slicing up demons, one after the other. Personally, I think this is the goal any game should aim for when looking for good combat — to make something that simultaneously has many layers and options, but (after enough time) can be performed well without consciously thinking about it.
Each level ends with an intense boss fight that tests the player’s skills. Afterward, Ji gains the ‘soul’ of the boss which can be equipped for a special attack, with such options as a screen-length laser or a black hole to suck enemies toward. After completing the game on Normal difficulty, a boss rush mode called ‘challenge’ is unlocked, along with hard mode.
Overall, Bladed Fury is a great package. The diminutive length (I finished the main story in under four hours) is offset by a reasonably cheap price tag, making it an easy recommendation to any fans of fast-paced 2D action.
— Mitch Zehe
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by NExT Studios. It is currently available on XBO, PS4, Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, and Suggestive Themes. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is an action-platformer in which players assume the role of a princess (Ji) trying to clear her name and seek justice in ancient China. Players traverse through platforms, interact with human and demonic characters, and engage in melee-style combat with enemies (e.g., soldiers, monsters/demons). Players use swords and bladed weapons to kill enemies in fast-paced combat; Ji can also use stylized special attacks, with dramatic light effects and impact sounds. One sequence depicts a god sitting on a pile of corpses, some of which have their buttocks exposed. Cutscenes may contain suggestive dialogue (e.g., “They say I am promiscuous…But I love you brother. What’s wrong about that”; “Are you here…for pleasure”; “Are you laughing at my mother’s promiscuity?”). The word “bastard” appears in dialogue.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. There are no sound cues necessary to complete the game. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.