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First Impressions: We Shine A Light On Arc System Works Action RPG Swords & Darkness

Posted by Kerry Brunskill

It's not very bright

You can’t beat a bit of side-scrolling beat ‘em up action as far as we’re concerned, but we’ve been left twiddling our thumbs on 3DS since Code of Princess first hit Nintendo’s handheld in 2012. Arc System Works aim to fill that gap in Japan with the eShop exclusive Swords & Darkness, a moody action RPG set in a ruined kingdom ruled by a mad king.

Ignoring the rather… odd… English voice over work in the intro, the story itself is intriguing enough and sets the tone well, although with only the demo to hand we can’t currently confirm if it’s able to maintain player interest through to the end. Game characters have certainly fought tooth and nail for flimsier reasons, if nothing else.

Your re-nameable hero knight can dash, jump, block and perform weak and strong slashes with his sword, as well as use consumable items (healing herbs and throwing knives are available in the demo) in a pinch. Combos are rather limited, seeing as there’s only one of them – and to perform it you just need to mash weak slash three times. Fluidity simply isn't on the table here; of course you wouldn't expect someone in full plate mail to combat roll like it’s going out of fashion, but you also wouldn't expect them to face hordes of insane undead soldiers and dragons, either. Even when dashing there’s no real sense of speed, largely because you’re just using the move to traverse from one end of a corridor to another.

But at least the enemies will liven things up, right? Unfortunately not. Judging from the demo and the promotional trailer, there appears to be a cap of just three enemies on screen simultaneously, and in the demo they are all identical silver knights, apart from the boss. There’s not even any reason to fight them unless you need to grind for XP and gold (there’s your “RPG” element!) as you can just run straight past them and onto the next room, and if you did stick around to fight you’ll find that more knights respawn to replace them anyway.

The RPG-ing is restricted to funnelling skill points into certain traits when you level up as well as the usual item use and equipment screens. Stats appear to make little difference to your knight’s performance; we played the demo a few times, sometimes spreading them out sensibly and sometimes throwing everything into “strength” or “vitality”, but there were no discernible difference to the damage we dished out or received.

Swords & Darkness shows a lot of promise, which is why the end result is all the more disappointing. Neither the “action” or “RPG” sides of this game really deliver, and the beat ‘em up portions don't even reach the heady heights of Sega’s Golden Axe, a game that’s now twenty-five years old. You could perhaps forgive the weak combat if RPG fans could spend their time knee deep in lore or stat-crunching instead, but what’s here is either too simple to engage anyone’s interest or so ineffectual that the game would be better off without it. Fans of RPG-ish beat ‘em ups would do far better with another round of Code of Princess, or hopping formats and spending quality time with Treasure’s Guardian Heroes instead. There's no word on Sword & Darkness coming to the west at present, but if it stays Japan-only, we're really not missing much.

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User Comments (18)

Shiryu

#2

Shiryu said:

But it looks really, really good! I would probably give it a try. I wish this and Kunio would make it to the west.

SpookyMeths

#4

SpookyMeths said:

If you can get past (or if you enjoy) the ecchi fanservice in Senran Kagura Burst, it's the best side-scrolling beat-'em-up of the generation so far on any platform. Definitely worth checking out.

accc

#7

accc said:

I played the demo and found it to be pretty fun. The Kunio-kun style gameplay combined with the gothic setting and RPG-lite elements made for an oddly compelling and addictive experience. The combat is a lot deeper than the article gives it credit for, but since the author apparently ran past the enemies instead of fighting, I wouldn't expect her to know that. Hopefully this hatchet job of an article doesn't put people off from the game, if it ever comes out in the west.

DarrelltheJ

#8

DarrelltheJ said:

I heard about this a month ago, and it looks really interesting. The first impression makes it sound pretty weak. I'd still love to try a demo.

TheRealThanos

#9

TheRealThanos said:

Although I do agree with some of the positive comments concerning graphics, atmosphere and the setting, and I personally must say that I really like the meatiness of the battle and weapons sounds, it irritates me to no end that the main character's walking sounds like a ticking bomb and besides that, part of the animation is horrible as well, clearly shown in the very first part after the intro. The main character's steps don't match the movement, making him float across the floor.
And talking about that intro: oh... my... God... it felt like they asked someone from MTV's Jersey Shore to cite Shakespeare, it sounded more like over acting, more suitable to a comedy version of this kind of game, but this... No. Odd indeed...
And because it was so long, it almost already completely ruined any desire I had left to watch the rest, let alone make me want to play it. The first impression sets the tone and unfortunately this wasn't a very good one.
That being said; might be that the demo isn't a well enough example of what the whole game is like, so maybe I'll wait and see what a review of the entire game is like, and if that comes across better, I might still pick it up. IF this will ever be published outside of Japan...

retro_player_22

#10

retro_player_22 said:

Looks like a decent action side-scroller, would had love it more if it was more fast pace though as the game progress a tad slow. I might give it a chance, after all the demo sometimes could not prove much of expectation regarding the final game.

mamp

#12

mamp said:

Wow that's pretty disappointing but there will be better games out there.

DerpSandwich

#13

DerpSandwich said:

This is one reason I love Nintendo Life. Many sites don't want to be totally honest when their first impressions of a game are bad. It's like they feel they should wait for the official review to tear the game apart or something. But this is honest and to the point.

B3ND3R

#14

B3ND3R said:

I was hoping this would end up being pretty good, but I guess not... Oh well... Dragon's Crown and Chronicles of Mystara are filling my appetite for beatemups :D

Stu13

#15

Stu13 said:

Well, fudge. I liked the look and title of this so much. I really WANTED it to be good, but that video was way short of impressive.

FineLerv

#16

FineLerv said:

Seriously... what is with that voice over? Did she have a stroke or something?

Windy

#18

Windy said:

Well that's a bummer I was looking forward to this one. If it gets a port I will still take a good look at it

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