Throughout my lifetime, games filled with time-traveling have always piqued my interest. Something about being able to explore the past, present and future just sounds so enticing. Imagine having the ability to go back in time to improve the events in the future. Not by going on a murder spree with guns a-blazing, but by helping out the civilizations of yesterday with preservation of nature or other peaceful means of improvement. The thought just gives me goosebumps. Anyways, because of this infatuation with the plane of time, the Chrono series tops the list of my favorite games, and recently, Bioshock Infinite made its way up there. Basically, any time a game of that certain nature comes about, I am on it like white on rice. So, with the announcement of Corecell Technology’s 3DS title AeternoBlade, I was wriggling with anticipation! Not only did it feature my beloved time traveling scenario, it also played like a “Metroidvania” game. Here’s the real question: did it hold up to expectations?
The story of AeternoBlade puts you in the shoes of Freyja on her journey to avenge the destruction of her village. But, shortly after the fall of her village, she runs into the demonic Beladim, the being responsible for the calamity. However, Beladim bests Freyja in combat, which leads to an unexpected turn of events; she’s teleported back seven days for a second shot at felling the demon. Little did she know, her sword the AeternoBlade–which was formerly shrouded in mystery to her–ends up having the ability to control time. Shortly after the revelation is revealed, Freyja ventures forth with her newfound knowledge for a second chance at Beladim. Nothing too new here in story elements, but, for the most part, it helps you get from point A to point B with little confusion. Since time is such a huge element in AeternoBlade, I was kind of hoping for something a little more in-depth, but there isn’t any other substantial time traveling besides the seven days at the beginning of the game. That doesn’t necessarily mean I wasn’t entertained, though. Each level corresponds with one of the seven days leading up to Freyja’s death; text counting down the days fills the screen as soon as you start a new level. I loved this simple implementation, and, for the most part, it was the sole thing fueling my motivation to continue on. Other than that, all story elements are pretty mediocre. However, the game doesn’t take too terribly long to complete, either. A full completion of AeternoBlade should take gamers around eight hours, so it doesn’t really overstay its welcome.
The graphical design of AeternoBlade isn’t too shabby. Yes, there are muddy textures and some minor clipping, but, overall, everything looks OK. However, one thing that bothered me to no end is the inconsistent level and enemy design. Nothing really seemed to match up or seem appropriate for the area I was in. For instance, statue knight enemies in an Egyptian pyramid or the blasted demon trees that miraculously grew out of a never-ending bed of spikes! I could just be a bit too nitpicky, but it just really broke any immersion that the game had. Granted, there are some pretty good stages that really feel natural and right, but there just isn’t enough of this in the game.
Speaking of consistency, or a lack thereof, the music in AeternoBlade is a mixed bag. There are only a handful of tracks in the game, and, while they’re fresh at first, they become stale towards the end of the game. There’s nothing wrong with the music, but, just like listening to the radio, the tracks get repetitive. I did, however, always look forward to the boss tracks. They would repeat, but generally they were more on the catchy side, and, honestly, I was happy about them recurring. Other than music, the rest of the sound design is great. Attacks, grunts, footsteps, etc… sounds are all there and fit just fine.
Thankfully, AeternoBlade controls fairly well. Players control Freyja using either the directional pad or circle pad for movement. The B button jumps while the rest of the face-buttons are used for attacking. When it comes to the shoulder buttons, pressing L allows you to use your dodging ability and R allows you to rewind time using the AeternoBlade. Lastly, the touch screen can be used to control your time abilities as you unlock them throughout the game.
AeternoBlade’s gameplay is a mixed bag, as well. The platforming and puzzles found within AeternoBlade, while smart and intuitive, at times, progressively turned into annoyances. It’s as if they were designed that way on purpose. Some platforms call for absolute precision and require an unnecessarily high jump to get to — almost as if one must make it over a tiny invisible wall. Even worse, some enemies have this same tiny invisible barrier over them that stop you from jumping over them, despite being about a half inch higher than them. Add in the various time-changing abilities, and you’re in for one hot mess of a puzzle. On the other hand, like I mentioned earlier, the combat is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum.
AeternoBlade knocks it out of park when it comes to combat. At the beginning of the game, your range of attacks is incredibly limited, but, after leveling up, your disposal of attacks greatly increases. They are also pretty flashy and effective at controlling the crowds. There’s rarely a moment where you should feel inadequate in the field of combat. However, if you do, you can equip relics found from enemies or chests. Relics allow you to shape Freyja to your liking, and are treated like the standard equipment found in most other games in the genre. Up to three relics can be equipped at a time, and, if used effectively, can transform a tough battle into a cake walk. It’s not incredibly in-depth, but it certainly works well.
Which brings me to AeternoBlade’s boss battles. If you’re ever doubting your mettle in combat, then the boss battles at the end of each stage will supply you with your answer. Each boss is normally leveled up about evenly to what you should be. What I mean is, if you don’t fully explore each level or gain enough EXP to enhance your abilities, then you’re in for a pretty good fight. I liked the way this was handled, and found it incredibly intuitive. For instance, in some of the more… awkward stages, I would tend to just do the necessary prerequisites of getting to the end, which, in return, gave me an incredibly challenging boss. If I decided to relish in the addictive combat and explore the full level, the boss was fairly easy. It was a cool feeling being able to switch up what kind of play style I wanted from level to level without touching any sort of difficulty option. I realize you can do this in most games with RPG elements, but it seemed like I had more of a control over the situation. I feel like I need to reiterate, however, since most levels were oddly designed, it was hard for me to find a strong desire to hang around them for too long. So many times, I had a challenging boss ahead of me. Thankfully, I loved the challenge.
In the end, despite my fascination with time and “Metroidvania” games, I was left unimpressed and disappointed with AeternoBlade. It had great ideas and potential, but it was sloppily put together — not even the stellar combat could save it for me. But, it was an all right first stab into the genre, and I have high hopes in the talent at Corecell Technology. Especially if the same amount of attention put into the combat is put into the other elements of their next title!
AeternoBlade can be picked up for $14.99 on the 3DS eShop.
Review copy supplied by author.