XBlaze Code: Embryo
Gameplay 8
Graphics 9
Sound 8

XBlaze: Code Embryo is set in the same universe as the BlazBlue fighting titles, but no prior knowledge is required to enjoy the story. The game features an intriguing storyline and multiple endings, but reading news articles to influence the path you take is a little confusing at first. Once you figure out the system, it is a lot of fun though, and the stylish visuals as well as great soundtrack make it easy to recommend.

Gameplay: A typical visual novel with a rather unusual system for choosing your path to the multiple endings.

Graphics: Not a lot of animation, but very detailed and colorful.

Sound: Plenty of music tracks and some great Japanese voice acting as well

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XBlaze Code: Embryo

Developer: Arc System Works | Publisher: Aksys Games | Release Date: 2016 | Genre: Adventure / Visual Novel | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

As far as great places to live goes, Shin Yokazaki City is probably not the best option. Not only is it the location of the “Restricted Ward” where a disaster resulted in the disappearance of thousands of people, but it is also a city rife with murders. Dragging down the health and safety rating of the city even further are the “Unions” who are people with inhuman abilities and a penchant for havoc. In the middle of all of this is Touya Kagari, an ordinary high school student who lost his mother to the disaster in the Restricted Ward. Touya was adopted by the sister of one of his classmates and has been living a pretty ordinary life ever since, but this all changes when he is attacked by one of the Unions on his way back from work one day.

XBlaze: Code Embryo comes from the makers of BlazBlue and is set in the same universe as Calamity Trigger, but that is where the similarities end. In addition to taking place 150 years before the events of BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, Code Embryo is also a visual novel instead of a fighting game. This title was originally released on the PS3 and Vita, but now finally PC owners can also find out what the fuss was all about.

XBlaze initially seems like a fairly typical visual novel, but distinguishes itself from the pack in a few areas. First up is the fact that you never get to make any real choices in the game, but that doesn’t mean that it is a kinetic novel. Instead, the game uses what it calls the “TOI” system to influence your path along the story. TOI, which is pronounced toy and stands for technology of interest, serves as a database of character information and news stories. You can open it at almost any time to view constantly updated information about the characters you encounter or to read random news articles. It is the news articles you choose to read that actually influences your path, which initially can be a bit confusing. For example, the story can come to a very abrupt end in the middle of the game if you fail to read every single news article up to that point. After your first playthrough the TOI indicates the other characters who also read the articles on display, which makes it a bit easier to know what to choose. It’s definitely not the most intuitive way of doing things, but once you get used to it, it is not so bad.

Next up is Touya, who isn’t really your typical visual novel protagonist. There is obviously more to him than what meets the eye, but for most of the game the bevy of beautiful girls who surround him are much more powerful than him. After his encounter with the bloodthirsty union Touya is rescued by Es, the cute, but formidable fighter and she is just the first of many powerful females that cross his path. There is also Kuon, the apprentice at the magic academy and Mei, the scion of the Amanohokosaka clan who spend a lot of time shielding Touya from the various parties that take an interest in him. The game then also throws in assassins, serial killers, rogue magic users as well as a mysterious agency to complicate matters even further.

Touya actually ends up working with the girls to try and thwart the villains in this game, unlike most visual novel protagonists who would be trying to romance the women instead. However, the game does contain quite a bit of fan service, depending on the TOI entries you view, but the two male characters also appear without shirts, so all is fair. Speaking of characters, Code Embryo features great designs and colorful graphics that make it a very visually appealing title. Although everything is 2D and animation is mostly restricted to facial expressions the use of panning and zooming makes everything seem more dynamic than it really is. Seeing as the game is set in the BlazBlue universe we were expecting the fight scenes to be more spectacular, but overall Code Embryo is still a cut above the average visual novel in terms of style and polish.

Considering its console roots, it is no surprise that Code Embryo plays best using a controller. It definitely feels more intuitive than when opting for the keyboard and as far as we can tell the mouse controls are completely absent. If you are stuck without a controller it can take a while to get used to the interface, but this isn’t too serious. More worrying were the crash issues that plagued the game when it was first released on Steam, but a patch was very quickly issued to address this.

While a single playthrough of Code Embryo doesn’t take too long, the game features multiple endings, so there is definitely incentive to replay it a few times. Thankfully the soundtrack is also quite comprehensive and features plenty of variety, so you are not stuck hearing the same couple of tunes on repeat all the time. Voice acting is in Japanese only, but sounds great and definitely add to the atmosphere.

XBlaze: Code Embryo is quite a divisive title, as not everyone will appreciate the TOI system of navigating the story. However, we enjoyed our time with the game and also appreciated the fact that no prior knowledge of the BlazBlue series is required to understand what is going on. The story features a nice blend of action, drama, intrigue and even a bit of humor, which is always welcome. If you are looking for a visual novel that offers more than just slice-of-life drama or you are a fan of the BlazBlue series then try out XBlaze.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1
  • Processor: Intel Core2 Duo
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: nVidia GeForce 7900 GT or better / AMD Radeon X1900 / nVidia GeForce GT 620 (Windows 8.1)
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 7 GB available space
  • Sound Card: Direct Sound
  • Additional Notes: Compatibility with Xbox 360 Controller
  • OS: Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 / i7
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: nVidia GeForce 8800 GT or better / AMD Radeon HD3700 / nVidia GeForce GT 650 (Windows 8.1)
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 7 GB available space
  • Sound Card: Direct Sound
  • Additional Notes: Compatibility with Xbox 360 Controller

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1 Comment

  1. rocheckle March 6, 2016
    Reply

    Metacritic score scared me away from the Vita version. Doesn’t sound as bad as everyone made it out to be so maybe I’ll grab it on the next Steam sale.

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