Budget re-releases notwithstanding, this is only the second new PSP game to receive a retail release this year. The first, if you’re curious, was fellow RPG Fate/Extra. Considering some stores no longer stock PSP games, be it new or pre-owned, we doubt that the format would be receiving any new games at all if it wasn’t for the fact that publishers are able to release them on PSN for PS Vita owners to download too. It’s funny how the existence of a new console can prolong the life of an older one.
The anime intro, which includes a Japanese vocal score, features wanted posters of the lead characters with ‘public intoxication’ cited as a reason for their arrest. Could this be the RPG of our dreams, in which the heroes are nothing more than a bunch of alcoholics who start fights and get lost in the wilderness while drunk on mead? Sadly not, although the characters do ramble on like a bunch of drunkards.
The storyline isn’t worth the effort to try and decipher – it’s a garbled mess of clichés, mostly explained with text-heavy cut-scenes. The basics: peace is slowly returning to the land after a war which has raged for centuries has come to an end, save for a few pockets of resistance and the odd monster or two roaming the realms. This is where freelance warrior Zelos comes into the equation. He’s cocky and arrogant, making him a hard one to bond with. He’s soon joined by a rag-tag bunch of heroes, assigned to a mission that’ll help reshape the world for future generations.
Right from the start Blazing Souls is an uninviting experience, making the assumption that you’re already familiar with fundamental elements of similar ‘hardcore’ RPGs. The only thing that’s explained in detail at the beginning is one of the more unique battle features – the ability to select three or four moves and then unleash them one after another in a seamless chain. This is such a user unfriendly experience that it even took us a while to find the option to save our progress. Eventually we found it, hidden on the world map screen menu under ‘battle diaries’. Is that logical?
Battles are turn-based and set on a grid. Each character can be given three or four commands before their turn is up, while along the top of the screen a ticker is shown that indicates whose turn is next. Plenty of loot is gained from battle, but when selecting items no description is shown. However, when buying items from stores a description is shown. Some design choices the developers have made really are quite baffling.
There’s no option to make characters defend themselves when it isn’t their turn in battle either, which strikes us as a little odd. And if you enjoy the sense of exploration that most RPGs offer, then forget it. Locations are added to the 2D map screen either by picking up missions from the guild or aimlessly searching for them by using WP – World Points. The idea here is that you talk to townsfolk to try and learn their rough locations before searching. You can also forget experiencing the joy of exploring new towns – they’re navigated via a dull text-based menu.
Those who can abide Blazing Souls’ harsh learning curve are rewarded with the ability to summon monsters during battle. These hulking beasts can be used for five turns and also boost the stats of your whole team. Enjoyment can also be had by crafting new weapons by visiting the alchemists and synthesisers that reside in town. It’s a fairly attractive looking game as well. The sprites aren’t brilliantly animated but they’re nicely drawn and the ability to spin the camera around the 3D environments is a pleasing touch.
As great as it is to see a new PSP game this late in the system’s life, Blazing Souls is something of a hard sell. Square-Enix and Ghostlight have been keeping the format alive for the past two years by releasing a steady slew of quality RPGs, so it’s not exactly hard to think of half a dozen quality alternatives. The only real reason we can think of recommending this to anybody is that it might become rare and valuable in the future, given how few copies are likely to be produced.