Originally released last February on the Nintendo 3DS, AeternoBlade from Corecell Technology has made the trek to the PlayStation Vita. It mixes hack n’ slash action with aspects of platforming and puzzle solving sprinkled in; now it’s a matter of how successfully it does it. Let’s find out.
Early on the controls seem both extremely limited and frustrating. Those issues diminish to some extent as you progress when additional moves are unlocked. Most notable among these is an evasive dash feature that allows you to interrupt an otherwise unbreakable chain of attacks. Even with that attacking never feels smooth, however, as it’s still easy to get spun around or be fractionally short of your target, causing a half-dozen sword strikes to miss their mark as you look bewildered.
Probably the game’s most interesting hook is the ability to control time on a limited basis. Initially you can only reverse time when killed — like a poor man’s Prince of Persia — but eventually a short-term rewind and pseudo teleportation functions are added. These are primarily used to solve the game’s puzzles, though rewinding can also be beneficial to target larger foes’ weak points. Time manipulation never feels particularly crisp, unfortunately, and it all adds up to a lackluster experience.
A port of a 3DS game, AeternoBlade absolutely looks the part (not a compliment). Most of the backgrounds are bland and uninteresting, and outside of some cleverly designed bosses the lineup of enemies is underwhelming. The cut scenes are decent enough, but there’s just a sense of been there, seen that at nearly every turn; it’s reminiscent of countless PS2 action RPGs.
There isn’t much going on with the audio. No voice acting, serviceable sound effects and music so generic I had to turn the game back on while I wrote this just to remember a single note. At least there’s nothing actively troublesome.
As Freyja, a survivor from a village that was all but wiped out, you have taken it upon yourself to avenge your tribe’s massacre by hunting down the one responsible, a demon known as Beladim. To do this you will need the guidance of the mysterious Vernia and the time-altering properties of the “AeternoBlade,” which has come to be in your possession.
Narratively it doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table, and when it steps outside the basic revenge angle to introduce other characters or mysticism it falls pretty flat. Dialogue is delivered via text and carries all the emotional weight of a Michael Bay production. Honestly, though, it’s tangential to the action, and you don’t need to invest in it to proceed.
Combat is of the hack n’ slash variety, consisting of simple high/medium/low strikes. Enemies tend to stand there and sponge up damage, unless, of course, you’ve slightly miscalculated the distance between you and them. In that case expect to eat a hit or two before readjusting your range to target. As noted, combos cannot be stopped except via a dash you learn fairly early on, but even that has to recharge itself.
If you’re thinking the better move is to forego the button-mash combo and go a strike at a time, be prepared to spend a ton of time chipping away at your enemies’ health. Given the frequency of orb drops (to replenish health/magic) and checkpoints (which refill both meters) it makes more sense to miss a combo here and there than play it safe. Most of your deaths will likely come during boss fights or getting impaled after missing a jump.
AeternoBlade does have some decent puzzles built around manipulating time. Some are as simple as hitting a switch to start a platform above you, and then rewinding time so you can jump on it before it starts to ascend. Others are decidedly more complex, though more so in how many moves you have to plan ahead than testing your wits. Still, that and the platforming are generally more fun than the combat.
There are RPG and Metroidvania elements at work as well, meaning the game allows you to return to completed stages to reach previously inaccessible areas after acquiring new skills like double jumping or teleportation. You can also head back to harvest yellow orbs that function as in-game currency, allowing you to upgrade your health or magic, learn new moves, combos and more. Relics can be found and equipped as well, boosting your baseline stats.
When it’s clicking, AeternoBlade can be a fairly enjoyable game with large areas to explore and a decent mix of gameplay elements. Unfortunately, the shaky controls and lackluster presentation drag it down a few notches.