Blue Breaker - Staff Review  

Something Borrowed, Something Blue...
by JuMeSyn

Click here for game information
40-60 Hours
+ Unique mix of love sim & RPG
+ Ample replay value
- Repetitive
- Difficult to measure results
+ Nonlinear structure
- Strangely organized
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   Blue Breaker bore the burden of being a marquee title on the PC-FX. That system, the successor to the PC-Engine (known as the Turbo-Grafx outside Japan) died a relatively fast death in Japan and never had a release outside the Land of the Rising Sun. The developer of Blue Breaker, Human, was unwilling to see a game it had invested a seemingly large amount of resources on die with the PC-FX. Thus was the game ported first to the Saturn and then later the PlayStation. In both cases it remained in Japan.

   Kain is given a mission by his father. Seems a nefarious Dark Lord is threatening peace across the land, and Kain gets to go stop him. Ah, but ONLY beating the Dark Lord isn't enough: Kain must also woo a bride while traveling the land. His childhood friend Asha, who just happens to be female, joins his quest at its beginning. While moving around the land Kain meets more women, while the minions of the Dark Lord want him dead. The narrative is held together by events that occur in an unpredictable fashion, but the central theme is obvious enough even through the language barrier.

   Blue Breaker proceeds in a nonlinear fashion, with Kain wandering from place to place seeing if anything happens. Almost every area in the game is accessible from the beginning; the only requirement is that Kain must move between wherever he currently is and however many locations are in the way. Each location is joined to another by means of a flat field. While moving through these flat fields Kain will experience enemies popping up randomly in front of him, eager to slay him if possible. Kain and companions will automatically battle the enemies, but the player is able at any time through the X, Y and Z buttons to call up one of the three potential party members to issue specific orders. Defeat of enemies nets experience and gold with sufficient experience garnering a level-up for the character to receive it. Each of the ladies Kain can travel with brings a different party-wide effect: Turner recharges everyone's EP (aka MP) by walking around, Naruta reduces enemy defense, Sarge makes enemies be drained of some HP at the beginning of battle, etcetera. HP increases by leveling-up, but EP can only be increased by watching Kain closely when traversing the landscape and pressing A when he glows purple, signifying that a special place to permanently increase EP has been found.

   Blue Breaker's unique qualities need considerable explication at this point. Aside from Asha, all other potential party members (all female) must be found by visiting the necessary locations, sometimes more than once. Kain must talk to every woman who can join him at the guilds that exist in almost all locations before the ladies will join the adventure (this includes Asha, as I learned in the game's beginning while trying to fight enemies solo). Every time Kain arrives at the guild of a named location (as opposed to the numerous intermediate zones with numbers only), the one or two women with him will leave and a new party will be organized upon departure. One woman will more-or-less force her way into the party, with the player having a choice as to who the third party member is. This is also subject to certain conditions however: not all ladies are available at all times (this can be changed simply by staying overnight at the guild, as the available roster will change) and sometimes ladies just won't feel like adventuring with Kain that day. Short of sleeping at the guild and reloading the save if this isn't going the player's way, there is no method of circumventing the ladies' fickle behavior.

   Kain's goal is not only to defeat the Dark Lord, but also to woo a bride. This is by far the more complicated aspect to Blue Breaker, with little being obvious in the game itself. There are certain guidelines however. If a woman interjects herself into Kain's party, forcing her out (which is possible) will negatively affect her feelings for Kain. Fighting is necessary, but fighting too much in one day will again negatively impress the ladies (supposedly 7-9 battles in a day is ideal, and that is usually manageable given the short distances to navigate). The feelings of the ladies will only change for Kain if they are active participants, so only two at a time may have their feelings swayed. Ordering them around in battle is a negative, and letting them die in battle is also a negative. If Kain dies in battle he will be picked up by the nearest guild operator and wake up in bed, but women are highly unimpressed by a man who gets taken down in front of them (at least in this game). And Kain must keep talking to the ladies at the guilds in order to make feelings grow greater; absent conversation nothing will happen. The final piece of the puzzle that is getting Kain a bride lies in uncovering the FMV sequences for the woman in question. The first is encountered when Kain meets the woman, the second and third must be found later in the game.

   Inventory management is easy in Blue Breaker, though not necessarily for the right reasons. The only thing characters can be equipped with by the player is an accessory. Weapons are unchangeable and armor nonexistent. Far more vexing at certain points in the game is the inability to possess more than three of any item simultaneously. Asha knows healing magic and Turner learns it, but if they are not in the current party items are the only means of healing. Particularly since certain bosses (known as the Four Masters) will appear every now and then to challenge Kain in the middle of whatever field he happens to be on, healing is a frequently vital quality. A way to navigate the world quickly would have been quite beneficial as well, since on foot is the only method of getting around for the duration.

   The visuals are decidedly unspectacular, though not terrible. The Saturn can do sprites such as these in its sleep, and so could the SNES. There is the fact that whenever someone speaks his/her dialogue is accompanied by a gigantic anime still portrait, and all characters save guild operators possess multiple expressions in these portraits, but since the portraits do not animate beyond lip movements they fail to impress much. The music is okay, with a few catchy pieces not being heard very often. However, every line in the game except those uttered by Kain is accompanied by voice acting. This includes the guild operators, each of whom is a different person. Some actors are better than others but no one is an embarrassment.

   Blue Breaker's challenge is erratic and needs a bit of explication. The ladies of Blue Breaker have feelings regarding the other ladies in the game, and those feelings dictate a party's strength. Yarm and Karmi get along excellently, while Naruta and Hammune get along horribly. Save when a lady really detests the third party member, this will not be transparent to the player, mandating the use of a very good FAQ. Another item of challenge arises from timing; there are seven days in a Blue Breaker week, with one passing every time Kain takes a nap at a guild. The first six days apparently correspond to power increases in the magic of whatever elemental the day represents, but the seventh day allows no magic use at all. If a big fight arises on that seventh day thanks to player inattention, it will be incredibly hard. Getting the game to progress can be frustrating as well, for events follow no strict timeline in their appearance. A few events are character-specific, and if the player does not embark on them a character will do it on her own and die.

   Thanks to the considerable repetition and wandering around needed, Blue Breaker will probably take around 45-55 hours to complete. The game starts with 29 weeks on the calendar and presumably will force a showdown at the end of those days if the player has not found the Dark Lord's sanctum already. There is ample replay incentive however; not only is it impossible to get all ladies feeling lovey-dovey towards Kain on the first play, there are a couple more characters who will not join until a replay.

   Blue Breaker is without a doubt aimed at a niche audience. It begs use of a FAQ (fortunately a good one is posted on GameFAQs) thanks to the variety of love system concepts that are not explained in-game. The game demands patience, because wooing the ladies will require many, many conversations with them at the guilds. To any RPGamer intrigued by the concept and not appalled at the work necessary, however, the game is worthwhile. It could have been much better, but any importer who has bothered to read the entirety of this review just might find the game enjoyable.

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