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Stranger of Sword City

Score: 88%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Experience Inc.
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Stranger of Sword City is a dark, new dungeon crawler, complete with lots of races, classes, strange characters, and many hours of crawling through sometimes dank and dirty areas to try and find your place in a world totally different from your own. Sounds like fun, no?

When you start up a new game, you will need to create a character. The appearance of the character you pick does not affect your gameplay. There almost 80 characters total, including male and female, old and young ranging from normal humans to a sexy cat girl, knights, ninjas, even a maid. You can change your age at the beginning, which does affect your game stats. You also get a bonus roll for stats, which you can keep re-rolling if you want to try to get higher. There are human, elf, migmy, dwarf, and ney races, but you can only choose human to start with. You then choose a class for your character: fighter, knight, samurai, wizard, cleric, ranger, ninja, or dancer. Your class choice will affect your base stats. You'll also be given over 35 voices to choose between.

As I mentioned, Sword City is a very dark place. It feels quite bleak there at times and the designers did a great job with making the overall look match the tone of the game. The place is very realistic. Your monsters and humanoids are on the real end of the spectrum rather than the animated end. Because you need to be trapped in dungeon areas, there are a lot more walls and pits than you would expect above ground in a world, but they make sense in this strange place.


Gameplay:

In Stranger of Sword City, you find out at the beginning that you were on a plane from Asia to Alaska when it disappeared into thin air and you are the only survivor. You find that you have crashed in a very strange place. According to the old man who finds you, you come from the land of the strange, which gives you power. Riu Tsukisada rescues you and fills you in a bit more. This land has less gravity than Earth, which makes you seems stronger there. She is like you, a stranger in this land, but sheís been there a while. Very soon, she will give you a crash course on monsters. There are lineage types, which are very strong and there are also plain normal monsters. Lineage types will drop blood crystals when you defeat them. You will need to pick up these blood crystals so the monsters donít get reborn. Special strangers called Chosen Ones, like you, have the ability to absorb these blood crystals. They will let you level up and learn new skills.

Escario (AKA Sword City) is your new home. Riu is the leader of the Strangerís Guild, which you are now a part of. Mrs. Gurrba is the guild caretaker and sheís a migmy. Gillius Gilliklhyme is a dwarf (a really big one) who runs the shop. Heís a bit gruff, but I like him. You can also store stuff with him. Anna Kurusu and Kyo Koremitsu are other members of the guild. You, Anna, and Kyo are the three Chosen Ones that they have right now. Your job is to hunt Lineage Types since you are the only three who can absorb the blood crystals. This strange land needs you to do that job so you have a place in society.

Stranger of Sword City has the same basic design and play as Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy. It is a dungeon crawler and your areas with monsters in them are called labyrinths. You will have to discover the map as you go, but once you go back, it will be the same map. Itís not randomly-generated each time you enter an area. You can find areas in the labyrinths where you can hide and ambush an enemy, and youíll be able to get more treasure this way. When you aren't in a labyrinth, you're back at your base or in another area that is safe territory. Monsters won't appear here. Everything is Menu driven, so there's no walking from place to place. When you switch rooms, the background just changes for you. Your Quests list will help you keep track of what you need to be doing and where you need to go. Just keeping knocking out the quests and you'll survive, hopefully.


Difficulty:

When you start your game of Stranger of Sword City, you are given the option of Normal or Beginner. You cannot change this after you start the game without starting a new game, so choose wisely. I started on Normal and overall, it was a bit hard. I found that I had trouble getting my main character experience at the beginning. The enemies always seemed to attack her first rather than some of the stronger characters and before I could heal her on the next turn, she was attacked again and died. Two hits were enough to kill and characters do not get experience if they are dead at the end of the battle. After she was dead, I would have to pay to revive her and I didn't want to waste money on that, so I would just restart the game. It was a bit frustrating since I had to just stick her in the back row until I got a few levels. If you're just wanting to play for the story, you might want to consider Beginner. You can recover all of your stats or revive from death at the base. Revival isnít instant unless you pay big bucks though. The younger the person, the quicker the revival time.

You will be given enough people to fill out a party at the beginning, but they will be as low level as you are, so youíll have to spend time leveling up. You can also go ahead and register new members if you want something other than the defaults. You will be able to have different races for these characters. You can have up to 6 in a party. There are three in the front row and three in the back row. Obviously, the front row is going to be hit a lot more, so you are going to want your stronger characters up there. Characters who are weaker and your ranged attackers belong in the back row. Your party members will also have various intuitions. These can help you do things like disarm traps easier. The real trick to surviving Stranger of Sword City is making sure you have a good party and that you know how to utilize them well!


Game Mechanics:

Since this is a turn-based dungeon crawler rather than an action RPG, the controls are quite easy to get used to. Touchscreen is only used to select the save file you want. Everything is Menu-driven with (X) as your select button and (O) to go back. If it says that one of your characters notices something, use (X) to detect whatever might be there. (Start) brings up the Help Menu. (L) and (R) are used to change characters. You can use the map to auto-move to wherever you want to go and actually itís pretty handy. Of course, you have to have been there and have a clear path to auto-move to somewhere.

I must admit that itís a bit annoying that first you select every action and then you have to press (X) again after every action is taken. It seems really repetitive. Iíd much rather have it go through all the actions without me pressing anything. Itís not like you can change them after youíve chosen what each character is going to do, so why should you have to press anything? They did take into account that several of us wouldnít want to watch every action. If you want to skip it, you can choose Fast Action after selecting your moves and theyíll all just happen instantaneously. Be aware of your health using fast action because it won't show you getting hit. You will need to keep an eye on the bar below the characters. Also, you can press (Triangle) at the beginning of the turn and it will repeat the actions from the previous turn. Between these two, you can go through normal battles swiftly.

Stranger of Sword City turned out to be a much harder game than I thought it would be. While it might seem like a simple dungeon crawler, you really have to get to know the ins and outs of the characters to survive. You need to learn the armor and weapons that work best with each different class and you will need to figure out how to arrange a party that works best for you. It's a lot more in-depth game than I expected, which is nice. Stranger of Sword City is not a game that you're going to want to pick up and play on coffee breaks. It will take you more time than that at one sitting just to get the nuances down, but that's not a bad thing. Basically, Stranger of Sword City is a whole detailed world with complex characters that you will need time to get to know, but it will be time well spent. If you're looking for a hard dungeon crawler where you can really flex your mental muscles, check out Stranger of Sword City today!


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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