Stranger of Sword City: White Palace was developed and published by Experience Inc. It will release on Xbox One on March 22nd 2016 with a launch discount price of $30.49. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels.
Japanese RPGs are strangers in their own genre on Xbox consoles. It’s tough to imagine that a previously common type of game has since disappeared from the marketplace. Stranger of Sword City was a title previously exclusive to the Japanese region of the Xbox 360; Stranger of Sword City: White Palace looks to expand its audience to more regions with English localization on the Xbox One. Much like its plot this game attempts to shine bright as a beacon of hope in a strange land and revitalize the JRPG sub-genre. I looked forward to this game’s release for a long time, but it’s not exactly what I expected as you’ll find in my review.
What I enjoyed:
The look – Without a doubt the artistic style defines the experience in Stranger of Sword City: White Palace. Set pieces are designed with tender care and a noticeable amount of effort was put into character designs. The dialogue scenes contain the polish of a well done visual novel including small trivial features such as character’s facial movements. Graphics aren’t enough to make a game excellent but I can’t help but be impressed by the artwork found here.
Character customization – Creating a character in this game is a detailed process. Numerous options are available including the character’s portrait, age, race and more. The fun doesn’t stop there; players can utilize a feature called class change that lets a character change job skills up to five more times. The purpose of changing jobs is to allow them to bring over a skill or two from a previous class to make a character’s ideal skill set. There are some drawbacks to class change to keep it from being too overpowered. As a whole, all these options make for an extensive character system.
Auto-move – Originally I considered the map feature a nuisance for plotting out my route in a dungeon. However auto-move is an unexpected but humorous feature that I didn’t expect to see. Once a destination has been explored traveling a long distance is as simple as pressing a few buttons. Unfortunately fast travel doesn’t seem to work between floors but is still a welcome addition to a game that promotes backtracking.
What I disliked:
Lifeless environments — Dungeon crawling segments detract from Stranger of Sword City: White Palace. Walking from tile to tile is a chore, and there is nothing to see until you encounter a battle. Many of the labyrinths include appearing walls that prevent backtracking or other nuisances to be encountered. There isn’t a single thing that makes me want to participate in the dungeons other than progression. A traditional overhead view would have done wonders for the momentum of the game, but even then everything dungeon related could use a severe overhaul.
Limited save feature — The only place I saw where I could save my progress was at the Stranger’s Guild. Many battles can happen in these dungeons, and it only takes one battle to do major damage to your team. Not being able to save on command makes this difficult to play for a short period of time, and makes any misfortune ruin an otherwise good session of game play.
Difficulty Spikes — This game features a perfect storm of frustrations. From time to time your characters will run into a random monster or group of monsters that are significantly stronger than normal. There isn’t much rhyme or reason to it and often these enemies are tougher than any boss enemies you come across. Since saving is limited to the Strangers Guild your last save is most likely a good distance back. In a system that promotes permanent death you’re at the mercy of overpowered enemies to not wipe out one or more of your precious characters. Reviving dead characters is a slow process and if your character runs out of life points he or she is gone for good. While there are solutions to these problems it’s not always the most convenient to the player. These roadblocks slow down the flow of an already slow-paced game.
Fifteen hours passed before Stranger of Sword City: White Palace started to become enjoyable to me. The early moments were a bore and did absolutely nothing to entice me to play. My most memorable moments early-on were hearing characters moans while colliding into walls while getting lost. The game becomes interesting once more paths opened up, and characters gain more skills and equipment to use. My recommendation is to try the eight hour free trial. Everything stays relatively the same, so it is easy to tell if you’ll want to continue your journey or not. The best part is that progress in the trial carries over to the full game if you do decide to continue.
Score: Wait for a sale