DANCING BLADE - KATTENI MOMO TENSHI!
Recently, Sugar & Rockets (Sony Japan) revived the 'Interactive Animation' genre (which started with games like "Space Ace" and "Dragon's Lair") with their "Yarudora" series of games, "Double Cast" and "Kisetsu wo Dakishimete". Whether out of sheer coincidence or friendly rivalry, Konami of Japan has suddenly released -their- entry into this 'Interactive Animation' genre with "Dancing Blade: Katteni Momo Tenshi." Developed by their main dev house, Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo (KCET) and Kyoto Animation, this is only the 2nd game to have come out officially under their new KCET brand; the first game being "Metal Gear Solid." Although the actual teams are probably totally different, any game coming out from the same development house as "Metal Gear Solid" already has some high expectations (in terms of quality). Upon close inspection, it seems that Konami has taken on a huge task (of hand animating an entire game) and delivered. In the end, while not as well designed as Sony's "Yarudora" series, "Dancing Blade" is a solid, entertaining, and action-filled Interactive Anime game that all Anime fans should take notice of.
First off, comparisons between "Dancing Blade" and Sony's "Double Cast" and "Kisetsu" are inevitable. All 3 games are 'Interactive Animation' games, with heavy Anime influences. And all 3 games have also come out within a month of each other! As noted in my "Double Cast" Review, Sony's "Yarudora" series is very intriguing and thought-provoking. So far, all the "Yarudora" games are also slow (but enjoyable), dramatic, and more romantically oriented -- a far cry from the all-action, no thinking roots of "Dragon's Lair" and "Space Ace." "Dancing Blade" on the other hand, is much more along the lines of "Dragon's Lair" in that it is heavily-based on action sequences and has a more linear story line. In addition, while the "Yarudora" series each had many different branches and choices and 27(!) different endings, in "Dancing Blade" there are much fewer choices, and only 4 endings. Overall, though, "Dancing Blade" compares favorably against the other games, in that each game is totally different. For gamers interested in Mystery / Detective style stories, "Double Cast" would do nicely. For a cute Love Story, "Kisetsu." And for more of an Anime Action game, "Dancing Blade" is the perfect choice.
Graphically, "Dancing Blade" is both a hit and a slight miss. First off, in terms of the still art, and high-production finished art (of all the characters), "Dancing Blade" rivals that of either of the "Yarudora" games, as all the characters of DB were drawn by Takemoto Yasuhiro, and look like they were from "El Hazard" or "Ah My Goddess!" if you can imagine that (which means they look excellent). On the downside, the overall Animation quality looks a touch below the quality found in Sony's "Yarudora" series, which is hardly surprising since Sony managed to get the incomparable "Production I.G." (of "Ghost in the Shell" fame) to do their animation, whereas here, it is relative newcomer "Kyoto Animation." On the whole, the animation here looks around TV Anime quality.
Also like the "Yarudora" series, Konami has spared no expense in getting top quality seiyuu (voice actors) to star in "Dancing Blade." Highlights include, Hoko Kuwashima as Momo Hime, Megumi Ogata (Shinji "Evangelion"), Yuuko Miyamura (Asuka "Evangelion," Natsuki "Hyper Police"), and Kikuko Inoue (Belldandy "Ah My Goddess!"). Musically, the game also stands out very well, as there are a number of excellent 'traditional Japanese' + 'modern' style music tracks that fit the game to a tee.
Finally, in the ever important area of gameplay, "Dancing Blade" both succeeds and disappoints. Basically, the game is set up similar to "Double Cast" in that, at key moments of the game, a 'menu' will pop up with 2 choices for you to make. Depending on what you choose, you will end up on a different path and different events will occur; essentially a turn-based "Dragon's Lair"-type game. But what makes DB so fun is that unlike the old "Dragon's Lair" games, you don't have to worry about dying at every critical point if you made a 'wrong' choice. Basically, there are no 'wrong' choices, and in the end, you will end up with a good ending of some sort. So does the game become boring if you remove the 'twitch' element? For "Double Cast" and the "Yarudora" series, the answer is a resounding "No," since they provided a thoroughly intriguing plotline and excellently designed events and encounters (along with 27 totally different endings!). Even if it was turn-based, it was very fun, and along with the high quality animation, there was nothing to complain about. For "Dancing Blade" that answer might be a little tougher to answer: As aforementioned, there are fewer alternate paths to take, and only 4 different endings. But on the other hand, one must look at what Konami was doing: For a full-on Action Anime game (where Animation (and number of frames) needs to be much more intensive), this is bit more forgivable. Ultimately, "Dancing Blade" feels very much like you're watching/playing a fun, action OAV Anime episode, whereas the "Yarudora" games feel like you're watching/playing an Anime Drama Movie. On a final note, knowledge of Japanese is a must for this game (as for the "Yarudora" series), as all the choices in the game (and the overall story) is all in Japanese.
While not as mentally-intensive and complex as Sony's "Yarudora" series, Konami Japan's "Dancing Blade: Katteni Momo Tenshi" is light-hearted, fun, action-based Anime game that is just as enjoyable as Sony's offerings ... in a different way. Perhaps the biggest drawback to this game is the length: You can beat the game in about 45 minutes. But, as aforementioned there are 4 different endings, and once you beat the game, you can watch each of the games, in their entirety, as an 'Anime OAV episode' and save it to memory card. While it may not compare as favorably to Sony's "Yarudora" games, "Dancing Blade" marks the start of something potentially special: Full-on Interactive Anime games that you can play over and over (with multiple endings) and also watch over and over (as if watching an "Anime OAV" series). Over time, these games could evolve and change more (with even higher quality animation) so that eventually, you can watch a 'new episode' of your favorite Anime and play it, too!
Final Scores (out of a perfect 10):
Reviewed by Kenneth Lee, email@example.com
(c) Konami Computer Entertainment