Blade Dancer Interview

July 16, 2006

Owners of Sony’s PSP have since the year a half since the system was first released in North America been more or less starved for unique – and fun – titles to play on the go. Whereas the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS seem to see no shortage of odd, yet compelling video games across all manner of genres, that same luxury has simply not yet been afforded to Sony’s sexy handheld. However, NIS America has made a name for itself on the PlayStation 2 for creating and localizing off the wall, yet tremendously entertaining and addictive video game experiences.

The next game in the company’s catalog is is a multiplayer role-playing game for the PSP called Blade Dancer: Lineage of Light. Developed by Hit Maker and Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios’ Japan Studio, this PSP exclusive is set to ship in North America on July 18. With support for up to four players to participate in the adventure simultaneously, Blade Dancer looks to offer PSP owners an RPG experience unlike that found on any other platform. This weekend we spoke with NIS America’s Phoenix Spaulding to get his insight into the upcoming RPG.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us regarding Blade Dancer. What has your role been on this project?

I was the head Localization Coordinator for Blade Dancer.

Blade Dancer enjoys the unique opportunity to really shine on the PSP given that there are very few similar offerings on the handheld, as opposed to if it were to be released on the PlayStation 2 for example. Was this why this platform was chosen for development of this project?

As I’m sure you know, there are incredibly few real RPG options for the PSP. We wanted to show people what the PSP had to offer in that regard, allowing players to travel through a beautifully rendered 3D world designed specifically for the handheld system.

One of the things we noticed at E3 with the game was that Blade Dancer seems to be quite large, noticeably more so that most other RPGs for portable consoles. About how big would you say the game is?

Players are going to have the chance to travel across a fully realized world, navigating foggy jungles and blowing deserts, tranquil lakes and raging infernos. They’ll have the chance to explore forgotten ruins and ancient prisons. They’ll run into many dozens of allies and enemies, unraveling a story that spans centuries. In other words, it’s pretty big.

One of the reasons the game seems so big is because it feature a number of side quests. At E3 it seemed as if everyone we walked up to had some task for us to complete. Is this pretty much standard throughout the whole game?

Absolutely. Even a brave adventurer has to make ends meet somehow, and every town needs a hero. Accepting and completing side missions not only nets you gold and experience, but also gives you access to rare items and greater battle potential.

The plot and presentation of Blade Dancer each have a distinct anime feel overall style. Do you feel that this is a game that has been made to appeal to fans of anime specifically, or can Blade Dancer be enjoyed by a more general audience?

As a Japanese-developed game, it’s hard to escape the comparison to anime in general. And while the appearance and tone of the game will feel quite familiar to anime fans, anybody will be able to pick this up and enjoy what it has to offer.

Being a game of this sort, of course combat plays a significant role in the experience. Can you break down exactly how fighting works in Blade Dancer?

When you’re on the normal game field, enemies are represented by floating, wandering skulls. This means you pick your battles – no random encounters. Once you go into battle, each ally and enemy will have their own Lunar Clock, a rotating circle that determines when that character can act. It’s all in real time – the enemy won’t wait for you to figure out what you want to do before it comes after you. So managing your turns and learning to read the enemy become incredibly important skills.

What exactly are Lunabilities, and how do they affect the gameplay?

Lunabilities might be compared to traditional magic attacks in other games – they range anywhere from powerful single strikes, to healing skills, to defensive spells, to devastating group attacks. Except in Blade Dancer, every skill, including the enemies’ draws from the same Lunar Gauges. This builds up by taking or inflicting damage throughout battle and resets at the end of every encounter.

One of Blade Dancer‘s more interesting features is its focus on recipes and crafting. Can to describe how this works?

You have two options when you go to craft – use a recipe, or just throw some items together. Recipes can be found as reward items or by having an item appraised, which breaks it into its core components. If you don’t want to bother with that, you can try random combinations of items till something works. And you’ll never lose items to a nonexistent recipe, although crafting failure is always a risk.

How have the developers struck a balance between offering a deep and rewarding crafting system, and one that is just plain cumbersome?

The Appraisal system allows players to take just about any item they find and break it down to obtain its recipe. And once you have that, you’ll always know exactly what items you need to create your item. In addition, basic crafting ingredients are easily found, either from wild creatures or stores throughout the world. Everything is streamlined to allow the player complete control over their inventory.

Of course, the multiplayer functionality of Blade Dancer is a big selling point of the game. What can you tell us about how multiplayer will work?

Anyone who owns a copy of the game and has at least one single-player save file can enter the ad-hoc multiplayer mode. You’ll be able to select your profile name and enter the game lobby to find others looking to create or join a party. Once you find a group, everyone can select which of the four story characters they want to control and what level they want to play at. Then you select a dungeon type and off you go! Each player controls their own character, and anyone can open chests or pull the party into battle.

So each player needs to have their own UMD of the game?
Yes, each player will need their own copy of the game to play multiplayer mode.

Finally, as this project is wrapping up, is the team taking a break, or are they beginning work on anything new that you can hint at today?

A break? What’s that? Everyone in the office is hard at work on our upcoming titles. We’ve of course got Disgaea 2 on the horizon, which everyone is psyched about, and not far behind that we have Spectral Souls for the PSP and Ar Tonelico for the PS2.

Thanks for your time!

Thanks for letting us talk with you. We’re very proud of the work everyone has put into Blade Dancer and we hope everyone out there checks it out!