One of my favourite things about the PlayStation 4, and PlayStation in general, is the abundance of fun little JRPGs available on their platforms. Even though Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is available on the Xbox One, that is only for the western world, so in the Japanese market this game is a PlayStation exclusive. Seeing as I spend a lot of time playing larger games, it was nice to step back and play a smaller title.
I remember this from Assassin’s Creed.
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is a cel-shaded, big-battle, beat ‘em up game developed by Omega Force and published by Koei-Tecmo. The player assumes the role of multiple characters, including the titular Arslan who is the heir to the throne in the nation of Pars. Pars has been invaded by the people hailing from the lands of Lusitania who end up taking Pars’ ruler (known as the Shah) captive. Arslan, with the aid of many of his friends including Daryun (a feared and brave knight), Narsus (an inept painter) and Elum (a kid with a bow who can cook), must gather his remaining forces to retake the nation of Pars from the hands of the invading Lusitanians. The story is enjoyable, and the cutscenes which serve as exposition are fully animated and have a proper anime feel which is really neat.
The game starts off with a chaotic battle sequence, pitting you against hundreds of enemy soldiers. It is here you are introduced to the fluid and fast-paced yet simple and easy-to-learn combat system. You are also introduced to a mechanic called the Madran Rush. The Madran Rush generally adds hundreds more enemies to the screen and gives you control of an entire battalion, usually resulting in the stampeding of your opponents. The game’s campaign is split into levels referred to as scenarios, and generally speaking progression is made by either killing specific enemies or completing one of these Madran Rushes. Also, in many cases a scenario will have multiple objectives that must be completed by specific characters within your party. The combat runs quite smoothly and while there is no lock-on feature it’s generally quite easy to attack in the desired direction. The combos which you perform throughout the game are very flashy and the action is comparable to Dynasty Warriors; easy-to-understand, senseless slashing. Every character has their own move set with the weapons they use and they all have unique abilities. To access these unique abilities you need to have your SP (special) gauge filled. Once that prerequisite is met, pressing circle (or B, depending on your respective console) will initiate a large scale move, usually wiping out a multitude of enemies that surround you. Doing so will consume a large amount of your SP gauge, however pressing R1 (RB for you Xbox players) will initiate a small unique move which can still be quite effective and only consumes a small portion of your SP gauge.
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend also features plenty of boss and mini-boss battles. These sturdier enemies have an armour gauge over their health which, when completely depleted, will allow the player to cause damage to the enemies’ health. This ties in with the dodging mechanic where holding block (L1 or LB) and pressing a direction on the joystick allows you to perform a dodge roll. If done at the right time, enemy movements are slowed and damage mitigation is almost halved. This leaves the opponent open to some major damage and is the opportune time to unleash a barrage of lethal moves.
Character customisation is something which is implemented slightly differently in this game compared to other JRPGs, but the levelling system will be very familiar to anyone who has played this type of game in that killing enemies nets you XP which goes towards increasing your overall level. At any time you can choose which move sets you would like to employ, the order of the weapons which you can switch between, as well as select your active skill cards. Skill cards are an item which you can equip that offer stat boosts such as an increase to your attack or making potions replenish more health. The amount you can equip is determined by how much “cost” you have which is in turn determined by what level your given character is. The higher the level, the higher the amount of cost you have to play with. Skill cards also have rankings which determine how much cost they consume, with C-ranked cards being the lowest and S-ranked the highest. You’ll want to get your hands on a good set of high-ranked cards to survive in battle, however of course you’ll have to balance a card’s usefulness against how much cost it consumes as better-ranked cards consume a lot more.
Alongside the single player campaign, the game also features a Free Mode, whereby you replay specific levels with any character you wish, and can complete them in two-player split screen. This is where the game falters a bit. For the most part, the framerate for this game is fine, with next to no problems. But as soon as the second player is put on the battlefield the framerate effectively dies. Aside from this, playing with two people is still fun, regardless of the fact that it is pretty much the same as playing the campaign.
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend is a fun game that offers a decent story with memorable characters. Barring the minor issues like the small map and framerate issues with split screen, this game’s easy-to-understand gameplay, neat art-style, great use of cut-scenes, smooth combat and unique stat system allows for hours of gameplay and senseless fun. If you’re a fan of games like Dynasty Warriors or JRPGs in general, then this is definitely a game you’ll want to check out.
Reviewed on PS4