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TGS 2014: Hands-On With ‘Ghost Blade’

I played quite a few games at the Tokyo Game Show, and as you would expect, there was a pretty wide range in terms of how finished games were and how enjoyable they were to play. While I was excited to play Chaos Rings 3 for obvious reasons, the surprise of the show for me ended up being Ghost Blade, an upcoming stylish action game from Shanghai-based developer Yushi Digital Entertainment. It’s currently in soft launch in China, and should be coming to the rest of the world within the next month or two.

In Ghost Blade, you play as Black, a guy with a sword who is killing demons and monsters for reasons I couldn’t possibly begin to care about on the show floor. The game covers seven large stages made up of wide combat areas interspersed with a bit of light exploration, pottery smashing, and auto-platforming. Black’s pretty good at what he does, showing off moves that wouldn’t look out of place in the repertoire of Ryu Hayabusa or Dante. He can juggle enemies up into the air, slam a combo on them in mid-air, and then crash them back down to the ground without even breaking a sweat. On the defensive, he can do quick dodge rolls forward, back, and to either side.

Black is controlled almost entirely with swipes and taps, with the sole exception of a floating virtual stick used for moving him around. Swipe back and forth across an enemy to deliver a basic attack combo, swipe up to launch it, and swipe down to bring your sword down hard, slamming airborne enemies into the ground. Tapping on enemies will launch throwing knives at them, and they seem to be in endless supply. Swiping on the edges of the play area will perform dodge rolls in whichever direction you like, and you can even use special magic by tapping on a symbol and filling in the character by drawing it. If you’ve ever played the under-appreciated Nintendo DS Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, you’ll have a basic idea of how Ghost Blade plays. While the controls and moveset feel a lot like Ninja Gaiden, however, the game is much more focused on offense, along the lines of Devil May Cry‘s gameplay flow.

Ghost Blade is a premium priced app, with the developer informing me that they’re looking to sell it for $4.99. The game does include some IAP in the form of a premium currency that can be used to unlock bonus weapons and characters earlier, but I have been assured that every piece of content in the game can be unlocked without sinking extra money into it. From the looks of it, there are four extra characters and a huge list of weapons to earn, which should pump some replay value into the game beyond its decent-sized main story.

It’s quite a good-looking game, as well, with nice art design and some fairly attractive 3D graphics. The key point in action games like these is to have a good framerate, and Ghost Blade doesn’t disappoint there, running smoothly on all three hardware types they had the game running on. The inspiration from Dragon Sword also seems to be reflected in the game’s choice of orientation, as you can only play in portrait mode. To tell the truth, this makes it a little tight on a phone-sized screen, but it’s still quite playable. One rough point at the moment is the English translation, which is understandable, but just barely. The developers are working hard to try to improve this, but it’s hard to say what the game’s script is going to look like by the time it launches.

That said, the story is just the frosting on the cake. The combat in Ghost Blade is the main focus, and it’s ridiculously fun. It’s clear the developers have done their homework, as the inspiration from the genre kings is pretty obvious in the way the game looks and plays. At least for me, a noisy show floor is a rare place for me to fall in love with a game, but Ghost Blade won me over pretty quickly. I actually wanted to hang around and play it the whole time, and probably would have if I didn’t have other games to get to. We’ll be bringing you more on Ghost Blade in the future, but for now, check out the video to get an idea of how the combat works.