Xuan Yuan Sword 7
After 30 Years, Xuan Yuan Sword Makes A Proper Introduction
Released in 1990, the original Xuan Yuan Sword was a turn-based RPG on the DOS, released exclusively in the Chinese region. The next 25 years would set the precedent for Taiwanese-based developer Softstar and their flagship series. With over a dozen games released on PC and mobile, several live-action dramas, and animations, Xuan Yuan Sword became just as popular as Final Fantasy for a time. It was an unknown niche title everywhere else in the world, until 2015's Xuan Yuan Sword: The Gate of Firmament. This was the first time a game in the series was released in English, first on Steam and then on the Xbox albeit digital-only. This all changed upon the release of Xuan Yuan Sword 7
Years later in 2020, Xuan Yuan Sword 7 would be the second game to be released in English. In 2021, for the first time, the Xuan Yuan Sword series would release on Xbox One and PS4 physically. This isn't the first series by Softstar to make its English debut this year, as that honor would go to Empire of Angels 4. Much like XYS, the Empire of Angels series was rooted in exclusivity for decades before. Does Xuan Yuan Sword 7 fare better than its sister Empire of Angels 4?
Xuan Yuan Sword 7 Combines Drama, Action, Fantasy and Wit
Before the player can enjoy Xuan Yuan Sword 7, they are given the option to entertain themselves. There's a minigame in the form of "Chess," which plays more like Connect Four with special powers. The objective is for the player to "take" the opponent's pieces through rows of threes. The player who collects the most pieces wins. There's no incentive to play the mini-game, but it's a charming mini-game in itself. The core of the game is, of course, in its single-player mode.
The story begins with the protagonist, Taishi Zhao as he reminisces of his childhood, living in a prestigious small village. After retrieving his childhood friend's toy from a tree, he returns home to care for his younger sister Xiang. Unfortunately, as he does so, the village is in the midst of an invasion. Having seen his parents mercilessly killed by the invaders, Zhao along with Xiang leave and escape the slaughter. The game returns to the present time after some years have passed. Xiang has been ill since then and Zhao has been caring for her by taking odd jobs to earn coins while laying low.
The Cutscene To Gameplay Ratio Is A Tad Uneven
It is at this point that genre-savvy fans will begin to predict what will happen if they haven't already. The common trope of the older brother caring for his ill little sister. Living a perfect childhood until something tragic happens that alters their lives forever. Obvious evil army general who becomes a thorn in the protagonist's side. These are but a few examples of the cliches that show themselves in Xuan Yuan Sword 7. These aren't necessarily bad as it's more fun to point them out than groan in disgust.
This is entirely subjective of course, as the game classifies itself as an "ARPG" for a reason. The cutscenes are long, usually chained one after the other with very little gameplay in between. By the end of my time with XYS 7, I could count on one hand the number of enemies I fought. It's a shame because the game teases the usage of spirits to fight alongside you. This also comes with balancing the use of light attacks, heavy attacks, and defense maneuvers.
Why Did It Have To Be Wolves?
The only enemies players will fight early on are wolves, however. The first fight of the game is with a wolf. The first enemies you fight in-game are wolves. Heading back to save your sister in distress? Better skin some more wolves first. Players who are into story-oriented games will love its charm, but those wishing to get into the gameplay will have to wait quite a while to do so.
Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is a game that references many other titles and media. At some point, I pointed out a Full Metal Alchemist reference of all things, alongside others like Bayonetta and Shenmue. Again, subjective, but the ambition that Softstar provided in their newest franchise title is to be respected. While the game may not be for everyone, it's still a sign of things to come from other developers. Maybe we'll see more flagship titles from other countries make their way to the States? Here's hoping. The gaming industry could use some more variety.
Xuan Yuan Sword 7 is available on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One.