When someone told me that the Japanese liked to call Idea Factory by the nickname “Idea Fuck,” they weren’t kidding. It’s one thing if a game is horrid from beginning to end, but having a great aspect ruined by various badly-designed mechanics feels like a critical hit to the privates. Now, taking that analogy, imagine dating a girl. She’s hot, and fun to be with, and you really want to like her. However, her favorite past-time is kicking you in the nads (sexual or not is up to your interpretation) with her pointed-toe high heel shoes and she is incapable of listening to your protests. Well? Do you still put up with her? Or do you dump her and try to find a girl who you get along with equally well, but doesn’t come with the nad-kicking hobby? If you chose the former, Blazing Souls Accelate might be for you. If the latter, then by all means skip this game.
To begin off, let’s take note of the good parts of the game. The battle system is very fun. It’s a grid-based tactical RPG with unique character units, but rather than the traditional HP/MP, you get HP and AP. The latter is rather obvious, but for AP, think Neptunia mk2’s system. All skills use a certain amount of AP, including regular attacks, and so does moving. However, all AP will be refilled the next time your character’s turn comes. It works very well for an SRPG, and the system also includes functions such as combining two skills to perform a stronger one, and charging and holding attacks to perform chained team combos on an enemy. There are a great deal of options for customization outside of battle too. Characters increase their stats in the old-fashioned stat point allocation system, weapons can be upgraded and converted into clay, new skills are obtained by alchemising materials, and the game even comes with a monster capture system that I have yet to pay attention to. There’s loads and loads of mechanics to satisfy seasoned SRPG fans who enjoy complexity.
If the game left it at that, then I would have probably enjoyed it. Sadly, Idea Fuck likes to fuck up what would be enjoyable experiences with unnecessary gameplay elements. The way you progress the story is what can be summed up to be a giant clusterfuck. There are various locations on the world map, and places that have story events associated with them are marked by a star. Seems obvious and user-friendly, right? First things first, to get those locations to show up, you must spend some WP (a limited currency used solely for searching for new areas) to manually search for an area on the blurry world map using the cursor. Didn’t find anything? You lose your WP anyway. It either comes down to save-scumming, or looking online for a complete map to get a good feel of the findable locations. What’s that? You’re positive you’re searching in the right place but nothing comes up? Well, my dear, you need to listen to a certain rumour at the guild before you can find it. You heard all rumours and nothing new comes up? You must be missing a title, because you need certain titles for some rumours to unlock! To get that title, you will have to fill out a collection, which have certain requirements from obtaining eight slime jellies or collecting all weapons. Getting eight slime jellies is simple enough of a task, but nowhere in the game does it ever tell you that you need to go through such a tedious procedure if you want to get to the next story map. In this case though, not even the game telling you anything would make this less painful.
Now, you’ve found your location at last after grinding on low-level slimes to get some of their jellies. You enter your place–let’s call it “Forest of Tits and Ass”–and no event occurs. Well, I hate to break it to you, but the Forest of Tits and Ass is separated into four sub-areas, and the event you want to trigger is in map three of four. You’re currently at map one, and you’ll only be able to proceed to the next map by reaching a blue portal. Sometimes, getting there is a simple matter of stacking some blocks and jumping in the right place. Other times, you have ridiculous block-stacking and tree-climbing challenges, floating portals visible only when you engage in a free battle, and portals hidden behind a wall that is difficult to reach, hard to differentiate from the rest of the non-interactive sections of the walls, and only visible and accessible in a free battle even if you managed to reach it in exploration mode. Sounds fun? Yes? Well imagine if nobody ever told you that and you were suddenly chucked into a map that seemingly had no portal because you had no idea that you had to enter a battle to be able to see it, but not reach it because you didn’t stack your boxes right.
In short, the “exploration” aspect of Blazing Souls is tedious and inefficient. Sometimes complexity draws us further into a game. In the case of this game, you’ll find yourself thinking “why the fuck am I collecting jellies and breaking rocks and throwing bosses when all I wanted was to click on a location and enjoy the next story battle?” That, combined with the fact that Idea Factory’s true endings require meticulous searching and planning for non-mandatory events (if you miss even one, you are pretty much locked out of the true end), makes the game require a guide or internet help forums on a constant basis. You don’t have to shoot for the true end on your first go, but the game itself is very long and not well-designed for the multiple playthrough concept.
At the end, the ridiculously bad method of progressing the story kept me from finishing the game. I honestly just wanted to fight more story battles because they were fun (more so than free battles), but the game itself seemed to want to stand in my way for that. I was completely burnt out on the game, and the story seemed to be barely progressing. The characters were interesting enough and all seemed to have their own goals, hidden motives, and an air of mystery, but the ratio of actual scenes of interaction to hours of frustration is simply too few for any aspect of the narrative to push me forward.
If you can manage the tedious, unnecessary aspects of Blazing Souls for the complex SRPG gameplay (i.e. you have the patience of a saint), then you may want to give the game a try. For the rest of you who prefer spending more time on aspects of the game you actually enjoy, an SRPG that actually values user-friendliness would be a much more viable choice.
For the record, I have never actually received any sort of damage in the balls, because I don’t have any. I just assumed that for most readers, the sensation of getting kicked in the balls is easily imaginable, compared to the female equivalent (though let’s face it, getting kicked in the privates by pointed shoes will hurt regardless of physical gender). I also haven’t completely lost faith in IF, because I liked the battle system here and actually enjoyed Neptunia mk2. They seem to be improving from bad to acceptable.