Written by  :  Hiryu (7)
Written on  :  Aug 13, 2008
Rating  :  3.14 Stars3.14 Stars3.14 Stars3.14 Stars3.14 Stars

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For someone who can't read a bit of Chinese and can only speak a few random phrases, this game isn't all that bad.

The Good

I've always had a fascination with Wuxia ever since I was a kid. So when I was browsing around online and read about a series called "Chinese Paladin", I watched it. I read about how it was based on a game so I thought, "A Wuxia game? Count me in!" Bujingai: The Forsaken City being the only other Wuxia-type game I've played, I was eager to see how it would play out since it was being made by China. To my surprise, it was an RPG, a genre I only played to play "Final Fantasy" games (of which I will make many comparisons to). So, not knowing how to read a single word of Chinese and only the Li Xiao Yao and Zhao Linger Fansite to occasionally help for support, I dove in.

Well, not being able to read Chinese (a statement which I think is gonna come up a lot in this review) I don't know the clear story. All I know is bits and pieces. From what I understand, Yun Tianhe is basically a mountain boy living alone who stumbles upon his dad's sword and learns some mysterious things about him. Together with Han Lingsha, a girl he met in a cave, they journey together to figure out what happened in his father's past. They are later joined by Liu Mengli and Murong Ziying who is a member of a sect located in the Kunlun mountain range. There's also a fair bit dedicated to two swords which have something to do with a man (I'm gonna guess here and say I think his name is Xiao Xuan) who is frozen in a chunk of ice and is kept in essentially the Kunlun Sect's backyard, but again I couldn't fully understand. There is more to the story as I'm sure just by the sheer amount of dialogue. You meet plenty of characters on your journey and they all have something to say. It was slightly easier to understand what was going on because a portrait of the speaking character would convey a different emotion every time they said something. While on the subject of portrait, character design is beautiful. Most characters are distinguishable amongst the others and the enemies are just the same. There are many different areas and there are creatures you only see there. From iron spiders, to bears, to armored knights, to straight up mermaid-type creatures, its all unique.

The game is fairly simple to play. You use your mouse to move around the vast world and can switch characters at any time. Its is a "Point A to Point B" for most of the game with the occasional puzzle thrown in and I was glad for it. Each character has a special ability they can use in their environment such as Lingsha being the only one to be able to open certain chests and Ziying being able to locate crystals. They also have some ability to drop what looks like essence, but I have no idea what that's for. Your character can also jump over certain obstacles using the spacebar. Being that the "Final Fantasy" series were the only other RPG series I played, I was surprised that the characters had these types of abilities. Your enemies are also moving in the world just as you and will usually charge at you to fight.

Fighting takes place in a separate screen. The combat interface is also simple to follow. It plays like any other RPG as far as I know. You can attack, use magic, run, block, use an item, or use a character-specific special ability. The special abilities is where the combat shines. Each added a certain uniqueness to each character as you can tell their specials were somewhat similar to that character's nature. Mengli's specials are mainly defense and healing and Tianhe's were mostly arrow attacks. I was most particularly fond of Ziying's various sword attacks. There is also a meter at the top of the screen which shows the order of who's attacking. I thought this was a nice addition as I always wondered in my early RPG days how fast my characters were moving against the enemy. "Final Fantasy X" had something similar, but I think the one in Xian Jian was a lot more better. It is a bit amusing when your character shoots the front of the line when the enemy slowly crawls there. Items can also play a part in combat. Certain items cause certain ailments the enemy or just straight damage. Once again, I didn't understand what most ailments were except for one.

Character design is beautiful. Most characters are distinguishable amongst the others and the enemies are just the same. There are many different areas and there are creatures you only see there. From iron spiders, to bears, to armored knights, to straight up mermaid-type creatures, its all unique.

Now onto the menu. As in most RPGs, you kill things, you get experience, you level up. Its no different here. Leveling up higher lets you equip stronger weapons and armor. Your characters can also learn new specials when they level. However, this usually happens once in a blue moon as I'm not sure how many levels you have to go before you learn a new special. Magic works the same way. You have five elements of magic to learn from and they consist of 6 spells. The spells are all defined by a little icon for what they are. A sword meaning attacking, a water drop (?) for healing, and a shield for defense/enhancing. You must learn the spell before it to learn the next one. Being that I don't know Chinese, I was glad that there weren't many spells or specials to keep track of. They are all fairly simple to remember and even with a bit of messing around I got to knowing the effects of the defense magic.

Weapon enhancing is another addition here. When Murong Ziying joins your party, you have the option to power up your weapons and armor or create new ones. This system feels very similar to Rikku's ability in Final Fantasy X in which you use special items to power up your weapons. You must first buy scrolls which tell you of what you can add to your weapon. You collect the items needed for it and you now have a powered-up weapon. Unfortunately once again, I couldn't fully use this system due to language barrier.

Musically, I think the soundtrack is lovely. From the second you start up the game, you get the instrumental version of the main theme of which is quite hypnotic. The music also set the mood which was another good thing on my part in trying to follow the story. I recognized a few tracks from the "Chinese Paladin" tv series here as well which made think these tracks were also used in the other Xian Jian games. Some of the tunes are catchy.

The Bad

This is a bit of a double-edged sword for me. As myself, I'm glad the game is simple and linear. However, if I fully knew the language inside and out, I would've been disappointed at how simple and linear it is. You just simply need to go from point A to point B to view a scene and go to point A to point B to view another. Its like this until you have the ability to fly to different areas which didn't occur until a lot later in the game. That was when the guessing and checking came in for me. And as glad as I was at how low they kept the amount of magic, I was slightly disappointed. Maybe I'm missing something culturally but I was expecting more than the typical fire, water, ice, wind, and earth with only 6 spells each. And quite frankly, some of the spells made no sense to me. How does a spell which causes more damage to your enemy a fire spell? I'm all for these types of spells, but they could have easily been in their own category.

Graphically, its disappointing. Its a 2007 game and it looks like an early PS2 game. The environments seem bland for the most part and few of them made me marvel at them. The character animation is poor especially since they are all stuck on one facial expression which leads to awkward moments. Prime example being when Lingsha is stuck on a happy face, yet when she sad, you see her face still being happy. There are cutscenes and they seem to be a bit better but they just end up looking like something out of "Dynasty Warriors". The opening CG scene was truly the high graphic point in the game.

Why in the world are there no voices in the game? Its practically needed for this type of dialogue-heavy game to have some voices in it! Granted, there are a few grunts here and there, but I wanted some voices! I think the sole exception was a woman who was supposedly "singing" a song but I'm not sure. Even though the voice acting wouldn't have helped much, it would have been easier on the ears to be able to tell just how angry or happy a character was. It would've been easier on the fingers too because there is so much dialogue to click through.

And this seriously bugged me and I don't know if you can prevent this, but you can not sneak up on your enemies at all. You see that giant bull with his butt towards you? I'm gonna sneak up on him and get some free hits. Nope too bad. He does a complete 360 in less than half a second before you can even close in on him. That bugged me to no end. The only time I ever managed to get an enemy from behind was when I entered a room and the enemy already had its back towards me.

And lastly, I have to say it is a shame that this game and the whole franchise is not translated in English. Well, except for that fan-translated demo of the remake but that's another story.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I think Xian Jian can't be missed. This one maybe, but for someone who hasn't played a Chinese game before, this could be a good way to start and another way to enter the Xian Jian world.