Reviewed: July 22, 2009
Released: June 8, 2009
The Nintendo DS, hotcake extraordinaire, brings into its fold a new RPG with old roots. Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled, a title originally slated for the Game Boy Advance finds its way to the NDS. Black Sigil although on a modern system harks back to the days of 16bit graphics with titles like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana. I can remember when 16bit graphics and Midi music were all I that really needed to have fun when I was a child. The SNES is still probably my favorite system to date. It gave me such good memories as a child. So without further wait I give you my review of Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled for Nintendo DS.
The story revolves around a young knight, a war-orphan, who is born without magic in a world ruled by it. Seen as an outcast, Kairu is banished and his best friend Aurora comes along for the adventure, much to his disproval. Along their journey they will befriend 6 more fighters, all of which you will be able play with. The controls for Black Sigil are pretty easy to pick up. You can use the standard DS controls or control everything with the stylus, or both. You can move your character around faster if you use the stylus on the touch screen. Personally I am a fan of the good old-fashioned buttons.
Black Sigil is a turn based RPG that uses a combat similar to that found in the classic RPG Chrono Trigger. You can have up to three allies in your party at a time. One of the neat aspects of Black Sigil is that while in the Map Mode you can the party leader with the press of a button. Some NPC in the title will respond differently to a different leader. Players must wait for a bar to fill before they are allowed to attack or use items. Black Sigil takes things one step further by adding a bit of tactical fun into the mix. Players can move their characters around on the battlefield to better combat their opponents. This is particularly nice since some enemies can be just out of your reach. This will happen a lot since there is a lot of environmental blockage on the battlefield like giant holes.
The combat system itself is fun but what really drags down the game is the insane amount of battle encounters. I couldn’t take more than a few steps before getting pulled into battle. It really got annoying for a while until I found out the escape button (B Button) on my own since that detail is omitted from the manual. You will take a bit of damage from the enemies while you try and escape but it will give you a brief reprieve from battle. Saving your game in Black Sigil is pretty easy and quick for those with limited time. As long as you are on the overworld map you can save at anytime via the Menu Mode. There are save points within the various “dungeons” like most traditional RPG’s.
Players will traverse the large world of Bel Lenora as well as other worlds as your adventure ensues. Black Sigil’s overall interface is broken up into three modes: Map, Battle and Menu Mode. Each mode has its basic functions such as navigating the world, using and equipping items, and of course fighting. The story is entertaining and full of secrets and strong plot twists to create an interesting original story. There are plenty of side quests and areas to explore. Players can equip and arm their characters with 100+ different physical and magical skill/combos. Players can also choose from 100 plus weapons and over 200 different pieces of armor.
Graphically, Black Sigil takes its cues from the golden era of RPG’s. It’s easy to see its influences such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy in Black Sigil. The environments are well done and the creatures seen in each area are carefully designed and grouped, such as white wolves being seen in a snowy and mountainous area. I also like the character models of the people in Black Sigil. Sure the NPC’s will repeat and such but they look good. The main characters though are all unique and you can easily tell one from the other. A lot of care went into these 16 bit characters. One of the only things I don’t like about the graphics is that upper screen that is hardly used. It’s really hard to make out much. I could tell where my character was but that’s about it. It could have used a bit more work.
Black Sigil features background music that is pretty good. It too harks back to the days of the truly good RPG’s of my childhood. The music is not annoying or abrasive and just works well with this adventure. One of the melodies reminds me heavily of one of my favorite Nintendo franchises. The sound effects are well done during battles as well as through out the world.
Black Sigil is a fairly long title and can take you 40 to 50+ to complete if you take the time to do all the side quests. I did have a lot of fun with this title despite the high encounter rate. One thing that I will mention is that you really need to pay attention to where you need to go next. Black Sigil features no logbook or journal so you pretty much have to remember or spend hours searching for where you need to go. You can usually follow the age-old rule of “talk to everyone” to gain the info though.
Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled is a blast from my childhood. RPG’s have changed so much over the last 20 some years and yet the classics are still my favorite. Black Sigil features many of the staples that make a good RPG and I really enjoyed it. The high encounter rate and top screen graphics are about the only things that I didn’t like. You can pick up Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled for around $30 dollars at most retailers. If you miss the golden days of RPG’s, then Black Sigil is for you. It’s not perfect but, I recommend giving it a try.