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Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled Review
Posted on June 26, 2009 by

Black Sigil is a RPG released by Graffiti for the Nintendo DS on June 9, 2009. The look of the game is very inspired by RPG classics of the past, from Final Fantasy VI to Chrono Trigger. In fact, Black Sigil seems to use this retro appeal as its main selling point.

The game's story is as follows: In a typical RPG fantasy world, most people are born with an innate ability to use magic. However the few that are without this ability are shunned by society due to their role in a great conflict in the recent past known as the Curse Bringers War. A person called Vai, a magicless, rose up with his fellow shunned and tried to bring the world under their rule. They were defeated by Duke Averney and his magic.

Now several years have passed and Kairu, the Duke's adopted son, is training to become a knight. Being a mageless, people throughout the Duke's realm treat him like dirt. Seriously, you'll get annoyed at these people and their prejudices. Anyway, Kairu is tasked to travel to the capital city of Bel Lenora to get supplies before his journey to the Crystal, hoping it will help him to gain magical abilities.

Black Sigil's graphics are very much in the style of Super Nintendo RPG's, right down to characters lacking noses and a somewhat chibified appearance. The stuff of classic RPG's. The spell effects are unimpressive with little animation or flair. This is probably the result of the battle system, which forces different perspectives based on the position of your foes. More on that later.

Also, this game started life as a Gameboy Advance game, and while it takes advantage of the DS touch screen and stylus, the presentation and graphics are firmly rooted in the GBA era.

The combo techs, very reminiscent of Chrono Trigger are meh. It is not wrong for one to expect some visual fireworks from tandem attacks, but this just doesn't happen in Black Sigil. Sure, the attacks do much damage, but they also cost a lot of mana.

The music and sound effects are completely average. I was almost sure that I wasn't hearing what I was hearing, as I usually like at least some of the music in most RPG's. This was not the case in this game. The music is utterly generic and the sound effects worse. Weapons have no punch, and magic has little life to it. The combo techs, as mentioned above, are also lacking.

Gameplay should be this game's greatest strength, due to its strict adherence to the RPG greats of the past, like Chrono Trigger. But it is in this myopic course that the gameplay fails to impress. While Sigil's system is functional through its standard level up and experience system for both physical and magic attacks alike, it somehow manages to be a dull experience.

This is because of Sigil is incorrect to assume what works for one game automatically can work for another. Trigger's excellence was a combination of factors, many of which are missing from this game.

Black Sigil's difficulty is all over the place, mostly due to the retarded enemy placement mechanic. The way this works allows for enemies and the party to be placed in different parts of the battlefield for each encounter. I think that strategy was the supposed goal; the player must think which enemy to kill first, as they tend to target the lowest level characters.

The actual result of this system is more frustration. This is due to the fact that party members can get stuck in certain areas of the field, which prevents them from using physical attacks on enemies. Special attacks (or SP attacks) are the solution, but what if you don't have any SP left? It is a needlessly restrictive system that when combined with the obscene encounter rate, leads to battles that are more like chores than fun. Not a good sign. Also, there are situations where even SP attacks can't be used, so your only solution is to sit there waiting for the ATB of party members who are in range of the enemies. This is piss poor design and very lame.

When the gameplay system is functioning properly, the game is pretty easy, as magic seems to be a one hit kill for many enemies. Combo techs take out more powerful groups and bosses without a hitch. Too bad the flaws stick, because when the game works, it is a good time.

As with most RPG's, replay value is what you make it. You can do solo character runs, which can be more fun that you think. Such runs do not interest me in Black Sigil, but it is an option.

In summation, Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled is an ambitious project that tries to appeal to the old-school RPG fans. It nearly succeeds in this, but it is the quirks that prevent it from being anything but a pretender. The story is slow and uninteresting. Many times when playing, I was reminded of Legend of Dragoon, another ambitious game that had good ideas but ultimately was nothing special. If you have a high tolerance for random battles and must play every traditional JRPG, check Black Sigil out. Just don't expect fireworks.

- Ugly Bob

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MLB The Show 16
Pokken Tournament
Killer Instinct Season 3
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