AeternoBlade II’s smattering of good ideas are hopelessly lost in a package that lacks any creative drive and, more importantly, basic polish. Some of those ideas even end up materialising into interesting mechanics, with time manipulation playing an intriguing role in the game’s combat and platforming. However, developer CORECELL Technology fails to build off this potential and playing AeternoBlade II left me feeling empty with its inability to establish any kind of identity. That’s to say nothing of the laughably horrid translation that is delivered through some of the worst voice acting this side of an 80’s anime dub.
At least AeternoBlade II feels competent to play. Each of the three playable characters move with a fluid sense of weight and momentum and platforming was mercifully stress-free thanks to a tight jump-arch and snappy controls. Likewise, letting loose in combat has a satisfying flow to it that can be linked to smooth animations and an impressively stable framerate on PlayStation 4. These controls work in both the 2D and 3D sections of the game, although I did have issues with the camera getting caught behind external objects in some of the 3D arenas.
While effort was clearly put into making AeternoBlade II play like a workable action-platformer, I found little of that passion put into making it a memorable one. Combat is an overused commodity in the game, and the map is filled with battle rooms that throw wave after wave of enemies with the same mindless music playing in the background. New enemies and mechanics are introduced progressively, but a lot of these come off as time-wasting gimmicks in order to pad out the experience. Likewise, boss fights can be captivating duels thanks to their impressive scale and multiple stages that occasionally switch between the 2D and 3D modes. However, often those stages just recycle the same attack patterns with the only difference being the location or perspective, meaning the battles feel ultimately derivative.
Thankfully, the variety of time manipulating abilities afford AeternoBlade II its main source of creativity. Whether its rewinding enemy’s attacks to guarantee a flurry of hits or freezing an object in place to sync up a platforming route, the timey-wimey mechanics are dynamic concepts that are also fun to play around with. Sadly, as mentioned earlier, some enemy types abuse the implementation of these abilities by having tedious invulnerabilities that require a mandatory time skill to counter. These often come off as more annoying than enjoyable because of how at odds it feels to work around a compulsory task compared to the free-flowing and inventive nature of the rest of combat.
The story of AeternoBlade II is neither fascinating in content nor engaging in delivery. The main character of the first game, Frejya, joins forces with the warriors Bernard and Felix to stop the Dark Abyss from claiming the three AeternoBlades and disrupting time and space. At least that’s what I think happens, as the story is presented so poorly that even AeternoBlade diehards would have a hard time keeping up. The expository dialogue is either too vague to establish any cohesion or so dense that the lore just ends up reading like a fantastical terms and conditions page.
And then there’s the localisation. I was genuinely shocked by how appalling the text in the menus and subtitles fails to meet basic grammar and punctuation standards. It’s as if the localisation team sent the original text through Google Translate once and then just slapped the results into the game.
And then there’s the voice acting. Similarly, I’m not convinced the team didn’t just throw the dialogue through an automatic voice reader given how lifeless and robotic each line is delivered. Each word and sentence are blurted out with no thought given to cadence or expression or any kind of quality that would define them as “human”. I will admit, there was an ironic joy I experienced with each cutscene as I chuckled away at the voice actors reading the grammatically incorrect dialogue while they tried to stay as monotone as possible. But that doesn’t excuse the overall unprofessional and unpolished package that the developers want us to pay money for.
Visually, there isn’t a lot to praise about AeternoBlade II. Some environments do impress with pleasant scenery and a decent amount of variety in the map setting. However, those maps fall victim to being filled with samey-looking rooms and corridors that bring on visual fatigue. The character designs are uninspired and even a little creepy given the frightening lack of facial animations. Do these characters ever blink?
I feel like there were developers behind AeternoBlade II who truly cared. The gameplay is smooth, and the time-manipulation mechanics are genuinely inspired. But after every fun battle I would become crestfallen when essentially that same fight was undertaken another 10 times. And the localisation and voice acting poison the rest of the experience with their cheap and lazy implementation.
AeternoBlade II (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.
I couldn’t help but feel that the greatest time manipulation Aeternoblade II succeeds at was the 15 hours I wasted playing it