XBlaze Code: Embryo was a visual novel released on the PlayStation 3 and Vita in 2014 that was overlooked by the community due to its exclusive release on Sony’s gaming platforms. The sequel, XBlaze: Lost Memories was also brought to the PS3 and Vita in 2015 that was met with a positive reception by visual novel fans. As the popularity of visual novels has grown considerably in recent years, Aksys Games has finally brought the highly anticipated XBlaze Code: Embryo to Steam.

The game follows the perspective of Touya Kagari, a sophomore at Hakuou North Academy who hears a strange noise on his way home from school. Wandering into a quarantined area in a restricted ward to investigate, he comes face to face with an injured savage man who declares Touya to be his enemy. As he is viciously attacked without warning, he is saved by a mysterious girl wielding a large sword who possesses superior combat skills. After trying to make sense of his ordeal, he is visited by the same girl who saved his life moments ago who vows to protect him at all costs. The young girl named Es is a warrior sent by the covert Mitsurugi Agency charged with overlooking reports of strange phenomena in the local area. Following the brief, Touya’s desire for a calm and peaceful life is compromised as he seeks answers to his predicament and questions the paranormal events giving rise to a powerful artifact known the “Grimoire”. He partners with Mei Amanohokosaka, a tsundere character and Kuon, an Ishana Academy apprentice with a fiery temper as he searches for clues behind a horrific accident that occurred a decade ago.  The story take place 150 years prior to the events of BlazBlue as fans may see inspired artwork or resemblances to the BlazBlue universe.

The game utilizes the TOi system or Technology of Interest system that catalogs and archives recent events similar to a Twitter newsfeed. Touya’s encounters with different characters will unlock character biographies and histories and you are given the option to read or ignore gathered news articles that are brought to your immediate attention. The choices you make dictate Touya’s fate as well as that of his teammates with the TOi icon blinking on screen when new updates area available. Special events are triggered when specific TOi news articles provide valuable insight and information to Touya and his party members. Contrary to most visual novels, there are no choices to be made on screen as the news articles browsed and read effectively dictate the game’s direction. Each ending unveils more information related to the events of the game with the option of romantic endings with select party members.

Having played the original console release on the PS3, a few bugs have regrettably marred the experience on Steam. At the time of this writing, there are no character icons or avatars for the Toi news articles making it very difficult for players to properly select the ones needed for a specific character’s ending. It takes too long to close certain stories that remain open for five seconds in the menu screen. Viewing the A.O.S. Summary often causes the game to freeze without notice. An update or patch is urgently needed as the game crashes shortly after Chapter 10 that prevents you from finishing the game.

Visually, the game sports beautiful character designs and artwork. Arc System Works known for their Blazblue and Guilty Gear fighting series have created an engaging and interactive title that is apparent in the narrative and action scenes of the game. The soundtrack is fitting and appropriate for each character’s entry in the game and the voice acting is exceptionally executed with the lead protagonist receiving his own voice. The visual novel sports much of the BlazBlue look and feel with its bright character designs and background environments. Musically, the game is reminiscent and sports some similarities to the music heard in the Blazblue game series.

XBlaze Code: Embryo is an interactive game that pleasantly surprised me with its TOi system and intriguing cast of characters. As a fan of visual novels, this is one of the best titles I’ve enjoyed that features a solid combination of narrative, action and suspense. Arc System Works has delivered an outstanding visual novel experience on Steam following its original PS3 and PlayStation Vita release in prior years. XBlaze Code: Embryo is an enjoyable and charming visual novel that is inspiring, action-packed and a thrilling title.


SCORE – 7.5/10

This review is based on a digital copy of XBlaze Code: Embryo on Steam provided by Aksys Games.

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