RainBlood Chronicles: Mirage may seem like a pointless mouthful of a title, but it's actually the prequel to a pair of Chinese indie RPGs made using RPG Maker software. Only one of them was translated into English (that I remember, because I swear I have the first one on my HDD somewhere), and both of them seem to have disappeared, although ORiGO games (who are publishing Mirage) have made hints about possibly releasing RainBlood 1 and 2 as well. Which would be nice, because apparently they're really good.
But those are turn-based RPGs and this is a wonderful little 2D action game.
Here's what to expect:
- Two distinct playable characters.
- Eight levels, each divided into multiple areas (each new area also serves as a checkpoint). There are secrets in each stage.
- Unlockable and upgradable moves, abilities, and items for each character.
- Free switching between characters in combat to extend combos or avoid death (each character has their own health bar).
- Multiple difficulties, unlockable extra play modes, boss rush, etc.
- Local coop and versus modes.
- Full support for controllers and arcade sticks (it only uses 6 buttons for combat, so arcade sticks are ideal).
(Left: Shang. Right: Soul.)
An orphan with incredible natural talent. Soul is self-taught and fights with aggression and passion. Of the two characters he is more mobile, with a double jump and an 8 direction blink that allows him to dodge (and counter-attack). He has good basic strings and is easily able to string launchers and heavy attacks for big damage. He seems to be considered the easier and more powerful character.
The more level-headed fighter. He doesn't have Soul's raw talent, but is able to conjure and control magical kee swords for both offence and defence. He is less mobile than Soul, lacking the blink skill, but using his kee swords he can shield himself from multiple attacks and counter-attack with ease. Using his summoned swords he can extend combos and attack from great distances. I like him more than Soul, but that's just preference.
The Cabal vs Mirage
Honestly, the game's biggest flaw is the translation, and that it's a prequel to a pair of really dour, mythical RPGs. There is a lot going on in the background, and plenty of back story to read up on (provided during loading screens and with hidden scrolls found during missions), but the dialogue in story cut-scenes and between levels, and even the text of many skills and items, is full of weird (or just bad) grammar and punctuation that can make it hard to really understand. But it's an action game, so who cares? If they ever release the RPGs I'm sure those will fulfill any story needs (and the translation should be better).
Anyway, Soul and Shang are part of the Cabal, which is often referred to as The Org just to make things more confusing, and they're trying to track down Jade, who was a member of the Cabal sent to find Mirage, the leader of some secret sect of evil bad guys. Half way into the game I could not care less, but there are plenty of neat bosses to take down, which is more than enough.
Mechanics and Systems
I'll write a few general guidelines because there is very little non-Chinese info about the game and the tutorials and menus are not very good at explaining them.
Like most modern action games, players build up a combo meter (called the "coolness" meter in the game) from E to S by landing hits in quick succession. Unlike other games, the meter isn't lost when the player takes hits, and building it to S often takes special moves and setups. Normal hits can easily build to A, but landing instant-death counter-attacks, super moves, and air combos builds it much faster.
There are a bunch of different resources used in the game. Each character collects their own souls (amount pictured top, middle right) from killing enemies and breaking chests and pots (purple for Shang, blue for Soul) which are used to purchase and upgrade their skills and buy character-specific items. These souls only go to the active character and cannot be exchanged. The more general currency is silver (top right), which is obtained from defeating enemies, smashing pots, and stage completion rewards. Silver is shared between the characters and used to buy general accessories that either can use.
That's all simple enough, but there are a few quirks to the system. The first is that every upgrade or item costs souls or silver as well as another special resource. These are bronze idols, silver bells, and golden masks. Basic items and upgrades will cost, say, 5000 silver and 5 bronze idols, and each upgrade will increase the cost and the rarity of the other resource needed (eg. 10k silver and 5 silver bells, 25k silver and 5 golden masks). Idols, bells, and masks are found in chests during missions.
The final resource is gold, which is acquired in very limited amounts from mission complete rewards, and also from successful S-level combos. Every hit landed during S-level will net gold for the player, so it's important to always maximize S-level because it doesn't last very long, and once it ends the combo meter resets to nothing. After beating level 2 gold can be used to exchange for any other resource, which makes it very valuable when trying to get specific items and upgrades. Need 2 more bronze idols? Buy (with) gold!
Each character starts with 1 item slot for accessories, but more can be purchased with silver. There are a bunch of general accessories that either character can use--additional drops, faster super meter building, etc--and then a bunch of accessories that are specific to that character, granting them special properties for their moves. For example, Shang can buy an accessory that allows him to activate more kee swords, and Soul can buy an accessory that gives him super armour while doing heavy attacks. Strangely, even the general accessories can't be shared, so each character must be upgraded and equipped individually.
The last thing is KF (top left), which is basically the super meter. Each character builds their own KF during combat. At 10 KF it can be spent on a super move, but there are other moves that will use less.
Questions? Comments? Doesn't matter, I already bought the game, and you should to while it's still on sale for $10usd. Unfortunately (or whatever, most people will think it's a plus), it is not DRM-free. No matter where you buy it you will need a Steam account to install it and play.
Get it here.