Edited by: Jade Swann
Taking place on the island of New Koza off the coast of Okinawa, Orangeblood presents an alternate history where the player begins with Vanilla, a prostitute with a bad attitude, and a young DJ named Machiko. Along the way, the player meets a young samurai-like girl named Yazawa, and a martial arts fanatic named Jackie. The four of them are on a mission to bring down the Russian Mafia and complete the mission assigned by the enigmatic "Iceman."
The game’s personality is one of its greatest strengths — presenting a world that’s one part Final Fantasy 7, one part Yakuza, and one part FLCL. From the very start, the player is thrust into an eye-catching world that is so full of life, it is practically begging to be explored. As the setting is a towering collection of buildings, the player can be taken to many different places without having to go very far.
The game takes a very 90s inspired approach to how it presents itself. Not only does it play like an RPG out of the Super Nintendo era, but it also uses the 1990s style as an overall theme, using plot points such as hip hop, the Russian Mafia, and vast consumerism. The whole game has a very counterculture MTV feeling, with profanity and violence to stand out.
Like stated before, this title is a tried and true RPG, with all the mechanics a player expects to come from the type. The battles are turn-based, and the game wants a strategic approach to fighting off the enemies, using powers and abilities collected to solve the fights in almost a puzzle-like manner.
For upgrading, the title doesn’t require too much thought into how to set it up. The equipment system is fairly barebones. The game makes it easy to set up each of the four characters with their own weapons and items, especially using the “Auto-Equip” function. Sometimes, it may still require strategy, as the system may not give the player what they want or even need. Once the player gets an understanding of how the levels of the weapons work and what exactly they do during fights, it becomes easier to plan ahead.
Exploring the world through the extremely well-detailed pixel art will probably be the biggest take away for any player who tries out the game. It uses many different pallets and colors to drive home the feeling of uniqueness from level to level. The fact that it all takes place in one small city is even more impressive. From the penthouses to the slums to the laboratories, each different section provides the right feeling to get the player really in the mindset of where they are.
This attention to pixel detail carries over to the main four characters as well. Each character carries their own flair and color palette, which helps keep them distinguished and helps when all four playable characters can swap out weapons of the player’s choosing. Regarding the narrative, the four main characters do tend to bleed into each other a bit. The game doesn't offer much downtime, so getting to know the characters does not happen much throughout. While personality-wise they may not be as memorable, they each do manage to stand out from one another by way of individual abilities.
The story, while conceptually interesting, doesn’t carry as much weight as the presentation of the game itself. The gameplay isn’t long enough for the player to get to really know the characters and understand the world a little better. The story is easy to follow, but for the amount of detail in the build of the game, the story feels as though it could have explored more.
Another strong part of the overall presentation is the music. Music and the industry is one of the major motifs for the entire game and the non-diegetic and diegetic music helps elevate the title. Each one of the songs not only seem to represent a genre of music in the 90s, but some tracks also seem to mix genres to create an otherworldly feel with a familiar spin. It mostly focuses on hip hop of the era, but has some surprising other additions from genres one might not expect; implementing a somewhat punk and funk sound to some parts of the game, such as when exploring the laboratory.
The Verdict: Great
Orangeblood is a game brimming with culture. What it lacks in gameplay originality, it makes up for in its narrative and theme originality. It has just enough personality to be memorable and stand out against its peers. While it doesn’t really add anything new to an already large library of RPGs, it does enough to make itself an entertaining experience.