Zelos is a mercenary. A really awesome mercenary who’s tough, strong and has an "I’m a badass" attitude. He normally works alone, but the guild assigned him a mission that was supposed to be quite difficult, even for someone of his caliber. Realizing the challenge, the man behind the desk automatically recruited some friends for him to join the fight. They go to the ruins and the battle isn’t all that difficult, but look over there! It’s a fallen woman. The party saves her and learns that she’s a magic-wielding amnesiac named Aria. The group the "convinces" Zelos to join them as they help Aria recover her memories and find her way home. But, things won’t be so simple. Human Genomes, creatures created to replace humanity, appear and clash with Zelos and his assigned friends’.
So, he and his band of "friends" go battling all the world, occasionally stopping long enough for players to experience little vignettes that show character interaction. Really, that’s all I can tell you without spoilers. Blazing Souls Accelate‘s main story doesn’t really kick in until at least six hours in. Maybe more. I lost track of time with all the level-grinding.
If you love the nitty-gritty, customizing parts of strategic RPGs, then you’re probably going to grab your copy of Blazing Souls Accelate and disappear for a few weeks. People will ask where you are, someone will mention you got the game and a look of understanding will come over everyone nearby who’s heard of it. You customize characte stats when they level up. This allows you to directly influence how the group will grow. You also earn general stat points from battle, which can be used on characters that aren’t really leveling to strengthen them too. You can synthesize equipment to create better gear. You can alchemize items. You can collect accolades. You can even collect monsters to use in battles. Plus, if you certain actions lead to Aliases, which can determine what you can do while roaming around a battle area and influence interactions. There is a lot to do in Blazing Souls: Accelate. Keep a post-it on the wall to remind yourself to occasionally eat and drink while you’re playing.
Did I mention there are multiple endings? Well, there are. You’re probably going to need a guide to get the best ending though, since it involves a bit of work. No, scratch that, a lot of work. Actually, you’ll probably be searching for a guide anyway. There are a lot of skills you can create, aliases to acquire, and extra characters to recruit. All of these can be quite easy to miss. Not to mention events you can only see if you managed to fulfill certain conditions.
Level grinding in this game is mandatory. You’ll kind of need that to survive in Blazing Souls Accelate, because it doesn’t coddle you. Nope, you’re going to be facing a real challenge. I could even imagine inexperienced strategy RPG gamers losing a character in the second battle, which is also supposed to be a bit of a tutorial battle. Not that it happened to me. The first time I had a character die was on the third battle I fought. (Poor Adelle!)
And, to further encourage spending at least 1/50th of your life playing, Blazing Souls Accelate has a New Game + option where you can keep almost everything you earned and acquired in the first play through. Levels don’t carry over, which means you’ll need to level-grind all over again. Some players may not mind because you’ll probably still be experimenting with attack and skill combinations.
All that content means that Blazing Souls Accelate is incredibly complicated. The game doesn’t hold your hand and tell you how to do every little thing. There’ll probably be two or three sentences, maybe four if you’re lucky, explaining what to do and you better pay attention. If you don’t, you’re screwed. Seriously. I sped past the whole "Search" explanation thing because I thought, "I’ve been playing RPGs for over 15 years! I know this stuff already!" I promptly squandered all my WP, couldn’t search anymore and didn’t find the next location. I had to restart the game because, silly me, I saved after doing that, not realizing I’d messed up royally.
The same thing happened to me with "Charge" attacks in battle. The game told me to do it in a brief tutorial before the second battle and, of course, I just zipped past it without paying attention. After the another WP-wasting incident and restarting, I discovered how awesome the system is. You know in the Disgaea series, how you can chain together character’s attacks in one turn if you have them all gang up on one enemy? Blazing Souls Accelate has that too, only it’s trickier because you don’t get to move all of your characters at once. There’s a bar at the top of the screen that shows which characters are acting next. If an enemy gets between two charged up characters you were hoping to have attack another enemy with a third character, and one of them gets attacked, you lose your chain chance. If they don’t, then you can pull off even bigger and better massive attacks.
I hate that action bar. Even though Blazing Souls Accelate tries to act like a real-time strategic RPG, it isn’t. Characters’ and the enemies icons move from the right side of the bar to the left, and when the reach the left they can move. This normally takes around 10 to 20 seconds. I always thought I was a fairly patient person, but I found myself getting annoyed that there was delay between actions. It would have been much easier if there had just been character icons in a line and the next character or enemy in line would automatically move and/or attack once the corresponding icon appeared on the left. Yes, I realize how silly a complaint this is, but still. It bothered me and felt like a cheap way to make battles, which can already be long, even longer.
Blazing Souls Accelate also has a serious flaw with Searching, which also ties into that whole "dump players in the game and only tell them the absolute basics" thing. To have to search for new locations to fight in or advance the game, you need to search the map at the guild using three characters and WP. Okay. Except WP can be hard to earn and you have a set amount, which means you have to use those points wisely. As a player, you resolve to be careful. Unfortunately, you will run across situations where you won’t be allowed to search a certain area because your characters lack necessary stat levels. So you think fine, "I’ll go level up and come back to search." Except when you get back to the guild screen from the failed search attempt, you’ll see lost WP even though the game wouldn’t allow you to search. Not cool Blazing Souls Accelate. Not cool. Save before each search attempt!
I’m not going to lie to you, Blazing Souls Accelate is a sadistic game. There is a very good chance it will make you curse and throw your PSP to the ground in frustration. At the same time, there’s nothing more rewarding than unleashing a massive charge attack that completely obliterates an enemy or watching your lackluster characters turn into powerhouses.
Do you enjoy being thrown into an incredibly complex, difficult game with little or no guidance? Does spending an entire evening leveling grinding sound like an awesome way to spend a Saturday night? Do you like writing a novel filled with game notes or hunting for guides? If then answer to all those questions is yes, then Blazing Souls Accelate is the game for you.
Food for Thought
- Unlike some earlier Idea Factory PSP games, Blazing Souls Accelate has minimal load times.
- I recommend getting the UMD copy, just because it means you’ll get an instruction book. Which you should read, and maybe carry with you for your first few hours of play. Just in case.
- You need to keep multiple save files, since there’s a good chance you’ll mess up or miss something.
- It doesn’t tell you how to check weapon range, so expect friendly-fire incidents early on.
- I have to give Aksys a compliment when it comes to voice acting, they did a very good job with casting. The only voice I didn’t care for was Adelle’s. Perhaps that contributed to her dying multiple times.