I first came across Queen’s Blade a few months ago. We’ll get to why it caught my attention in just a bit. I’d never heard of Queen’s Blade before, but apparently, it’s part of the "visual combat book" genre. Even being a fan of visual novels, I’ll admit I’d never heard of this particular genre that Japan has apparently been enjoying for a few years now. A quick look at this site, however, gave me some info on Queen’s Blade to help me get started:
Queen’s Blade is called "Visual Book for Duel." It is based on the Lost Worlds Combat Picture Books, the classic game book for duel.
In this game, each player uses one beautiful fighter (for one book) to duel with another player. The combination of each player’s choice of offenses and defenses then leads to the character being in a state of, for example, falling down, being wounded, having armor broken, etc (each state has an artistic page in the character book), and the repetition of these decides a winner, by accumulated wounds.
Books? Status effects? This was all very vague. It sounded a little like Dungeons & Dragons…some sort of table-top RPG. Surely, it couldn’t be Japanese by origin?
Unsatisfied, I decided to do some further research. What I came across was the aforementioned Lost Worlds, a series of "game books" created by a person named Alfred J. Leonardi, Jr.
Here’s what I found out: a gamebook is somewhat like an RPG rule book which features a "character" meant for combat. Play using these gamebooks requires at least two players and a gamebook for each, ie; a character for each.
Play requires two players and at least two "visual combat books", with each player choosing a character (i.e., a book) from those available. Both players pull their "character sheet" out of their gamebook and hand their respective book to their opponent. Each book lists the moves and abilities for that character in tabular form, so what you’re seeing during play is your opponent’s character, not yourself.
Quoting Wikipedia, "During each turn or combat phase, players secretly select an action from those shown on their card, possibly influenced by the results of previous turns. Players then simultaneously reveal their intended action, by number, to each other. Using the character sheet to cross-reference their action with that of their opponent, players then turn to a specific entry in the book they are holding in order to determine the results. These effects may include hit point loss (i.e., a wound), as well as any restrictions on the opponent’s next move (which is read aloud to them). The first character to reduce their opponent to zero hit points wins."
Funny story: I thought up the exact same game back in the 6th grade. My friends and I would play it every free class we had until we finally tired of it a year later.
Coming back to the origins of Queen’s Blade, though, the "game book" concept was capitalized on in 2005 by Hobby Japan, the same publisher that translated the third and fourth editions of Dungeons & Dragons for the Japanese market. HJ may as well have stuck with the abbreviated title trend from D&D and named their new series based on the gamebook concept "T&A" for reasons that will become obvious soon enough.
T&A– er, I mean, Queen’s Blade was, for the most part, a re-skinning of pre-existing character matrices from Lost Worlds. And what a re-skinning it was! Gone were the days of mages and skeletons and trolls and gnomes. Who needed that when you could have the usual harem of scantily clad beauties with torn clothes? Hobby Japan also went ahead and added a variety of pre-existing popular characters from Japanese media, including Mai Shiranui from King of Fighters and eventually, even added entirely new characters to the mix.
The series grew into a successful franchise, spawning anime spin-offs, dozens of gamebooks and action figures. The only thing it seemed to be missing was a series of videogames.
Of course, that particular issue didn’t last very long.
Enter Queen’s Blade: Spiral Chaos published by Namco Bandai for the PSP — a crossover of sorts featuring Queen’s Blade characters. Famitsu describes it as a "simulation RPG about the battle of beautiful warriors." With the RPG equivalent of moneyshots in the form of tearing clothes and ecchi pictures…very ecchi pictures…Spiral Chaos features super-deformed female fighters controlled as units in real time like a strategy RPG. By directing these characters, you can get into one-on-one battles with opponents.
Each character’s damage stats are linked to five parts: head, chest, waist, arms and legs. By focusing on a particular part, you can damage it faster and cause the armour or weapon associated with that part to break. Doing this will result in the aforementioned ecchi pictures and cutscenes. For example (click on the thumbnails):
And now you know why Queen’s Blade caught my attention. Here are some nice shots of the gameplay so we can pretend I wasn’t just reeled in by the pantsu. For those that are curious, Alfred J. Leonardi, Jr. also designed a combat book game called Ace of Aces, set during World War I. It was voted one of the best games of the millennium (yeah, beat that) by Pyramid magazine in 1999.