Orangeblood is a f*****g weird game. This is fine, especially since I just so happen to LIKE weird games that do something a bit quirky and different to the norm. Unfortunately, Orangeblood isn’t just weird, but it’s also extremely cringey and could have done with a bit more work to balance everything out.
It’s a little tricky to put Orangeblood’s wacky narrative into words, so I’ll try to sum it up as best I can. You take on the role of Vanilla, a young lady who isn’t afraid to get into a bit of trouble and actually finds herself working for the CIA as a means to make amends following a run-in with them. This means exploring the semi-futuristic artificial island of New Koza and violently interfering with the gangs that are running rampant there, all in the name of… justice? Who knows.
The story itself is actually fine. Sure, it can be a little hard to follow what exactly is going on and it can get pretty outrageous in places, but it was interesting enough to keep me playing Orangeblood through to its conclusion. What I didn’t like was the cringey dialogue and annoying characters, with each spurting out a barrage of swear words and slang that just felt ridiculously out of place. Whilst I can appreciate that the game is trying to adopt an edgy 90s vibe (and hey, I’m a big fan of swearing), it just felt awkward, wince-inducing, and made the heroes of the game feel all the more unlikable.
Gameplay-wise, Orangeblood feels like your typical old-school JRPG. You’ll progress the story forward by exploring different areas, sharing interactions with NPCs, and facing off against a wide range of enemies, whilst those who take the time to look around can find some treasure chests that’ll contain some neat loot. The game gets all of the basics right and I actually had a pretty good time exploring New Koza.
It helps that the art design of the game is great, with the world itself full of unique eye-catching sights that are a treat to uncover. Orangeblood adopts a semi-futuristic approach in its aesthetic style and it really lends itself well to the game world, with plenty to see that you wouldn’t necessarily find in your typical JRPG. Sure, some of the visual effects are naff and do little to improve the experience, but they don’t hamper what is otherwise a really neat world to be a part of.
I’d like to say that the combat of the game is just as interesting because it does utilise some pretty neat mechanics – there’s just a severe lack of balance in place that can make steamrolling enemies in the game a cakewalk. Basically, players take part in turn-based encounters where they get to use an array of different guns to shoot down enemies.
When in battle there are two things you need to consider: your action points (AP) and your skill points (SP). You know how I mentioned that you use guns to fight enemies? Well, those guns have ammunition that is tied to your AP, meaning if you run out you can no longer attack and have to spend a turn re-loading. Meanwhile, your SP gradually fills throughout the battle, giving you access to an array of unique abilities that can make defeating your enemies a lot easier.
I actually liked this style of battling, with it making for some strategic showdowns that’ll take some clever planning from the player to ensure that they don’t get caught out and unable to attack. There’s a really good selection of weapons to find in the game world that bring with them unique pros and cons too, meaning there’s plenty of room to play around and find what works best for you. The same goes for your equipment, which gives you all sorts of different buffs that can be the difference between life and death in battle.
However, this is where that aforementioned lack of balance comes in. It’s possible to gain access to weapons and equipment early on in the game that when used together make you an unstoppable force – whether that’s by constantly having a supply of SP to keep healing yourself turn after turn or just being able to unleash an unblockable attack on your opponents straight away. It just made combat feel a lot less interesting; of course, I could’ve just NOT equipped the items that gave me this advantage, but it’s not my job to balance the game’s difficulty, is it?
That being said, I did try playing without my ‘unfair advantage’ for a while and found myself unstuck against a boss encounter that just felt like it brought an unnecessarily harsh difficulty spike. Again, it shows a lack of balance and seems like it would’ve required a bit of grinding to beat… I just went back to my exploitative equipment setup and dusted it quickly.
Unfortunately, the dungeon-crawling aspect of the game doesn’t do much to excite either, with each dungeon typically sending you through an array of linear corridors that are filled with battle after battle after battle after battle… you get the picture. Now this wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the combat was interesting but, as mentioned, it’s easy to exploit early on and just makes each showdown feel like more of a foregone conclusion than anything else. In fairness, each dungeon does look pretty, but there’s nothing about them that’ll make them feel memorable after you’ve finished the roughly six-to-seven hour story.
Orangeblood has some neat ideas on show and it’s certainly a pretty game, but some cringey dialogue and unbalanced gameplay make it difficult to recommend to JRPG fans. That’s not to say that there’s not fun to be had in the game and I’m sure it’ll really appeal to some gamers – especially if they don’t take advantage of some of the game’s more exploitable aspects. For me though, there was little on show to make Orangeblood feel particularly memorable outside of the things it did badly.
Developer: Grayfax Software
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC