Phantom Blade 0 made a big impression during the PlayStation Showcase thanks to a trailer that seems created just to capture Sekiro fans’ attention. Now that we’re learning a little bit more about the video game—which has its roots in a very modest indie JRPG series—we can see what it’s like to play.
“Soulframe” Phantom Blade 0’s beginnings are in RPG Maker, according to Liang, the designer S-Game’s developer, who explains this on the PlayStation Blog. That’s an accessible tool that enables ambitious independent developers to create their own video games in the classic JRPG style, and it has really powered numerous games from a loyal community. Rainblood: Town of Death, Liang’s 2010 RPG Maker project, served as the launch pad for the Phantom Blade series.
In its original China, Rainblood (or Phantom Blade) developed into a series, but only a few installments were ever translated into English. You can still purchase the original $7 direct download version of the Town of Death RPG at GamersGate. Rainblood Chronicles: Mirage, a side-scrolling spin-off, is already easily available on Steam for $5, and a similar Phantom Blade: Executioners is planned for a later release on Valve’s platform.
Phantom Blade 0 aside, these games all have one thing in common: they’re visually stunning games that heavily draw inspiration from the Chinese wuxia dream genre. (If you are unfamiliar with wuxia, just imagine it as “sort of like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). According to Liang, Phantom Blade 0 is a “spiritual renewal of the original Rainblood” and is “the video game that we constantly wished to make.” It’s quite a turnaround to go from an RPG Maker game to a sizable AAA PS5 game in 13 years.
This is a “semi-open world” video game, according to Liang, with a variety of hand-made maps to explore. The crew made an effort to mix the fast-paced action of video games like Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden with the more deliberate, deliberate play of a Soulslike. Fortunately for us, as we developed mobile games over the years, we learned how to streamline processes in favour of touchscreens, giving players a way to complete complex chains of movement with the least amount of button-mashing. In the end, this method works easily on controllers with a few adjustments.
Thanks to acclaimed kung-fu action director Kenji Tanigaki, Phantom Blade 0 also chooses to have kung-fu credibility. Tanigaki recorded motions in a “electronic camera matrix” as a guide for the designers, but this wasn’t a typical motion capture series. Instead, animators are using that reference material and creating the in-game motion pictures entirely by hand, “since movement recording can’t do it justice.”
Phantom Blade 0’s PlayStation Showcase trailer initially caught my attention because it seemed cool, but after learning all of this, I’m now completely enamoured with the game. I’m interested to see the results, but developer S-Game has a lot to prove about its ability to create a rich, satisfying console action video game.
The post-Elden Ring tonic we all need may be Phantom Blade 0.
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Dustin Bailey, who is currently stationed in Missouri, joined the GamesRadar team in May 2022 as a Staff Writer. Since 2015, he has covered video games, first as a freelancer and later for almost 5 years as a news author at PCGamesN (with occasional dalliances into anime and professional fumbling). His passion for video games was ignited somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and today you can usually find him dividing his free time between playing classic video games, the newest blockbuster action-adventure game, or playing a significant amount of American Truck Simulator.