It's important for a new system's game lineup to cover all the bases, especially in the case of Sega's Dreamcast, a machine considered by many to be the company's last-ditch attempt to reprise its former glory. The Dreamcast has so far seen its fair share of fighters and racers, but the action-adventure genre, a viable category since the early days of Zelda, has been largely neglected. Ronin Entertainment hopes to fill this vacancy with Legend of the Blade Masters, an adventure currently in development that the producers promise will combine traditional questing with elements of role playing and strategy.
Legend of the Blade Masters' setting won't be at all surprising to fans of games such as Secret of Mana and the Zelda series. The kingdom is in turmoil, its magical essence disrupted by the greed and ambition of its residents. The five dragons that protect the land have been driven away by this divisiveness, allowing the encroaching forces of evil to hold sway. Erik, the story's hero, becomes lost in the forest and stumbles on a magical blade that, in classic adventure style, portends a great journey that will culminate in the redemption of Erik's world. The key to this salvation, of course, is the sword Erik holds.
From a gameplay standpoint, Legend of the Blade Masters hopes to compound the standard adventure formula by adding RPG and strategy elements to its character and combat systems. The game's 3D world is presented from an overhead perspective a la Zelda, and exploration takes place in a continuous world. When you control Erik and up to two of the four companions that will join him, the camera focuses on the character in the lead, with the other two characters following intelligently. Combat extends this AI system substantially. While you control the main hero directly, you can issue general commands to teammates, and the game will then do its best to have the characters carry out these orders. Enemy behavior changes under varying conditions, so adapting the party to each battle will be a strategic challenge. A multitude of physical weapons, plus the typical bevy of magic spells and items - will aid the fighters in combat. Ronin promises the spells will be particularly impressive, both in their effect on enemies and their visual punch (and judging by early screenshots, this claim may yet be validated). Though the overall thrust of the combat system sounds complicated, the design team is intent on keeping the fighting fast and smooth.
This combat engine compliments traditional adventuring gameplay. Player characters will evolve in ability and status over the course of the game, much like in RPGs. These characters are provided with a large world that's ripe for exploration - the kingdom is composed of a variety of environments, including forests, deserts, and an arctic continent. Assorted towns dot the countryside, and in them exist plenty of characters to interact with, supplies to purchase, and so on. In addition to the towns, the land will provide a number of dungeons - that most essential element of the adventure genre.
If Ronin can meets its goals for Legend of the Blade Masters, the project will unfold into a game that will satisfy even the most adventure-starved Dreamcast owner.