Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled is an upcoming DS RPG from an independent Canadian developer named Studio Archcraft. The game was formerly known as Project Exile and was originally slated to be on the Game Boy Advance. A period of retooling and numerous delays later, Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled is poised to release soon thanks to publisher Graffiti Entertainment who also published Mazes of Fate for the DS last year.
The story takes place in the kingdom of Bel Lenora where magic flows like blood through peoples' bodies. Bel Lenoran legend speaks of a stranger who once visited the land long ago who had no magic flowing in his veins. This man brought misfortune wherever he went and thus was considered cursed. The protagonist, a young swordsman named Kairu, is the only other person to set foot in Bel Lenora who does not possess magic. He is thus considered the cursed knight. Little is known about the story beyond the premise, but the game promises a 30 or so hour epic adventure with a cast of up to eight characters and multiple vehicles such as a boat and an airship.
The graphics are 2D visuals reminiscent of 16-bit RPGs such as Chrono Trigger. The sprite and tile work looks very similar to Chrono Trigger's, albeit with more intricate detailing in the environments. The sprites and disproportionately small towns look simpler on the polygon overland, designed to resemble the Mode 7 overlands of Super NES RPGs, particularly during airship flights. Gameplay video footage reveals spell effects that resemble the likes of Chrono's Luminaire or Magus' Dark Matter skills. The character designs appear to take influence from both Japanese and western-style character art but lean more toward a Japanese style. "A more serious-minded Chrono Trigger" would be the best way to describe the visuals.
The gameplay appears to be of the classic, traditional style that JRPG fans have grown to enjoy. There are towns full of people to talk to, dungeons filled with monsters, a massive overland to travel, and even vehicles such as a boat and an airship. The battle system reportedly resembles that of Anachronox. Battles take place on the field itself and up to three characters can fight. Each has an ATB bar that, once filled, allows a character to execute a command from a series of icons or change his or her position on the field, lending some strategy to the battles. Players will likely be able to use either the buttons or the stylus during combat.
The MIDI based music heard in the trailer and in the two gameplay videos on Graffiti's website holds promise and is evocative of music from 16-bit classics such as Bahamut Lagoon. This writer really enjoyed the pieces heard in the official trailer and hopes that the rest of the soundtrack is just as good.
RPGFan has always been supportive of independent developers and we hope that Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled will pave the way for more independent software to hit the DS. It looks to be a very solid traditional RPG. Graffiti Entertainment and Studio Archcraft both state a March 17 release date for North America.