REVIEW: Bonds of the Skies

Since the release of Xbox One, it’s a common sense one of its main flaws is the leak of support from Japanese studios, especially those with a resumé full of RPGs. The Japanese RPGs (JRPGs for short) loved by many western players (the one who speaks to you, for instance) have been rare in Microsoft consoles since the early days of Xbox 360. Acknowledging this opportunity, the Japanese publisher Kemco, through partnerships with developers Exe-Create and Hit-Point, has brought to Xbox a series of titles of this much-loved genre (some reviewed by Life is Xbox as Asdivine Hearts 2, Alvastia Chronicles and more). Not all the titles were all that interesting, while others felt like a very simple port from mobile screens to console (Sephirotic Stories said hi), but its vast library of games has allowed them to bring about one new title a month.

Now they bring Bonds of the Skies, a title developed by Hit-Point that focus on the story of humans and the Grimoas, ancient gods of this land. During the festivities of becoming an adult, Eil’s village was attacked and burning in flames. Seeing the bravery of the young Eil trying to rescue the ones he loves, Nogard, the wind Grimoa, lent him a portion of his power, allowing him to save the village. Now a partner of the wind Grimoa, Eil leaves the city in search of the help of the other Grimoas when they find Iks and earth Grimoa Titanus and Avi and the water Grimoa Loreley and, together, they embark on a journey to stop Rednaught, the fire Grimoa, the one they think is responsible for what happened. Was the fire Grimoa the one responsible for the attacks? What reasons does he have for attacking innocent villages? These and many more answers will be found in a quest that will change this world forever!

When all the fuzz begun
  • Audio: The soundtrack of the title is composed of some sweet and good melodies that make your quest a pleasant experience. There wasn’t a remarkable one, that one you call ‘the music’ in the game, but the overall music experience was satisfactory. The music, because of the sound effects, like the graphics (more on that later), needed some more vitamins. But in favor of the good music, let’s keep the sound in the good section.
  • Fight it your own way: Your characters gain access to new skills and abilities (alongside the ones they learn from their Grimoa partners) as they level up. But you can’t have them all at your disposal during the combat: you can select up to six if these abilities, as long as the sum of their costs doesn’t surpass your limit. And it gives you a good level of customization of your characters play style according to your strategy.
  • Story and characters: The story and evolution of characters in Bonds of the Skies make it an interesting trip. The three characters, so different from each other, have interesting chemistry between them, something you can explore and develop more when sleeping on inns in each city. They are very likable, and you can see yourself easily attached to one of them if not they all at the same time.
Let’s play follow the leader!
  • Old school graphics: If you didn’t notice from the pictures above, Bonds of the Sky has some beautiful retro graphics that reassemble titles from the 16-bit era (and yes, we love them!). Colorful and with a decent level of detail, although the bothering repetition of NPCs and background designs, old school players will find it very pleasing. The animations and visual effects of special skills and magic, though, lack a punch: they feel empty and not that impressive at all.
  • Combat system: The combat system in Bonds of the Skies reminds classics like Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior, where you don’t see your characters, but only their status and the enemies in front of you. I’m not a big fan of this combat style, I must admit. Especially when, as mentioned above, the animations and visual effects aren’t very impressive. During combat, you can choose between attacking with an equipped weapon, to guard, to use items or to use skills and special abilities. Your Grimoas are by your side in each battle, but only become active when the bar under their pictures fills. At this moment you can activate the Synchro ability, which gives you access to their most powerful skills using the power of the Grimoas. These Synchro skills are very powerful and can make all the difference between a victory and a defeat. And you don’t want to be defeated, do you?
Did somebody bring a fishing rod?
  • High encounter rate: No, I’m not complaining or running away from combat (since you can flee from it right on the beginning), but the encounter rate of the game is a little too high. Sometimes when exploring a dungeon, the distance between one and other battle was too short. This is good for farming XP, but after some time becomes a little annoying. A few adjusts here would benefit the game.
  • Press a button to proceed: In every conversation or input window, when you need to press a button to proceed or continue the text roll, instead of using a button press, the game registers any touch on the D-pad or analog stick as an input to proceed. It led me to many times to skip phrases during conversations. It’s not the end of the world or any kind of game breaking bug and I believe most of you won’t mind about it, but an option to deactivate it, requiring a button press to proceed would be more than welcome.

? Score: 67%
In my opinion, there are three main pillars for an RPG game to succeed: the art style, the combat system and the story, in which we can also consider alongside the characters and villain(s) of the adventure. And Bonds of the Skies feels shallow in all these aspects. Some points do deserve some highlight, like the music and story, but the overall experience felt ‘half-baked’ in most of the time, with many things that could have been better. RPG fans and players looking for a good adventure will enjoy the experience with the game, nevertheless. Now you will excuse me because my Grimoa partner and I have a world to save!