Thanks to Drinkbox Studios for the review code
System: 3DS eShop
Release Date: 10/13/2016
In this first-person dungeon crawler, a young girl named Sasha awakens to find herself in a twisted dimension, lacking an arm and the rest of her family. Upon discovering that she was the victim of a brutal attack, the young girl takes a sword and embarks on a quest to find what remains of her family while also investigating just who did this to her, and why.
If you were a fan of the artstyle from Guacamelee, then you’ll be pleased to know that Severed maintains some key aspects from that design, while adding a lot of darkness to the mix to show off the darker tone. Considering the type of genre that we’re dealing with here, this art style is a much welcomed change of pace from the usual blandness I encounter in these types of games.
It should be noted, however that since this is a port of a Playstation Vita game, (A system with only one screen) Severed is slightly downgraded in visual quality compared to the other versions available. By default, the map of the area you’re currently exploring is displayed on the top screen, while the action takes place entirely on the bottom screen. If the focus that hasn’t been seen since the early days of the DS isn’t your cup of tea, then you’ll be thankful to know that there’s a button that copies the action from the bottom screen onto the top screen (with a cool 3D effect added as a bonus) and reduces the map to a corner of the top-screen. This is a much better way to play as not only will it be easier on your eyes, but it’ll also allow you to appreciate this game’s gorgeous artstyle even more!
Severed throws you into the dungeon-crawling action right from the beginning, as the first screen of the game is also the first room. After giving you some hints on what happened to Sasha’s family, you obtain a sword and are off on a quest to find them! The controls are rather simple, with the D-Pad being used to move and turn Sasha, and the touch screen being used for everything else (Opening doors, finding secrets, interacting with items, you name it), so there isn’t much to learn until you enter your first battle. The only thing that I feel is lacking from this control scheme is the ability to sidestep left or right by using the shoulder buttons, instead of having to turn around so much.
Battles play out exclusively through the touch screen, and initiate whenever you come into contact with a black flame, where one or more enemies will surround Sasha, and it’s up to you to keep an eye on all of them while avoiding damage. This is accomplished by turning left or right to face an enemy before carefully observing their movements, looking for a weak point you can attack by slashing it with the stylus. The amount of damage you deal is determined by what upgrades you’ve acquired combine with how long your slash is, so for example you won’t do much damage if you just spin the stylus in circles over an enemy’s weak point, but you will do a lot of damage if you go from one corner of the touch screen to another.
Weaknesses vary by enemy, which means that the further you go into the game, the harder it is to hit the weak points of stronger foes, as tougher enemies will learn how to hide their weak points and block your attacks, which may require you to reflect one of their attacks right back at them in order to stun them long enough to land some hits. Keep in mind while all this is going on with one enemy, you’ll have to keep an eye at the bottom of the screen, where the status of other enemies are shown through circular gauges, with the yellow one being how long until they attack you and the red one being the remaining health. This means you’ll need to manage multiple enemies at a time by turning left and right to deal some damage and reset the yellow gauges so that way they can’t land any sneak attacks on you.
If you manage to hit the enemies enough times in succession without taking damage, then you’ll fill up your focus gauge, a meter that’ll grant you the ability to perform the Sever Time finisher, which lets you finish off your foes by severing their body parts. This is a crucial skill to master, as during these brief moments you have little room for error, and doing the finishers as perfectly as possible is the key to obtaining enough monster parts for extra upgrades such as increased attack strength and longer Sever Times. As per the norm in any game with RPG-like systems such as this, getting as many upgrades and secrets as possible is strongly recommended to take on bosses and tougher enemies with a bit more ease.
In conclusion, while Severed does feel a bit odd on the 3DS, (feeling at times like something that would have come out at the early part of the DS’s life) Drinkbox still managed to give 3DS owners a fun and unique experience, with the same visual charm that I really enjoyed from their previous game. The game moves at a good-enough pace, rewards players for using their brain from time to time, and even offers extra replayability in the form of an achievement menu, something rarely incorporated into ports for Nintendo Systems. If you have a Wii U linked to the same NNID as your 3DS, you’ll even get that version for free as a cross-buy gift, though sadly there’s no way to transfer save data due to the technical nature of the systems. Still, for $15 Severed is an enjoyable adventure for the 3DS, and the extra bonus of cross-buy helps to make the value even better for those who own both systems. I give Severed an 8 out of 10, and recommend it for all fans of dungeon crawlers and exploration games!