Eve looks at a shrine in Stellar Blade
Screenshot by Pro Game Guides

Stellar Blade is delightfully nostalgic and we need more games like it

Much like how Eve inexplicably loves to collect soda cans as an homage to humanity's forgotten era, the experience that Shift Up's Stellar Blade provides taps into something that I think many of us forgot about and now yearn for. The unmistakable, nostalgic glint of Stellar Blade resonates strongly, and from the moment I first got the demo, I knew this game felt familiar in all the best ways.

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While previously only having a handful of mobile game releases under their belt, South Korean studio Shift Up definitely hit a creative sweet spot when thinking up their first-ever AAA console IP. First marketed to the world under the title 'Project Eve', Stellar Blade revealed itself as a unique action RPG experience that frankly we haven't had in quite a while.

The past couple of years we've been absolutely inundated with bandwagons of games catered to trending genres such as soulslikes and roguelikes, along with building and farming sims galore. While we may have gotten some landmark RPGs in recent years such as Baldur's Gate 3, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, Starfield, and of course, Cyberpunk 2077, Stellar Blade fits snugly into a niche of RPGs that hasn't gotten nearly as much attention for a while now, and thus has been more easily forgotten.

Bayonetta appearing in the end scene of Bayonetta
Image via Platinum Games

For those who were well-attuned to the game scene in the 2000s and 2010s, it was an era when hack-and-slash, action-adventure RPGs were the popular kid on the block, thanks in large part to the PS2's capabilities. While certainly not the first, Capcom's Devil May Cry series was a big name that helped foster such interest in the subgenre, and director Hideki Kamiya would soon pave the way for the ultimate winning formula.

That formula would come to fruition during Kamiya's tenure with Platinum Games when Bayonetta debuted in 2009. Full of combo-packed action, witchcraft, and featuring a striking female protagonist of the same name (and one of the best protaganists around), Bayonetta vibrantly exuded just about everything players wanted, and honestly, what needed to be seen in a powerful female protagonist. Not only that, but the game was exceptionally replayable thanks to its progress-driven character customization options.

Juliet Starling is introduced in Lollipop Chainsaw
Image via Grasshopper Manufacture

That would go on to echo through other projects such as Grasshopper Manufacture's Lollipop Chainsaw, which hit the scene in 2012. The game's eccentric design and iconic female protagonist, zombie hunter extraordinaire Juliet Starling, helped it become a fellow cult classic alongside Bayonetta. While its main criticism was sluggish gameplay, players embraced just about every other aspect of its fun ridiculousness—especially the ability to customize Juliet's look.

Both games also enjoyed considerable success during the PS3/Xbox 360 era, each selling over 1 million copies. Bayonetta has since gone on to become an ever-popular trilogy, despite the initial blowback from its unexpected migration to exclusivity on Nintendo's handheld consoles. Meanwhile, Lollipop Chainsaw is getting a highly-anticipated remake slated for release in 2024.

This addictively fun hack-and-slash niche of action RPGs noticeably started taking a back seat as the 2010s went on, though the release of NieR: Automata in 2017 (also Platinum Games) briefly lit a fire back under it with its resounding and ongoing success. However, since then this beloved niche of games hasn't seen much action...

2B fights machines in Nier Automata
Image via Square Enix

...that is until Stellar Blade graced us with a stylish and tragically beautiful new post-apocalyptic adventure, bringing us right back into this vibe we've missed so dearly. Through the eyes of a new female protagonist named Eve, players embark on a fateful journey to save Earth, which is on the brink of total collapse from a mysterious invasion of violent creatures called Naytibas.

However, the experience isn't all doom and gloom. Despite her artificial upbringing aboard the Colony, Eve is a multi-faceted character who is profoundly curious about Earth as she explores each area, and feels intense empathy for humanity and its demise. Also, despite her soft-spoken demeanor, her skills in battle are unparalleled, which is emphasized by the game's exquisitely smooth gameplay. It's not nearly as combo-heavy as Bayonetta, but it feels similar in its fluidity and satisfaction.

Screenshot by Pro Game Guides

Stellar Blade brings back the best aspects of these niche action RPGs, especially when it comes to the immense payoff for exploration. Eve can discover a variety of rewarding loot items during her travels. They range from the practical ones such as Exospine buffs and Beta Cores, to the cosmetic ones that include dozens of new outfits and accessories for Eve and her companions. This incentive allows players to customize their desired experience, making the game all the more replayable instead of locking such rewards behind microtransactions.

Altogether, Stellar Blade was presented in a near-perfect package, which is especially commendable considering that this is new terrain for Shift Up. Sony has yet to release the full sales figures (physical and digital), so it's hard to give a crystal clear picture. However, physical copies sold out in Japan at just over 67,000—a number that didn't shatter expectations but still showed great promise for a new, console-exclusive IP.

Eve reveals a new soda can in Stellar Blade
Screenshot by Pro Game Guides

The game was also notably high on pre-order lists for the PlayStation Store and top vendors like Amazon, where it sat at No. 2 just below Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and above Helldivers 2. Upon release, it reached No. 1 in the UK as well for physical sales. Reviews (including ours) also gave Stellar Blade its due praise, while still understandably criticizing aspects that still lacked, such as the overall story.

Of course, there was also the censorship debacle that riled a sector of the player community, but it wasn't enough to cripple the game's success. No matter which side of the aisle you're on with that issue, the potential for games like Stellar Blade in the current era of gaming is abundantly clear. There are no technological inhibitions to bringing back these kinds of experiences—only creative ones if it's not in the right hands. However, if a small mobile game company can pull it off in such a fantastic fashion, surely others can as well.

Stellar Blade is now available exclusively on PS5 for $69.99 USD. Along with a free-to-play demo, there is a Deluxe Edition as well which provides some additional in-game items and cosmetics.

If you liked this, check out All enemies in Stellar Blade and their weaknesses here on Pro Game Guides.


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Author
Stephanie Watel
Stephanie Watel is a freelance writer for Pro Game Guides. Stephanie has been with the site for a few months, and in the games media industry for about a year. Stephanie typically covers the latest news and a variety of gaming guides for the site, and loves gardening and being the bird lady of the neighborhood. She has a BA in Writing from Pace University in NY.

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