Xuan Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond The Mountain (Nintendo Switch) Review

Journey beyond the Mountain

Softstar’s Chinese fantasy RPG series’, Xuan Yuan Sword and Sword & Fairy have slowly been making their way west in recent years. While Xuan Yuan Sword 7 and Sword & Fairy: Together Forever have seen relatively successful releases in the “West”, the chances that you haven’t heard of these two franchises still remains high. Which is quite a shame, as both Xuan Yuan Sword 7 and Sword & Fairy: Together Forever, despite some technical issues, are excellent RPGs. Enough so that they ignited my interest in the rest of the games in the franchise.

Luckily, Eastasiasoft has seen fit to bring a lightly-remastered Xuan Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond The Mountain, originally released in 1999, to the West as well. Now Mists Beyond The Mountain is the third game in the series but, much like Final Fantasy, each game stands alone with its story, weith some characters and concepts reappearing throughout the franchise. You don’t have to have played any of the previous games to jump into this one and, if you started on the seventh game as I did, it’s not going to impact your enjoyment.

Xuan Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond The Mountain Switch Visuals

Softstar’s IP are heavily steeped in Chinese mythology and Mists Beyond The Mountain is no exception. This time though, it’s an East meets West affair as Chinese and Western mythology are paired together to produce an incredibly distinct story.

Set during the European Dark Ages, Mists Beyond the Mountains story ranges across the Middle-East and the West before heading back to China. You start your journey as the Frankish knight “Septem”, who is on a journey to find the “Invincible Arts of War”. However, the European side of the world is in upheaval as the Church is on a religious battle to root out heretics wherever they may find them.

What starts as a simple journey to find a way to Arabia, sets Septem up against the Church and puts him into the sights of Satan himself. With the help of a demoness named Nicole, it’s up to Septem to find out just why Satan wants him to lead his armies and do what he can to change his fate.

To say that Mists Beyond The Mountains story is novel is an understatement. The game mashes up Chinese and Western mythology, with concepts like devil-worshiping monks, floating islands, and time travel thrown into one big pot and left it boil over in delightful fashion. There are odd pairings, surprising plot twists, and a fair amount of real world history and themes mixed in. So a bit of a story warning may be in order for those who are uncofortable with racism and religious extremism, as both play a huge role in the proceedings.

The story – as with any good RPG – is reliant on its characters and their interactions, and Mists Beyond The Mountain excels in both departments. The relationship between Septem and Nicole is a constant delight and the game doesn’t slow down with its forward momentum – unless you choose to stick around and level grind. It rarely feels like there are any wasted moments as it propels the plot forward from one event to the next.

Mists Beyond The Mountain Nicole

In contrast, gameplay falls into the traditional JRPG mould. You gather a party as you venture across the world, speaking to people for side-quests, and exploring the isometric 2D environments. There are dungeons to explore, hidden bosses to discover, and no shortage of random encounters. In this sense, as in its battle system, Mists Beyond The Mountain doesn’t deviate from tried-and-trusted mechanics.

Battles play out using the ATB (Active Time Battle) system of late ’90s JRPGs. You can attack, defend, use items, use special skills, and capture monsters. Leveling up your character unlocks new skills to use across a variety of types, from damage to support. The amount of XP you need per level is actually quite low, so it isn’t difficult to power level in a short amount of time.

Mists Beyond The Mountain Boss Fight

Though that does end up making the game overly easy, as both Nicole and Septem, past level 15 or so, become powerhouses. That said, bosses can still present a difficulty spike, but if you’re only looking to level grind for a while, you can let each fight play out automatically while you sip on some tea.

The aforementioned captured monsters can be used as accessories, and even fused together to create new or more powerful items and monsters. Those monsters can then be summoned in battle but, sadly, the game doesn’t explain this element – along with several other mechanics – quite as well as it ought to.

Visually, Mists Beyond The Mountain is rather pretty with its 2D pixel art that holds up well. The most outstanding visual elements come from the world map and battle sprites as the developers have designed them to look like brush paintings. The game also has a really good soundtrack with catchy music and battle themes.

Mists Beyond The Mountain‘s biggest flaw, at least based on the English version, is the quality of the translation. At times, it seems like it needed a couple more passes and edits to get its point across properly. There’s unintentional hilarity and the dialogue at times reminded me of the dub-work from old Hong Kong martial arts flicks and badly-translated anime. It can be difficult to tell whether or not some of the dialogue is intentional and it can impact the more emotional moments. That said, it’s not game breaking at all because the story and characters are still fantastic, even when they come accross as a little wonky. Honestly, it’s kind of charming in its own way.

Ultimately, Xuan Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond The Mountain is a great dive into a classic Chinese RPGs, with a distinct flavour of their own they bring to the genre. While the translation needed some more work, the solid and fun exploration and battle mechanics, great characters, and interesting story put this into the “must play” category for JRPG fans.

Xuan Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond The Mountain was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PC.

Xuan Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond The Mountain (Nintendo Switch) Review

Xuan Yuan Sword: Mists Beyond The Mountain (Nintendo Switch) Review
8 10 0 1
8/10
Total Score

The Good

  • Great story, characters, and interactions
  • Story pacing is quick
  • Fun gameplay
  • Brush painting visual style

The Bad

  • Mechanics aren’t always explained well
  • English translation needed some more work
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