Long before Shingeki no Kyojin was translated into Attack on Titan for English-speaking audiences, a Nintendo DS game was made titled Hook and Blade that focused on the tactical elements of commanding a group of flesh-slicing titan killers. Strangely, the game was only released in North America, and never received a Japanese translation. Cleary influenced by Intelligent Systems’ Advance Wars and Fire Emblem games, Hook and Blade introduces a few new mechanics.
Hook and Blade puts you in command of a Survey Corps expedition sometime before the breach of Wall Maria. The soldiers assigned to your team are entirely random down to the appearance, name, and stats. You’ll start with mostly new recruits and at least one experienced soldier who will do much of the work until the others can raise their stats. That is, if they can survive long enough.
The game is endless with procedurally generated rounds continuing until your team is destroyed. As losing is inevitable, this game is all about the journey. Survival depends on more than just maneuvering your team to kill titans, you must manage each units supplies of propellant and blades as well as their morale. The loss of any one of these can be fatal for a character. To kill a titan, a unit must get to a space directly behind it, have at least 1 blade, and successfully hit. The chance to hit of each character ranges from 1 to 99% and increases with each kill or after several assists.
Getting into place for a kill and staying out of range of titans requires the use of horses or hook movement. Certain objects on the map, including titans, can be hooked, allowing soldiers to move well beyond their normal movement range. Soldiers must have propellant to use this technique. Once out of propellant, soldiers movement range is limited to less than that of titans. You can’t run.
One way of conserving propellant is stay on horseback as much as possible. When mounted, soldiers can outrun titans without expending any gas. If you dismount to kill a titan, the horse will stay where you left it, but unfortunately for the horse, if a titan moves through this space, the horse is lost. A wagon unit provides both resupply and alternate transport. The wagon can resupply one unit each turn with propellant and blades, as well as serve as a transport for up to 2 units.
Even if you balance the use of propellant and blades, you’ll need to carefully manage the morale of your units. Being near titans, especially when they kill a Survey Corp member, reduces morale. Killing titans is the only way to raise it back up. When morale reaches zero, a soldier will no longer respond to commands. You’ll need to protect this unresponsive soldier until you can kill another titan or the round ends.
You’ll have to face off against titans of all sizes and capabilities. Rarely, an abnormal titan will appear with various abilities or changes in behavior. Some will simply have greater movement range, others will mix things up by being unhookable or able to attack twice in one turn.
This game never became popular due to the poor timing of a release before the popularity of AoT/SnK in North America, and an obscure name that wouldn’t be used again in the franchise. The tactical RPG format is fitting for an AoT game, and what it lacks in story, it makes up for in the addictive gameplay of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars. We wish Hook and Blade would be remade (and renamed) for the 3DS!