Review by Joe the Destroyer
"Typical fighting game #56212489"
If it hadn't of been for that tag on the box that plainly read ''$5.47,'' this game would not have fallen into my possession. Truth be told, the thought of that really does not trouble me in the least. The game being mentioned here, Dual Blades (developed by Metro3D, the creators of Armada), is basically just your typical fighting game. Upon playing it, one thinks of the many Street Fighter, Fatal Fury, and Mortal Kombat knock-offs that were spawned in the SNES era (Brutal, Clay Fighters, Primal Rage, etc.). It almost seems this game was developed about 9 years too late. Everything from its primitive style to lame attempt at ''killing moves'' just seem to reflect on the outburst of 2D fighters that nearly swerved out of control around the early-to-mid 90's. However, contained within the been-there-done-that gameplay are some superlative elements of design that will at least make your $6 (assuming (hopefully) you paid that much) a little bit more appreciated.
So here's the story... You see, there exists a man named Alperen. He has gained possession of a powerful pair of weapons called the Dual Blades. This blade is unfortunately attached to his soul, so to speak. With the advent of such a weapon, his bloodlust skyrocketed, seeking out and facing opponent after opponent. However, no one could defeat him. He soon became so bored with winning that he seriously wanted to lose, but no one could stand up to his power. Alperen finally decided it was time to find the greatest warriors he could, pit them against each other, and see who amongst them could defeat him. A group of brave warriors have come together to face each other in a massive all out battle royale, with the winner facing Alperen himself.
The story to this game sounds like Battle Arena Toshinden and Soul Blade had a drunken one night stand, then left their baby on the doorstep of Street Combat. I've finally come to the conclusion that most fighting games are just default set with this sort of a story. A bunch of brave warriors come together and duke it out until there is one standing, almost like a kegger at Sigma Nu. It's all too familiar, but almost inevitable for the genre. Some have been able to get around it, though, blessed be... However, the eye roll-inducing story does not weight too heavily on this game.
One thing you will notice about this game that is actually atypical is the character line up. While in some cases, you do have many familiar archetypes (like Brandon, the buff, arrogant swordsman; or Duke, the knight in full armor, sans the helmet). However, there are others that are a bit rarer to see in fighting games (Jaman, the beastman; Efe, the Ottoman warrior; or even Nagasapa, the wise old woman). This helps keep the score up just a little bit, but not necessarily enough to completely save face.
After you've selected your character, you can then select from four different combo attacks which you wish to do in battle. These combo attacks are a lot like the ones you see in Capcom vs. SNK or Marvel vs. Capcom, except much less flashy. Sure, it goes into that ''eye-boggling'' warpdrive effect you see many other combos in fighting games do, but when you see the combos executed, they're really nothing special. Some aren't even worth pulling off for as much damage as they do. After you've selected your combo move, it's the same old story. Your opponent is selected and you battle it out on a 2D screen, your arsenal consisting of various slashes and a kick button. Whoopee... As with Street Fighter, you can roll the direction buttons in combination with an attack button to perform a special move. Some of them really are not that special; they look almost like a regular attack. Others are actually quite helpful, like an attack Shin does in which a murder of crows grabs your opponent and begins carrying him/her, leaving him/her open for a cheap shot.
The problem with the special moves is not that they aren't flashy, though. For the most part, they really aren't designed for you to build specific strategies. There are some characters who do have such attacks, like Shin named above. But there are others like Kanae who just do different slash attacks that you really can't work into a given situation. What makes games like the Street Fighter series so fun is that the computer is constantly keeping you on your toes, trying to keep force you to wait, watch, and react depending upon the given situation. This game just does not have those elements. Not only because there are not very many moves for you to strategize with, either, as you will see below.
Without incorporating special moves with a purpose into the game, your main line of defense is to slash at your opponent and keep slashing. It seems one of the few effective strategies to this game is to try to be as aggressive as possible rather than watch and wait like some games allow you to do. There is some degree of watching and waiting, but most of it can be solved with the same thing: block and attack. The slash-the-hell-out-of-your-enemy system of this game does not compare to the repetitive and redundant button mashing that Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22 brings up, but it does become tiresome very fast. It is almost sad that you have to beat the game with everyone to unlock Alperen as a playable character, as by the time you get around to unlocking him (should you hold interest that long), you may be too burnt out to even use him.
To bundle up with the lacking move sets and strategies, the game also has fairly lame AI. On lower difficulties, fighting the opponents is almost analogous to a whoopie with roofies. The opponents just sit there and allow you to pummel them. They might block once in a while, but you can just sit there for minutes and they won't move an inch at times. Once you get into the higher difficulties, it's no longer about sitting there. They basically do the same two or three attacks or methods over and over and over. Thus, you are forced to try to counter them with the same counter measures, over and over and over. Thankfully, their repetitive nature at higher difficulty levels makes the game difficult enough so that it's not a complete droning romp through a battle against statues.
I'm sure most of us have heard enough bashing. There certainly has to be something good (or at least not so bad) to say about this game... Despite the boring AI and lackluster move sets, Metro3D at least gave this game incredibly well working mechanics. The control response on this game is quite tight and responds just as you would want it to; it rarely falters and surely doesn't have any stiffness to it. The characters also move quite quickly and fluidly (mainly if you turn up the speed of the game in the options menu). Fights actually can be- and have been- fairly fast-paced. It's only a shame that it was just the opponent doing the same thing over again...
With such superlative animation and motion in the game, it can actually be quite fun when you just need to relieve some stress. You can enter the game, pick your favorite character, and hack away almost effortlessly. What really adds to this element of stress relief is not just the swift motion, but also the brutal piercing and slicing sounds emitted from the GBA's speaker every time you successfully land a hit. This goes especially great when you end a match with a kill and the music is cut off by a deafening SLASH!, all eventually leading up to the opponent's top half separating from his/her bottom half.
For me to say that Metro3D did not work hard on any aspect of this game would be a travesty, especially when you turn the game on and hear the fabulous music they've composed for this title. Save for the uninspired opening theme, most of the music on the soundtrack fills you with excitement, wonder, and intrigue as you go from level to level battling the forces of lacking AI. Every song fits the theme of the level and the theme of the character wonderfully. For instance, you have Efe's theme, which may not sound like the greatest song on the soundtrack, but it has a simplistic heart buried underneath it.
Aside from being pleasing to the ears, it seems Dual Blades is pleasing to the eyes as well. The graphics are gorgeously rendered and alive with a bold color pallet. Each character looks very nicely rendered and detailed. The game also contains very beautiful environmental graphics, which is something that you don't see in ever fighting game. Kanae's level gives you a great view of Mt. Fuji in Japan, complete with lush scenery and a brilliant sky. You also have Duke's stage, which gives you the sensation that you're in the Medieval times, complete with gigantic castle. All in all, Metro3D worked quite hard on the graphics of this game, as it seems to be one of the strongest points.
Dual Blades is, by no means really, a bad game. It is, however, not worth the $30 it was originally slated for. This game has more the feel of a budget title, as it feels too simplistic to compete with today's 2D fighters, even the ones on Gameboy Advance. There does not seem to be much of a market for a sequel, which is a shame, as this game has loads of room for improvement. It would be incredibly nice to see how a sequel would turn out if Metro3D would actually adhere to elements that could turn it into a hit (or at least a sleeper hit).
To enjoy this game, you really must look past the simplistic AI that the computer gives you. It has a decent enough challenge to stay interesting for a little while. However, after you have played through several times, there almost does not seem to be much of a point to keep on playing, except to unlock Alperen. Beyond that, there isn't much to the game. I really only recommend you pick this game up cheap if you actually plan to get it, as even $20 is really not worth the price of admission, though a rental should suffice.
Graphics- Masterfully rendered and alive with robust color and detail 10/10
Sounds- Decent for the most part, a few sour apples in the soundtrack, but spectacular sound effects 8/10
Controls- Work wonderfully well and actually help to bump up the rating a notch 10/10
Plot/Storyline- Too commonplace to really be any good, but forgivable given the circumstance 5/10
Gameplay- Fun for a short while, then you really see how the AI works... 6/10
All Together: 6/10
*Superlative sound effects
*Great working engine
*Becomes boring quite fast
*Offers nothing new
Emulate it, rent it, or pay no more than $10. Even that price is kind of pushing it, really.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 09/20/03
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