Review by King Broccoli

"Sword fighting at it's finest.........theoretically"

In days gone by designers of fighting games might just happen to give all of the playable characters a weapon or two to wield. While this was all well and good and delighted many people around the world, there was just something that didn't quite seem right. Your character of choice might make this dazzling attack resulting in a very painful looking blow to the head of the recipient character, the thing that is most disappointing is that it would only lower a life bar an average amount. Squaresoft obviously saw this and thought ''Hang on! That person should be dead! What's going on there!?!'' thankfully they rectified this problem beautifully by releasing the ultra-realistic Bushido Blade onto the market. Finally everyone got the chance to see what really happens when big and mean people play with swords. The results were nothing short of stunning.

GAMEPLAY
The gameplay of Bushido Blade is intruiging, interesting, intensive and a lot of other adjectives which just happen to have the prefix of ''in''. It just happens to be the most realistic fighting game on the Playstation and perhaps on any other console as well. Life-bars do not come into figuration here, your player simply has the ability to take a little damage, but even a singular decent blow can wipe out your legs completely. Take damage to an arm, and you'll lose control of it and your attacks will slow down a fair bit. Naturally an unblocked attack to the head or torso of your fighter will result in the loss of life of your character, this means a fight can be over in less than ten seconds, but a short fight is always a prefferable option if the only other option is the ditching of reality.

You've only got a small amount of characters to choose from, and approximately six weapons (katana, long sword, short sword, sledgehammer, rapier and more!) will also be given to you to choose from. Each combination of character/weapon will give you a chance to try different tactics, as each combination will have different statistics in the way of power/strength. The correct choice of weapon for your character is an important step to winning a fight, some combinations don't work at all whilst others just seem unstoppable. All of the weapons have their own little lists of moves which can be pulled off, but they will usually differ depending on who was holding the sword, developing your skills can often mean sticking with one combination and just mastering it and nothing else.

There's a decent amount of modes in Bushido Blade, although one or two extra could have been nicer. You've got your story mode, in which you must try to unravel the injustice which has been going on inside your very own dojo (it has something to do with a meanie of a sword, details are a little blurry as the game becomes very Japanese during the end). In the story mode you have to fight honourably, no hitting a man when he's down or any other dirty play, doing so will send you flying straight back to the main menu and cursing at your own shrewd tactics. There's also something called the Slash mode, you are armed with a katana and have to bring down 100 opponents (doing so without ever dying will earn you rewards beyond your wildest imagination). It's a nice little change of pace if you just feel like hacking and slashing away at some stuff.

Naturally, there's a two player mode, just pick a character, a sword and a friend and you're ready to go! A person who has no idea what they're doing can often pull an upset over an experienced player simply by whacking the same button and eventually fluking a head-shot, so there can be quite a bit of fierce competition! The last mode of interest is a Point Of View mode (POV), it's like a normal one-on-one fight except it's viewed from the eyes of your character, an interesting little concept, but it's extremely hard to fight well from that perspective.

The controls of the game are pretty simple, three buttons are used to attack the body at three different heights (high, middle and low you silly boy!) and the fourth button is used to deflect all of the attacks. The simple scheme means anyone can pick up a controller and be a little bit competitive, of course they won't know all of the advanced commands or nuances of the game, which require more difficult combinations of all the buttons on the controller. Your character can be a versatile little thing, all you have to do is know the long list of commands and you can get yourself out of all sorts of strife! This is why those Bushido Blade masters out there can beatg the pants off everyone else, it's more of a defensive game than an attacking one! Wait until your opponent makes a foolish move to leave himself open, and strike accordingly!

Overall, the gameplay is very intensive and you have to use a lot of concentration and all of those other things that todays youth seem to be lacking. There's a fair amount of depth here, and a small chance that you might just get hooked on the game! Sometimes you can get slaughtered coun tless times and be perturbed with the game, but the key to Bushido Blade is PERSISTENCE! Keep at the game, try to ignore some of the small problems with the gameplay, and just generally have a good time while you're at it!

GRAPHICS
It appears that there wasn't an overly large focus on the graphics of Bushido Blade when the game was being made, but despite this the visuals still manage to look pretty good. There's a lot of different scenarios you'll get to play in and around during the game, but most of them are rather lifeless and boring. There's an awful lot of snow covered ground out there, and you'll get well acquainted to some of the best snow covered ground out there! There are other arenas out there, such as a quaint little beach and some nice wooden cabins, but why bother with them when you can fight on some snow covered ground! Some scenes are even more interesting by the little method of interaction with the obstacles in the backgrounds. One level with this trick is the ''Bamboo forest'', if your sword should hit a stick of this alleged bamboo, it will come crashing to the ground! The backgrounds suffer from a fair bit of the yawn syndrome, but they're not bad.

The characters are a bit of an improvement, adding a dash of colour to the recipe. They're reasonably well detailed, you can make out things such as faces, digits (that means fingers!) and all sorts od odd extremeties that the human body seems to have in adundance. They're a bit of an odd bunch, appearing in all shapes and sizes, with some of the most intriguing attire I've seen for a long time. The characters are of a good size, are well proportioned, and if they weren't so ugly I certainly wouldn't be ashamed to bring them home to meet my parents! The movements that they do can look a little stilted at times but are usually realistic and smooth enough, the fighters look reasonably graceful weilding their swords, the overall quality of the animations being about average. The characters are a bit of a mixed lot in terms of quality, but they're not so incredibly bad they'll make you want to cry in despair.

Once you finish a certain mode in the game, you might just be lucky enough to view an FMV! These videos don't improve too much in quality over the in-game graphics, and of course this is a little bit disappointing. Often you'll just be too busy trying to work out what the heck is going on in them to notice the quality, so it might not affect you so much! On the techincal side of things, there's not much to be impressed about. There's a little clipping, and everything else is just average, it's not too disgraceful but it's not the most pleasing result either.

Overall, it might sound like I'm being a little harsh on the graphics, that of course is a matter which can be taken up with your local member of parliament! The graphics aren't really as bad as the above words might lead you to believe, but they still could have used quite a few improvements all over the place. It's not a game that will ever be really offensive to your eyes, but that's probably only because it's such a boring visual look, not bad but we've all seen better.

SOUND
The sound always seems to be there, hanging around far away in the background, not interrupting anyone too much and never appearing offensive (much like Posh Spice). It is used masterfully to create tension, which is something that a game of this kind sorely needs, the audio seems to have taken a liking to the motto ''quality over quantity'' and filling the game (but only filling it a little bit) with excellent clips. The sound is one of the tools which can easily make you forget the lacklustre graphics and concentrate a lot more on the actual playing of the game!

There is very little background music in the game, what they dop have just seems to fade in and out whenever it feels, adding tension and excitement to the listeners emotional scheme. It's very serious music, it could almost be described as dark and gloomy, and it can add a new dimension to the fight (if you believe it to be possible). If you're deeply absorbed by a fight you might just not even notice the music even appeared, but even if this occurs it may still have an impact of some sort on you. The music is nice, but it would be nicer if we could hear a little bit more of it, it would have only had to be a really little bit more!

Sound effects are a little bit more common in Bushido Blade, jumping in whenever something even semi-interesting happens in the game. They've got all sorts of realistic sound effects for whenever your sword hits a structure of any size and any material, those CLANKS, THUDS and SWISHS (that's the sound it makes if you're a silly little boy and miss completely) are all put to great effect in the game, and there's a large collection of each of them! No sound ever seems to appear out of place or out of context, they're spot on in most imaginable ways, in fact there's not even any real complaints one can make about them. A nice job indeed has been done here!

Overall, the sound is an instrumental tool in creating tension and suspense, it also happens to sound pretty good. Perhaps a little bit more of those ambient background tunes could have been implanted into the game, but what they DO have there is a very professional and sophisticated job. It raises the standards of the design elements of Bushido Blade nicely, complmenting the graphics with true aplomb.

LIFESPAN
The lifespan of Bushido Blade would be midrange, at times it just doesn't seem like there's enough modes in the game to keep you satisfied and coming back for more! Thankfully, a few of those modes listed above have a great amount of drawing power and should keep you entertained for lengthy periods of time. Evevntually, you will tire of this game, returning occasionally for the multiplayer mode, but not much more than that. Realism isn't always enough to keep someone interested in a game, there has to be a fair amount of depth, otherwise the game will work its way further and further back in your collection (I have a rather large CD case, so I can't speak from experience, but I imagine it could happen).

FUN FACTOR
The fun factor of this game is actually rather low, it focuses more on lifelike action rather than amusement. Of course the thought of a big man with a sword and the ability to nullify limbs and hack at heads should keep you enthralled for a while, but the novelty does wear off and the game may become irritating. Deficiencies and all sorts of problems in some of the other categories harm the fun factor significantly, it could have been higher, but it turns out that it's not. It's getting a mediocre score, because it can be annoying and repetitive and STUFF!

CHALLENGE
The challenge is not too great at all, it shouldn't be long at all before you're fighting competitively against the better computer players and even besting them consistently. You'll probably get sick of beating up on the poor old computer players and try challenging yourself with trivial things such as the Slash or POV modes. The best you can hope for is to bump into someone equally interested in the game, and just fight against them all the time. That is probably just wishful thinking though, so you'll have to be content with what you've got (and is isn't too much at all actually).

OVERALL
Bushido Blade is a tough game to sum up, as it is one of the kings of all mixed bags. The realism of the thing is great, but it's lacking the proper execution in some areas whilst having excellent execution in others! The safest thing to say is that this is a different game from most of the others you'll play or have played, it might be worth trying to see if it suits your tastes and if it does by all means go out and acquire a copy. It can be worth it, but it might not always give you the value for money which people strive for. Bushido Blade is simply a game which excels in some areas and fails in others, but for better or for worse, Bushido Blade should change the way you look at beat 'em ups and their assosciated genres of games!
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GOOD POINTS
- So lifelike, so very VERY lifelike!
- The gameplay is quite good, revolutionary even!
- You get to play with big swords, and even a sledgehammer!

NOT SO GOOD POINTS
- The longevity of the game is not as good as you might care for
- The challenge is a bit silly, silly is what the challenge is a bit
- Graphics you can yawn at a mile away
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GRAPHICS - 5/10
SOUND - 8/10
GAMEPLAY - 8/10
LIFESPAN - 4/10
FUN FACTOR - 6/10
CHALLENGE - 5/10
OVERALL - 6/10


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/17/00, Updated 09/10/01


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