Review by Aganar
"The most realistic sword fighter you will find"
Squaresoft, the makers of Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and many other classics has brought us a new type of game. It is a weapon fighter, but this one instead of trying to go with surrealism and implausible powers tries to be as real as possible.
Considering when this game came out, it looked very good. Your characters, while limited, had a different look to them. There were many detailed weapons to choose from, and the backgrounds were spectacular. The backgrounds were beautifully designed with so many ranging themes and tile sets. And, for the time, the textures on them looked great. More importantly, your characters actually move like 15th century samurai. All of their stances are real stances, and their movements are very akin to how real samurai moved in combat.
The atmosphere to the game is really well done. It does a great job of making you feel like you are in medieval Japan. The textures on the walls and floors really help. Some areas will be a cemetery, complete with graves and stuff like that. Others will be a forest where you can actually chop down the trees. The levels have such wide variety. There are also some great special effects, like rain at some levels, snow, mist, etc.
My only real complaint about the game is the story. It seems like there is one, because your characters have a short conversation after every match, but we don't really know what it is. After getting the ending to one of my characters, I am left saying ''Huh?” A back-story in the manual or something would have been nice. You see characters that hate each other's guts, yet you have no idea who the other person is. For all we know, he's a hobo. This is especially disappointing considering that it comes from Square, who is known to have the best of stories in their games.
First playing the game, you will notice several things. The first thing you will notice is that you have a limited amount of characters, and that is a con, but it doesn't matter too much. Secondly, you will notice that you can use a huge amount of different weapons. This contributes to how you want to play the game. Real sword fighters will want to stick to the classic weapons like Katanas, Longswords, Sabers, etc. Long-range fighters will want the spear. Short range will want sabers and falchions. And, the power hungry thug will want a sledgehammer.
Finally, you will probably notice that your opponent killed you in one hit, and you're pretty pissed. And when you first play, that is pretty annoying. But later, you realize that it is the genius of the game. There is no life bar, no power bar, no time limit. As such, you can't kill opponents just by tapping them over and over in the leg. Think about it. When you were playing with sticks as a little kid, did you die by your friend cutting your leg over and over? No! You won by hitting your friend in the neck or stabbing him in the chest. Well, they wanted realism here. That's how it works here too. To kill them you must not only hit a crucial part of their body, but also hit them critically. You must land a strong blow to the chest for them to drop. Not only that, if you hit their arm, they won't be able to use it for the rest of the match! Hitting their leg will make them have to limp around, etc.
The sword-fighting system is very complex. It may seem simple at the beginning, but looks are deceiving. Even just using basic attacks provide a very deep attack system for combat. You can have interlocks when swinging your swords, there are swords, which are better for other weapons, etc. But the true thing, which sets it off from other 3d swordfighters at the time, was the stances you could do. Each character had two set stances they had. When in a stance, they could perform different attacks and combos.
My favorite thing about the game, however, is the huge backgrounds. Just talking about the interactive environments, this is Dead or Alive 2's grandfather. The environments were so huge you could spend hours just running around them, finding new areas along the map. You may think I am exaggerating, but to get a secret part of the game you literally have to. Some areas are so interactive you wonder how Square could've come up with it (considering they have never made a fighter before). At the graveyard, you can trip over the tombstones. At the forest, you can climb into the actual forest, and your sword can chop down trees when facing your enemy. At the waterfall, you can literally knock your opponent off it then jump down and continue fighting. If nothing else of these interactive environments, it's just funny to run away when your opponent is about to kill you.
Controlling your characters is a bit frustrating at first, but you do get used to it. The problem is not that the control is bad, but a 3d fighter of this type just takes practice to get used to. Once you get past that, you will find that its control is actually quite good. The shoulder buttons either allow your character to run or change stances. When running, your character can still attack, which is also good. There is also several types of attacks you can use with the buttons, and a parry. One button even causes your character to throw knives at your opponent!
There is little music to this game. As for sound, it is quite good. The sounds of the swords clashing seem to be almost straight out of a movie. The voice acting also works pretty well, when your characters talk anyway.
This game will last you forever. I know it did for me. If you would like a reason, consider that I have only had the real game for a month. For the past four years I was living off of the demo disc that came with the PSX. That's how addictive this game is. If you want to beat the game, you must play through it many times. And, it is not easy. To get a real ending for a character and their FMV, you must win following the code of the Bushido. That means you cannot attack before the enemy is ready, or when their back is turned. You must fight with honor. Along with all of those, there is a slash mode, where you can try to take on as many fighters as you want.
My favorite extra is the POV, or point-of-view mode. Here, you get to see the game through your character's own eyes. For one thing, it's just damn cool. It lets you get to really see how pretty the game is (or was, I should say). And, you get to fight your opponent in 3d, just like you would in real life. When you die it even shows your eyes lowering to your opponent's waste, etc. You can even link your Playstation up and play against your friends in POV mode!
Overall, this is a game not to be missed. Its sequel may not be able to equal it, so this could possibly be the best game of its kind. It is not only the most realistic fighter ever to come out, but it is also one of the most fun. Any sword fighter fan will love this. Also, if you are in to the movie The Seven Samurai, you will also love this game to death. Nothing beats recreating that great moment and having you and your friend charge at each other with one fluent swipe to end the match. I went on a hunt to find this game, and I finally found it for about 15 bucks. I can safely say I am not disappointed.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/02/03, Updated 03/02/03
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