Review by German Dragon
Only a demon (or a Japanese singer) can kill a demon
Do you remember the Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, and how Vin Diesel did the motion detecting, voice over, and modeling for the main character? Well Bujingai uses the same concept, except instead of Vin Diesel, it uses a Japanese musician named Gackt that you've probably never heard of. As odd as this sounds, the end result was not the failure that you'd might expect. Bujingai isn't a masterpiece by any stretch, but it's fun. It combines hack and slash gameplay with some cool platforming elements in a way that gives a fun pick-up-and-play feel. It's not nearly as deep as many other top-selling action games, but for a change of pace it's just what the doctor ordered.
The first impressions of Bujingai will leave you signifigantly underwhelmed. You'll start in a city area full of dull-colored, flat buildings that all look the same. You'll be surrounded by a group of (admittedly cool looking) enemies that also offer little variety. You'll take these enemies out by using your two simple attacks. You have a slash that you can use with the square button, and a barrage of spinning attacks that you can use by pressing the triangle. You can do a couple basic combos with these, but there's nothing special. So you'll finish off the enemies, and move on. It won't seem like much fun at first, and you'll likely be tempted to put down the controller. Do yourself a favor and stick in there. Things pick up really fast, and they don't let up.
The opening stage is a very shallow dip into the gameplay, that quite honestly gives off the wrong impress. It leaves out all of the cooler aspects of the combat system like the different variety of magic spells you'll get throughout the game. You'll have one that creates a pillar of wind around you. One shoots a large fire ball. One shoots out a blast of lightning. One even creates a storm of phantom daggers which fly around and help you fight. In addition to these spells (and a few more that were not mentioned) you'll also learn to use the intuitive countering system. Counter an attack and you'll go into swordplay mode. In this mode things will be moving at a lightning fast pace, as your chaarcter and your enemies exchange blows. Countering magical attacks is also enjoyable, as you'll block the attack with your swords in an over-the-top anime fashion before either parrying it, or sending it back at your opponent in an explosive blast. In addition to all this, you'll also be able to fight fluidly throug the air and even along walls as you rack up huge combos. Fighting in the game is a perfect mix between wuxia martial arts movies and action based anime and cartoons.
It's not just the combat that gets better after the opening stage though. You'll also begin encountering a larger variety of enemies, which invariably look good. And you'll be fighting these guys in a handful of different environments ranging from a bamboo forest to a floating city in the clouds. To be completely honest, the polygon count never goes very high, and the areas due tend to look kind of flat. But the art direction is good, so you'll enjoy the look regardless.
In addition to looking better, however, these places are also signifigantly more enjoyable to traverse. Platform gameplay becomes a larger and larger part of the gameplay the further your progress. This works out well considering how flexible your character is with how he gets around. You can run up and along walls, and glide through the air. Often these aspects of gameplay will be combined, forcing you to leap from one wall to another, or to jump off of a wall and glide to a platform on the opposite side of the screen. On occasion the magin of error for the platforming elements seems a bit small, but for the most part it fits into the game nicely and adds an enjoyable layer of depth to the game.
Although its fun to fight through the hordes of demons and monsters, and to make your way through all of the obstacles that the game has to throw at you, the best part of the game is by-and-far the boss fights. The first boss may be little more than a test of your button mashing abilities, but each one after that brings something new to the table. Whether it's a giant lion that breathes fire and tries to headbutt you, or a dragon the size of a skyscraper from another dimension, the bosses all present new challenges, and they all look phenomenal. Simply hacking away at them will not work. You'll have to learn there pattern, and figure out the best way to make your move. Do you want to evade that next attack and try to score a quick combo, or do you want to try and absorb that icebreath with your sword, and send it back ten fold? The answers are not always obvious, but they're extremely fun to figure out.
The story in the game is simple. To summarize it, the main character Lau's former training partner decided it would be a decent idea to become a demon to gain more power. After becoming a demon, he loses control of himself, and kills his master as well as an attractive girl who was apparently living with the three of them. The story doesn't really go anywhere, and nothing is elaborated on, but during the course of the game you'll at least see some stylish cutscenes and flashbacks. The story is there, but there's no doubt whatsoever that the focus was placed on gameplay. That's reasonable enough considering how short the game is. You can beat it in under six hours.There are only seven stages, and then one final boss battle. That's one of the supporting reasons for this being a pick-up-and-play game. It's not deep, it's not long, and it's not epic. It's just a simple and fun game that you can beat in a sitting or two. If you can find it for a lower price tag, pick it up.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Bujingai: The Forsaken City (US, 07/25/04)
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