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Bushido Blade 2 (PlayStation) artwork

Bushido Blade 2 (PlayStation) review


"Among the annals of the Internet is a sweet website called Swords Online. There they have knives, daggers, and all other manner of pointy objects designed both for inflicting pain and showing off on the fireplace mantel. Swords from all eras of time are on the website as well, including some from the samurai age featured predominantly in this game. When I see some of the swords, daggers, and lances displayed on Swords Online, my mind naturally turns to this game. Bushido Blade 2 is a ballet of b..."



Among the annals of the Internet is a sweet website called Swords Online. There they have knives, daggers, and all other manner of pointy objects designed both for inflicting pain and showing off on the fireplace mantel. Swords from all eras of time are on the website as well, including some from the samurai age featured predominantly in this game. When I see some of the swords, daggers, and lances displayed on Swords Online, my mind naturally turns to this game. Bushido Blade 2 is a ballet of blood packaged in the guise of the fighting styles of feudal Japan in a modern setting. It is a fighting game as elegant as any that I have ever seen, and it remains one of the highlights of my long-gone days of owning a PlayStation.

Rival dojos are up against each other in this inspired outlook on the ways of the samurai, and depending on the characters you choose for the journey, you will travel one of two different paths that eventually come to an endpoint at the final epic battle, and you will face different foes along the way. Along the way you see full-motion videos that catalog conversations between characters. You will have the opportunity to unlock secret characters, and to unlock secret characters while playing as secret characters. The broad range of personalities allows you to choose a hero or heroine that fits your style, and the choice of one of six different old-school weapons makes for combinations worth tweaking. While the story plays out like a cheesy B-movie from the seventies - as you will notice when the voice-overs don't exactly match up with the movements of the mouth - it is still one that will have anyone looking for more than graphics totally enraptured. This is one of the few fighting games wherein the single-player story mode is as enthralling as the multiplayer possibilities. A sense of who's who and where loyalties among the cast lie will start to come out after a few times through the one-player mode, almost in the fashion of a well-written soap opera (which, frankly, I have yet to see on daytime TV).

I love the way they took the gameplay out on a limb with this game. There's no energy bar at the top of the screen - it's you and your opponent in a free-for-all slamfest to the death. With your weapon, you can parry, thrust, move out of the way, and just generally do anything you could imagine within the boundaries of reality and gravity. Withering your opponent's strength is an important facet of the battle. If you smack them hard enough in the upper body (or they smack you), they (or you) will lose use of one of your arms, making it harder to make effective use of your weapon. The game doesn't have to tell you who won, either - a shower of the sweet red nectar of life will practically scream it out to you. I guess this it what they thought of as dying with honor. Too bad there's no seppuku option. Die with honor, tell you what.

Bushido's graphics are not very flattering of the fluid story they help tell. Arenas are surrounded by an outside world of black, as if there's nothing at all beyond what the two challengers in the ring see. Stuff will pop up in front of you when the characters appear far away, and it has that two-dimensional Duke Nukem-y feel to it that I didn't like in that game and I don't like here. The blood looks a little like the spray paint toy in Paint - yes, the thing that comes with Windows - and has a way of comically splattering everywhere in a way that isn't very befitting of the serious tone the game establishes at the outset. However, the character models are spot-on, along with the portrait profiles you see at the fighter selection screen. They look good standing still and swinging their respective weapons. Movement is a bit jerky, but can be overlooked and isn't an issue, especially in correlation with the control scheme.

Speaking of said movements, they might remind you a little of the funky camera from Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi. While the back-and-forth movements are nowhere near as bad as in that game, it is the 360-degree rotation of the camera that might remind you of such. It takes a while for it to catch up when there's a lot of arm paralyzing and blood work going on, and it often starts at weird angles that may only serve to confuse you as you circle an enemy. Making use of your weapon is a chore for the first fifteen or thirty minutes of play. When you finally become acclimated to the time when you need to swing, it won't become anything more than a simple flick of the wrist to slash your opponents down the middle of their bodies. I was able to get used to it in a fair amount of time, but I think if anything is going to be a killjoy to someone playing this game, this would be it. This game's controls are more than anything an acquired taste, and it will only be through diligent practice that one will be able to overcome their relative lethargy.

Worry not about the fact that the game is almost entirely devoid of music (most noticeable during battles). Let that calmness whisk you away, and let the sounds tell it all for you. It is important to note that some games actually fare better to some people without music. For instance, I always did my best at Tetris when I selected OFF instead of tunes A, B, or C. The lack of songs helps to clear the mind and focus on the battle at hand instead of the theme of a particular person's stage. Mostly, all you will hear are clangs and slashes, so the absence of composition makes this area of the game somewhat critic-proof. It does well where there is music, but I find that this game is actually better for what it does not have in terms of songs. Unlike the graphics, Bushido really does manage to take what is not there and make that a totally justifiable thing.

Some rather miscellaneous things, in addition to the subpar graphics, make this game not quite worthy of a 10 or even a 9. Investment of time is one thing. Without a considerable chunk of practice, you won't be able to unlock all the characters, especially recalling that you need to access some secret characters using characters that you had to unlock to get anyway. Even though the secret character system is straightforward (defeat a predetermined character without dying once), it becomes dull after a while, and can be mastered through an easy bit of trial and error. Also, the final battle is one of meticulous detail, and a novice might find himself or herself running into death consistently - funnily enough, it's more of a puzzle than a battle. Little strategy is required to get through the game by quite more than a hair's breadth, and some people will be bored by it in no time at all. I, however, found it a unique approach to three-dimensional fighting, and for the time that I owned a PSX, it was a fun title to have on the rack.

Taking the historical approach into account is important when mulling over Bushido Blade 2 as a purchase. If you want the more modern, faster-paced style of Marvel vs. Capcom, then by all means go get that. This, however, is for somebody who can take their fighting games in any manner of dosage. The blood content will satisfy those brought up on Mortal Kombat and other celebrations of freedom of gore. The slow pace will not satisfy the people brought up on the newer systems and on better milk than this. A cursory rental is strongly recommended first, because you will be able to tell from the time the title screen appears whether you will enjoy this game or not. On the whole, I say that the general public would give it an average grade of 7. I, however, opt for 8, on the basis that this sort of niche fighting tingles me and is fun in just about any form or fashion. Don't draw your sword the moment you see it; Bushido Blade 2 is good no matter how you slice it. Across the waistline or down the middle? That's up to you.

Slice of Heaven
-- Implementation of feudal history and different character personalities is fun
-- Lots of path possibilities, many characters to discover
-- Most will relish the excess blood
-- Lack of music is surprisingly soothing

Commits Seppuku
-- Choppy graphical attempt
-- Cameraman is drunk at the wheel
-- Will inevitably bore the less patient among gamers
-- Final battle is disappointing

Rating: 8/10

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Community review by snowdragon (December 09, 2003)

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