Bushido Blade (PlayStation) review
"Imagine two swordsmen facing each other across the moonlit pagoda courtyard. The older man holds his blade steady in a frontal kendo stance, and the younger brandishes a sabre above his head. As the silence of the night punctuates the tension, the brash youngster charges headfirst at the wizened master. A single strike, a single clatter of steel, and both men fall face-first to the ground, dead."
Tell me why is, in each and every fighting game, the bloody fools beat and beat against one anothers, and neither ever outright falls down dead? Perhaps because, were it any other way, the game would be meagre at best.
Bushido Blade flies in the face of fighting game logic and turns out the worse for wear because of it. Now many might nackle with me on this point: "Innovation is good!", or mayhaps, "This is far more realistic than other fighting games!" Lest I come across as a jaded git, I will say it now: I do not begrudge Square in the least for trying something new. In fact, I respect them all the more for designing (and releasing to the market) a fresh fighting game effort. Sadly, Bushido Blade proves that conventions are often established for a reason.
Imagine two swordsmen facing each other across the moonlit pagoda courtyard. The older man holds his blade steady in a frontal kendo stance, and the younger brandishes a sabre above his head. As the silence of the night punctuates the tension, the brash youngster charges headfirst at the wizened master. A single strike, a single clatter of steel, and both men fall face-first to the ground, dead.
Brrrrraaaaaaaap, you lose. Yes indeed, in this game, the first blow can very well be the last. Additionally, you can injure others' legs, arms, and so on and so forth. This is where the claims of realism set in. However, the realism stops one step too short. Slice someone across the neck and they fall, but heads never roll. Hack repeatedly at your foe's leg: he (or she: brutality crosses all boundaries within) shall limp, but dismemberment is sorely absent. Oh there's a wee bit of blood, to be sure, but nothing too shocking. Small complaints, yet for a game that relies on impressing with 'realism', anything that shatters the suspension of disbelief reminds the player that this is (underneath the surface) still a game. And, sadly, dying or killing in a single hit does not make for an entertaining game. Short duels are dull. Long, combo-filled Soul Calibur battles are entertaining. In Bushido Blade, where single-hit kills are common, and parrying is extremely difficult, skirmishes pass far too quickly for my tastes.
Square's effort to add strategy to potentially short battles is quite unique. In the story mode of the game, you can wander from sector to sector of the castle during the fight itself. While you might begin an encounter atop a bridge, you can run across the bridge, into the courtyard, through a bamboo forest, past a pagoda, and then leap down into a well-obscured well. While this sounds very intriguing, the performance falls flat. How so? As you wander from one section to another, the black screen appears, the Playstation chugging and churning to desperately load the new sector. Since newer games feature large, expansive environments, I can only assume that Square was unfamiliar with the Playstation's graphical magnificence. Between the mid-battle loading and the general polygonal mishmash, I am not impressed.
Length of battles is not the only fault with the gameplay. While there are many flashy attacks and abilities, even simple tricks can be inordinately difficult to perform. For example, jumping and swinging is an incredible chore, even moreso than would be in a genuine swordfight. Square did include some entertaining tricks, such as throwing dirt to blind your foe. Once again, difficult to perform. But, to their credit, fun and dastardly.
Unfortunately, such unethical behavior results in disqualification due to the game's "Bushido system". Brrrrraaaaaaaap, you lose again.
Yes, the game's greatest flaw is Bushido itself. If you behave in the aforementioned dastardly manner, the screen could very well go black. As you sit and wonder: "What in blazes, even more loading?", white letters will appear on screen and deliver a cryptic message informing you that something dishonourable has occurred. And thus, you lose. If you run too much during a battle, or perhaps accidentally stab your foe in the back as she is spinning her naginata, the game ends. One particularly annoying scene is the battle near the underground river: four times in five, I find myself having committed some accidental, grievous error. Since the "good" ending can only be attained by never losing a battle, these disqualifications incite brief spurts of insanity (oft ending with knives lodged in the oaken side of the telly).
The proof is in the pudding, and Squaresoft has mixed themselves together quite the unsavoury bowl of grime. Playing Bushido Blade is akin to watching elementary schoolchildren attempt to perform a Shakespearean piece: no matter how good the original planning and design, a poor performance ruins the entire affair. Perhaps this game was ahead of its time, a time that will hopefully be far in the future after I'm dead and buried, so that I won't have to play any more such drivel.
Music: virtually silent
Control: slow and unresponsive
Good ideas gone horribly wrong: YES
Staff review by Zigfried (January 30, 2004)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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