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Inuyasha: A Feudal Tale (PlayStation) artwork

Inuyasha: A Feudal Tale (PlayStation) review

"Despite the name of this popular anime and manga, InuYashaís focus bends slightly more in the direction of its female lead than toward its half-demon title character. Kagome Higurashi is a modern day Japanese schoolgirl who, by mystical means, is suddenly thrust back into the feudal era and paired with the temperamental dog-demon Inuyasha. Together, the two must track down every last shard of the sacred Shikon Jewel, a powerful crystal that could be devastating in the wrong hands. Th..."

Despite the name of this popular anime and manga, InuYashaís focus bends slightly more in the direction of its female lead than toward its half-demon title character. Kagome Higurashi is a modern day Japanese schoolgirl who, by mystical means, is suddenly thrust back into the feudal era and paired with the temperamental dog-demon Inuyasha. Together, the two must track down every last shard of the sacred Shikon Jewel, a powerful crystal that could be devastating in the wrong hands. This 2-D fighting game takes the most prominent characters from the series and sends them on a short-lived quest to recover those fragments. Bandai made a concerted effort to produce a game all fans of the show would love, meticulously recreating great visuals in order to draw salivating enthusiasts into the InuYasha experience. However, a large part of this effort also involved making the game comfortably accessible to every fan out there, resulting in a painfully easy fighting portion of the game. Because of this combination, InuYasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale will successfully pique every fansí interest, but it doesnít have the depth to hold your attention for any amount of time.

Naturally, the first step in winning the fansí hearts involves including all the leading characters, and InuYasha has a nice collection of them. Kagome and Inuyasha are joined in their quest by some stalwart friends: a lecherous monk fighting a deadly curse, a survivor of the massacre of her demon-slayer clan, a young fox-demon with a talent for trickery and illusion, and the overconfident chief of the wolf-demon tribe. In this game, the wrong hands are represented by two evil demons, a sorceress who can control the very air and the ultimate villain who feeds on the misery of others. On top of that, both sides are hampered by partial interlopers from Inuyashaís past. His full-demon brother continually looks down on his inferior sibling, and his former love interest, a powerful priestess, maintains a perplexing fixation on him despite the fact she nearly cursed him into oblivion and happens to be dead herself.

Unfortunately, even with these ten characters, plus two more hidden ones, the game begins with only Kagome and Inuyasha available for selection. The main portion of the game is the Feudal Fairy Tale mode, the ďstory modeĒ that places your fighter on an overhead map and leaves you to pick fights with the other characters that appear. Ostensibly, the purpose of this exercise is to beat the game by defeating all comers, culminating in a victory over the great evil that is Naraku. However, in reality your primary goal is to amass a collection of Shikon shards, as these are used as currency to unlock more fighters. This is an interesting challenge because you only get a few token pieces when you beat the stage. The rest must either be fleeced from opponents by landing a special attack during battle or by doing really well in the mini-games that appear in this mode. Thereís a catch to unlocking everyone, though, as each fighter can only earn the use of another particular character.

This is a risky ploy, one that could alienate many players. It potentially adds depth to the game; instead of mastering only your most favorite characters you must become proficient with almost a dozen. However, each fighter has to collect progressively more shards to unlock his target. Given that the heroes are the first to be made available and can free the next batch quickly and easily, youíre going to have to spend a lot more time utilizing possibly less favorable members of the cast. Considering that many players are entering InuYasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale with preconceived opinions, itís likely they will have to endure using a character they loathe for a significant amount of time.

The developers certainly expected the player to possess prior knowledge of these characters because, despite the presence of the supposed story mode, InuYasha refuses to weave its Feudal Fairy Tale. The only semblance of plot present in the game consists of brief introductions the roll after character selection. These bits are only unimpressive stills accompanied by voice over and subtitles that convey the most basic backstory, telling how their focus came to be involved in the current struggle for the Jewel. However, some characters donít even receive that courtesy. Important antagonists Sesshomaru and Kagura are presented as is, both their potential introductions are replaced by Kagomeís, in which they are not mentioned at all.

Instead of supplying a linear sequence of events, the game employs only pre/post-fight interaction to keep your interest. These episodes between opponents provide not only some additional background info but also great entertainment. For example, the little fox Shippo will childishly beg Kagome for junk food, and pick a fight when she canít deliver. She will have loaded encounters with Inuyasha and Kikyo as their love triangle threatens to collapse into disaster. Inuyasha will bristle whenever crossing paths with Koga, his main rival for Kagomeís affections (if only in their own minds). These are the moments when the characters come to life. The still artwork, consisting of close-ups of the upper body, depicts the protagonistsí changing emotions, ranging over happiness, sorrow, regret, and fear. Meanwhile, the original Japanese voice actors lend their talent to carry the tone of these feeling to your ears, and English subtitles convey the meaning to your brain. In all honesty, these short exchanges may be the highlight of the entire game.

Thatís bad news, considering this is a fighting game and not a television drama. The good news is the characters look just as fine in the fights as they do out of them. The designs are painstakingly faithful to the source material, down to details like the feathers in Kaguraís hair and Sesshomaruís unique facial markings. And of course, youíll see all their signature weapons and techniques. Sango tosses around her giant boomerang and will call upon her supercharged cat-demon Kirara when sheís in danger. Miroku will unleash the spectacular suction of the Wind Tunnel in his hand while feeling up a female opponentís round bottom with the other. Even the backgrounds are familiar, as youíll be fighting in areas like the clearing around the Bone-Eaters Well and the lush surroundings of the 1000-Year-Old Sacred Tree. Everything from the anime is reproduced so well, youíll spend much of your time just marveling at it.

The guys at Bandai definitely counted on that fact because they certainly didnít make InuYasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale to impress any gamers looking for a new challenge. Instead, the idea is that any fan of the series would be able to pick up the game and instantly enjoy it, even if they had never before touched a video game controller in their lives. As a result, the controls are painfully simple to learn. Each character has only six attacks, most of which require the strenuous coordination of pressing a button and directional key at the same time. Besides a marginally more difficult super special attack (two taps of the direction!), the only real skill one could develop comes from throwing together combinations. These, however, are effectively rendered useless by the ease with which your opponent can break your rhythm and ferociously counterattack. With only fast untrained hands, any beginner can take advantage of the unsophisticated scheme to mash his way to victory over a dexterous expert. While this kind of instant but insipid success may thrill the inexperienced, it canít hold the attention of those possessing more refined skills for very long, and theyíll quickly move onto other aspects of the game to amuse themselves.

Unfortunately, if one chooses to abandon the option of fighting a human opponent provided by the single and tag-team modes, the computer isnít going to offer up any more of a challenge. Part of this is due to the fact that all the characters have equivalent ability levels. While itís certainly logical from the series that some characters should be weaker than others, the risk of disappointing fans of the less capable couldnít be taken. Therefore, the game canít provide that any tremendous obstacle that takes persistence and practice to overcome. Worse, though, is the AIís absolute complacency with taking a beating. Even on the highest of the five difficulty settings, opponents are content to stand on the other side of the screen and absorb long-range attacks, including characters that specialize in close-quarters combat. No one typifies this more than the tiny Shippo. Despite the fact that heís short enough for projectiles to fly over his head, heíll throw up his taller protective barrier and take unnecessary damage. With the computer so weakly conceding the victory, the game delivers on the coverís promise that ďyouíll always come out the winner.Ē

And thatís exactly how Bandai wanted InuYasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale to be. They wonderfully present a glimpse into the world of InuYasha and eliminate any impediments to enjoying everything it has to offer. One canít really fault them for taking such an approach, as it opens the game up for anyone to explore. You can only lament how this shallowness dooms the game to an incredibly short life. Once youíve unlocked all its secrets, InuYasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale becomes nothing more than a novel collection piece.

woodhouse's avatar
Community review by woodhouse (July 03, 2004)

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