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Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III (Arcade) artwork

Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III (Arcade) review


"If this game were content to be called, unremarkably, Warrior Blade, it would not annoy me nearly as much. As it stands, the full name of this unremarkable beat-em-up is Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III, allegedly part of a trilogy no one remembers. If the other "Rastan Saga" entries were similar to this one, let us pause to give thanks that Taito did not wish to share them with their stupid rich gaijin buddies. I may be very alone in thinking this, but when a game wis..."



If this game were content to be called, unremarkably, Warrior Blade, it would not annoy me nearly as much. As it stands, the full name of this unremarkable beat-em-up is Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III, allegedly part of a trilogy no one remembers. If the other "Rastan Saga" entries were similar to this one, let us pause to give thanks that Taito did not wish to share them with their stupid rich gaijin buddies. I may be very alone in thinking this, but when a game wishes this desperately to be taken seriously, it had better have production values equal to Metal Gear Solid. For a simple-minded arcade brawler from 1991, there is little in the way of innovation or even challenge to convince us that Rastan Saga Episode III is nothing more than the punchline to a very misguided joke.

The one gimmick that distinguishes Warrior Blade is the use of two screens, laid side-by-side, each projecting half of the image. In effect, it appears to be in anamorphic widescreen. This ingenious decision might have made a slight bit of sense in the long run but only serves to inflate its own importance. This does not enhance the gameplay in any discernible fashion. Most likely, some short man was in his cubicle one day, playing with his Rodan action figures and spurting out some code, and said, in Japanese, with appropriate inflection, "Hey, why don't we make another cut-and-paste brawler, but this time in WIDESCREEN?" This will be the first thing you notice about Warrior Blade, and it is the only unique quality it possesses.

Now that the tone has been properly established, I can safely claim that Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III is the most pretentious game ever.

Here is our epic story, so far: Our hero, a half-baked Conan type named Rastan (down the loincloth and long hair but lacking any of Ahnuld's magnetism), is accompanied by a very So-Cal-looking ninja and a dominatrix on a quest to, umm, unite the five warring factions vying for the Skyfortress Of Alakablam and retrieve the sacred Dingus of Rastafari from the clutches of archvillain Rapa Nui (who enjoys waging 7-dimensional warfare and a good pot roast), in addition to laying virginal Princess Vespaara under the glare of three scorching suns in the manliest manner possible. Well, I'm partly kidding. I don't know the villain's name because he is only mentioned once by name and not by a pronoun. There are some "evil armies" stirring up trouble in the nether regions of Depon, aka Generic Fantasy Realm #666. But what generic fantasye realme does not have a dark overlord to be loomed over by?

The oppressed could not have picked a more faceless lump of glistening swollen manhood as their champion than ol' Rastan here. He's the one who always looks bored and carries a massive claymore as if to draw even more attention to his phallus. Dewey, the yuppie blonde ninja, is the fast guy and Sophia, the dominatrix, is the, err, other fast guy. This sad trio sets off on the journey with the verve of a division of bloodthirsty Cossacks but after a few seconds, they realize they are trapped in yet another repetitious brawler, always travelling right. Their lack of vigor comes as no surprise once the first enemies pose as much of a threat as Johnny Appleseed and the hundreds who follow them do not significantly improve on this. Truly, it is a sad hour for the Legions of Darkness.

Your "hero" traverses innumerous exotic locales with names you can choke on, such as "The Temple of Gulestopalis" or "The Castle of Zanianstaff". I suppose Taito is trying for a kind of Burroughs-ish bombast with these names, but this is most likely another honest reflection of the creators' pretensions. Between ever shortening levels there are comic book-style interludes which take a stab at truly overwrought prose, but since they have been awkwardly translated, they prove to be painful to read.

A sample: "AT THE VERY TOP OF THE TOWER YOU HAVE GOTTEN THE MYSTERIOS MAGIC CRYSTAL BALL .IT IS THE FAMOUS RUMORED 'MOON CRYSTAL'. AS SOON AS IT TOUCH YUOR SKIN, MAGIC POWER BEGIN TO FLOW OUT AND YOUR BODY SHUDDERS. THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT THIS CRYSTAL CONTAINS IMMENSELY MAGIC POWER". Did I mention this is a very serious revelation?

So anyway, there is a lot of combat. Mashing the attack button seems to keep the lizard men and armored knights at bay well enough, the truly hardcore player may opt to attempt a grappling move, in which case all that is necessary is that they mash the button while they are slightly closer to the enemy. For people who only play Galaga, this control scheme will make perfect sense. As if they pose too much of a threat, it is entirely possible to leap over the hordes of foes and BYPASS THEM ENTIRELY. "Is challenge necessarily a good thing?" asked the lonely cubicle drone, in properly enunciated Japanese, while he let his pet mogwai dance around the keyboard to program the enemy AI. "To me, it is the most rewarding when I have accomplished nothing in a very short level." And with a contented sigh, his will was done. Killing an enemy will only occasionally yield a weapon powerup, duly announced with a monotone "May the power be with you!" booming over the loudspeakers. In this case, it is twice as easy to slay an opponent, but the benefits only last as long as it takes to say this game's title.

True, if you wanted to beat Warrior Blade in ten minutes, on one credit, it is entirely possible. Which brings me to how each and every one of the bosses is a pathetic wimp who would fall on their knees and beg to be spared by the scurviest knave. Your overpowered hero has no trouble at all dispatching even the beefiest lizard warriors, cleaving them in twain with the greatest of ease, while their dying wails become a chorus to enhance the stale synth-orchestra music loop droning on in the background. Bosses are no stronger than a pair of enemies, with the average struggle lasting no longer than thirty seconds to, in the most extreme circumstances, an entire minute. Oh, and here's a killer strategy for the final boss: go BEHIND him and slash madly instead of standing in front like you have for the rest of the bosses. He might do some slight damage to you otherwise.

Yet, Warrior Blade manages to appeal to the eye. For a decidedly 16-bit game older than many of the people who play Halo 2, its graphics have aged remarkably well. Characters are rendered with a surprising amount of detail, perhaps more appreciated on a bigger screen, and even the anonymous bad guys are drawn with every scale, every throbbing ventricle, every pus-oozing pore intact. Backgrounds, too, are given unduly amounts of character and almost painterly compositions certainly don't hurt. This could pass for an early 32-bit title -- it looks about as good as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night without the nifty 3-D effects.

Like a psychotic ex-girlfriend, the striking good looks of Warrior Blade only mask something that you can't stand to be around for more than five minutes before you start going slowly insane. Ease quickly turns to monotony, which turns into a constant feeling of "when is this game going to end?", and not a moment too soon. After four sets of "worlds" which consist of a few quick levels spanning every fantasy cliche known to civilized man, there's a little jaunt in a castle in which Rastan and crew must deal with the same enemies they have faced many, many, many times in the past, then the pitifully short final boss, and then there's the most masturbatory part of a film replicated all too faithfully for this masturbatory game: the epilogue and end credits. Boy, do they go on forever.

I left the "arcade console" briefly to wash the dishes, clean my balls, and torture the neighbor's cat. When I returned to the "arcade console", the credits were only halfway done. Rastan was in yet another scenic pose where he is plaintively staring into the sunset, contemplating his future, when I said "the hell with this" and ran a few miles to keep my physique nice and cut. When I returned, it was just getting to the part where I enter my high initials for posterity.

"You know something, Vincenzo," said the Taito cubicle dweller to his mogwai, "I want to be remembered for having a part in the epic tale of Rastan which will ring true for eternity. Especially, I want to set the world record for 'longest credit sequence in a pre-Streets of Rage 2 brawler'. Isn't that a worthwhile goal for my life?"

"Mrrrrawk," said Vincenzo, who promptly ate the "Q" key from the tattered keyboard. They had had a long afternoon writing code, and now it was time to congratulate themselves. This part they did quite thoroughly.

Video games aren't typically thought of as a respectable art form, but this is not only a failed attempt at weaving a tale of epic proportions but also a very straightforward game dressed up to look like ten times the sum of its parts. Warrior Blade is a hilarious failure. One needs not wonder why this game has faded into the deepest, darkest depths of obscurity, never to be mentioned again until today. And to the one guy who compiled actual code for this game, your work has not been neglected. Give Vincenzo a hug for me.

Rating: 4.0/10

johnny_cairo's avatar
Community review by johnny_cairo (April 29, 2005)

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radicaldreamer posted March 15, 2010:

God this review is hilarious. Where has JC gone?! His style was inimitable.
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pickhut posted March 15, 2010:

Interestingly, I saw this review pop up in the corner box last night, but didn't bother to read it until I saw this topic. It was an entertaining review. Liked the credits part.

Now if I remember correctly, I think cairo stopped writing reviews for the site after getting upset over a mostly negative reaction to his Fallout 3 review (he gave it a 5/10). I think he posted a comment or two in topics a few weeks later, but I haven't seen him since.

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