"Originality nowadays is few and far between - The likelyhood of seeing something fresh and innovative is novel, so ideas that are based on existing features of today's acheivements are abundant. The Matrix's bullet time feature is of no exception and this has been used beyond comparison, arguably having been the most utilised mechanic from a movie since maybe Aliens and creeping-down-corridors-and-shooting-monsters. "
Originality nowadays is few and far between - The likelyhood of seeing something fresh and innovative is novel, so ideas that are based on existing features of today's acheivements are abundant. The Matrix's bullet time feature is of no exception and this has been used beyond comparison, arguably having been the most utilised mechanic from a movie since maybe Aliens and creeping-down-corridors-and-shooting-monsters.
In my opinion, using these ideas isn't a bad thing, as long as it's executed well.
Tsukiyo No Saraba (or 10,000 Bullets as known in PAL territories) is split into two genres: 'Adventure Mode' where you select different locations from a map to visit in order to garner information and trigger special events. Then there's 'Action Mode', where the emphasis is getting from one end of a level to another. In this mode, bullet-time is the major gameplay mechanic and players are encouraged to use it's slow-motion antics to survive the spawning waves of enemies. The feature as a whole provides a cinematic feel remeniscent to both the Matrix films' and also John Woo's signature gunplay mannerisms.
The aesthetic is executed well - after hitting the triangle button, the screen before you flashes into a surreal whiteout, the bullets fired leave distortion trails, the main character attains an ethereal white glow and the music fades out, allowing the pitch-bended sound effects of gunfire to compliment the graceful action.
Graceful, as in the simplistic button layout allowing for acrobatic flips and leaps to be done with ease during the action, along with the R1 lock-on system allows you the freedom of either hammering on the square button while guaranteed a kill (as long as you hold R1), or timing your presses for critical hits. To it's merit, this simple interface takes away the awkward dual-analogue aiming system seen in first-person shooters which sees you tweaking the stick for that crucial headshot while taking damage. Tsukiyo No Saraba instead opts for a 'if you're locked on to it, you're going to kill it' approach, but then gives the feeling that you're never quite in control, as the system chooses what you shoot at and sometimes it doesn't choose wisely.
The viewpoint is shoddy to say the least. A badly-implemented camera angle is placed statically behind the main character and can be manipulated albeit far too slowly by the right analogue stick with no way to speed up the rotation. It feels stiff and is awkward to control and will on more than one occasion get you killed. Despite this, the framerate runs smooth no matter how much is being thrown at you on the screen thanks to the lack of any real world objects or interactive shootable scenery - they're few and far between. That's not to say it's entirely bland, as there are exposive barrels/cars/oil drums scattered around that you can target and shoot at, adding to your combo score.
On top of this, there are four other main characters to choose from, each one being varied enough to feel different from the other and each one comes with their own set of moves and skills that can be upgraded using the skill points system. Finish a level quickly without taking much damage and maximising critical hits all add up to a sizable skill points reward, on which then you can use on upgrading moves or increasing HP or Gun Gauge levels. Thankfully, the enemies do get harder but with the increased skills, it's a fair trade as you notice that you become slightly more powerful. It's a basic RP-esque system to say the least, but it gives a little depth to what would be an otherwise bland and repetitive experience.
The main characters are well detailed to the point where the models look better in-game than in the actual FMV's. The FMV's, as basic as they may look, are plentiful and link together the story well. The enemies however are bland and generic, falling for the 'each level has it's own uniform look'. The bullets are all visible in their entirety, giving trails as they fly through the air. They're avoidable to some degree but use bullet time and it becomes much easier.
Special mention has to go to the way the enemies die. It's possible to shoot two maybe three enemies with one bullet - as long as you're in bullet time and you time your fire for a critical, the enemies are launched into the air as if being hit by a train! The sheer distance they're thrown from a critical hit is although ridiculous, is hugely satisfying and encourages critical hitting as it just feels sooooo good!
The bullet time looks good enough that if someone were walking past the TV, they would stop to take a look at what was going on and be impressed with what they see, however it's functionality is limited as even though it allows you to dodge a lot of incoming fire, you'll still get hit - usually by someone off screen the flawed targeting system has failed to lock on to.
The Adventure mode sports some very cool animè pictures, pushing the story along accordingly. The character designs (especially the bosses) are outlandish and are invitedly varied.
The music is a almagamation of jazz-fusion, blues and upbeat easy-listening and even raggae. They don't convey any kind of emotion in either the Adventure or the Action modes and often clashes against the raw anger of the gunfire sound effects. The music is more befitting to say, a roleplaying game where the player has just entered a quiet tavern and not a massive shootout in an alleyway with the player leaping off walls while reloading in mid-air, only to spray in bullet time upon landing. This can be remedied however, as the music can be thankfully turned right down in the options menu.
The sound effects are varied, but in that also suffers from repetitive samples being used. The guns have been heard in other games and even in some films and the reloading sound is weak. For a game to concentrate solely on guns, the sound effects fall short for the most part, but are functional and do not stand out.
The bullet time effect however is enhanced by slowing down not only the action on the screen but also the sound effects, giving it the real strength the game needs with a volume boost. It feels good to hit the square button, as you're awarded with a slo-mo muzzle flash and a bullet fired with a roar from your speakers.
The Adventure mode despite having good visuals and interesting storyline is nothing more than a gimmick, thrown in as an afterthought rather than an intergral part of gameplay. In frustration you'll find yourself skipping through text in order to uncover the next stage and actually get to shoot someone. There is a reward to revisiting stages however, as you can replay levels and if you meet certain conditions, can gain more skill points. This provides replayability and gives the game a little more longevity.
The Skill Rank-Up system is clean, easy to navigate and informative. Unlike the unnecessary Adventure Mode, this serves a purpose as important decisions are made. Do you increase your Dodge skill and avoid taking damage, or increase your HP so that you can take more of a beating anyway?
You can save pretty much at any time you want apart from during Action Mode and even then it's not that bad as when you die, you can restart right away without the game loading the entire stage again. Knowing that if you die you can jump right back into the action without having to wait makes it more fun and encourages you to take more risks and experiment more.
For all intents and purposes, this is a fun game for those who are looking for a stop gap between their next purchase. A game that has to be experienced but is by no means essential. Marred by glaringly obvious faults and flaws, this is made up by the sheer fun factor to be had.
Community review by jinn (October 31, 2005)
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