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Blood Will Tell: Tezuka Osamu's Dororo (PlayStation 2) artwork

Blood Will Tell: Tezuka Osamu's Dororo (PlayStation 2) review

"Meet Hyakkimaru. He’s the epitome of the generic video game samurai hero. He has the stoic attitude befitting of an ancient Japanese warrior, a stylish robe that flows along with his smooth moves, and a single katana that can cut through just about anything. He quietly traverses the countryside, fighting injustice in its various forms, saving innocent people from the morally corrupt and certain death, and trying to figure out his place in the world. His skills with a sword are unparalleled; allo..."

Meet Hyakkimaru. He’s the epitome of the generic video game samurai hero. He has the stoic attitude befitting of an ancient Japanese warrior, a stylish robe that flows along with his smooth moves, and a single katana that can cut through just about anything. He quietly traverses the countryside, fighting injustice in its various forms, saving innocent people from the morally corrupt and certain death, and trying to figure out his place in the world. His skills with a sword are unparalleled; allowing him to slice and dice through evil with the grace of a ballroom dancer and the brutality of a homicidal maniac. Indeed, he has all the qualities that a typical video game samurai; as a character, he is downright boring.

Oh, and he’s also missing several of his body parts.

Apparently, Hyakkimaru isn’t quite so normal after all. When he was an infant, his body was attacked by a large group of demons. In order to celebrate their victory over the helpless human, the fiends stole 48 parts of his body – one for each demon – and left the little tyke broken and dying in front of his distraught parents. Hyakkimaru’s salvation came in the form of a doctor that happened to find him. Using all the medicinal skills he could muster, the doctor managed to revive the boy. Unfortunately, this second chance at life proved to be a bleak existence; Hyakkimaru was fitted with wooden limbs, steel bones, fake skin, and false eyes. Since he lacked the necessary organs, he could not eat properly, see or hear properly, or even breathe without mechanical aid. Despite such drawbacks, Hyakkimaru honed what skills he had and eventually become the ultimate handicapped samurai warrior. Now that he’s grown up, he’s venturing forth into Japan to track down the fiends who stole his body parts and become truly human again.

It’s not like being a half-robot is all that lame, though. Hyakkimaru comes packing a fancy little katana, but a few more surprises have been built into his prosthetic body. With a quick press of a button, our hero will shed his fake limbs to reveal the two incredibly sharp blades that make up the bone shafts of his arms. Such blades can be used to create fast, multiple-hit combos to overwhelm your enemies. If getting up close and personal with your foes isn’t your style, one of the arms can be equipped with an automatic machine gun. For something a bit flashier, there’s a grenade launcher imbedded in Hyakkimaru’s knee. But if you prefer to ignore the fact that there’s a bionic samurai wandering through feudal Japan, there’s nothing stopping you from using our hero’s traditional katana to dispense justice throughout the game.

It’s not like your choices in weapons will matter too much anyway. Hyakkimaru can perform a fairly overpowered magic attack if he stores up enough energy, as well as execute a multi-hit finishing move that requires you to put in timed button commands. However, all of the enemies you’ll face will be too stupid to require any kind of complicated strategies to defeat. Instead of facing a few tough foes, you’ll be pitted against large groups of weaker enemies with pathetic AI. All you’ll have to do is run up to an enemy, attack before it can start fighting, and keep mashing the attack buttons until your demonic foes keel over and die. The bosses will require a little bit of dodging and timed attacks, but their attack patterns are usually ineffective and easy to predict. Since the camera tends to sporadically change positions and swivel at the worst possible times, combat seems far more of a chore than it should have been.

In order to keep the game from getting stale too fast, the game introduces Dodoro, a secondary character/child sidekick/vulnerable decoy to help our hero on his quest for salvation. Early on in the game, Dodoro will team up with Hyakkimaru, using his/her (the gender can be argued either way based on the character’s prepubescent appearance) skills as a thief to aid in the adventure. You’ll be able to command the young warrior with a quick touch of the analog stick, which will result with Dodoro attacking an enemy, gathering nearby items, or hanging back to avoid damage. There are points in the game that feature the young hero exclusively; unlike the combat-prone areas of the Hyakkimaru’s levels, these places focus more on platforming, solving simple puzzles, finding keys, and avoid traps. That’s fitting, considering that Dodoro’s fighting abilities are limited to a few incredibly weak punches, a defensive roll, and a wimpy uppercut. Though he’s a little too annoying at times, he provides a nice foil for Hyakkimaru’s overly serious approach the journey.

If anything, Dodoro contrasts greatly with the entire game. The little hero is brightly colored with hair cut into a semi ponytail, red trousers, large eyes, and an irritatingly high-pitched voice. His upbeat attitude and emotions stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of this otherwise dark game. Feudal Japan is a dangerous realm, filled with murky swamps, perilous cliffs, and decrepit villages. The majority of the colors are drab and bleak, giving off a chilling atmosphere. You’ll have to face down zombies riddled with deep cuts and slashes, flaming wheels of death, demonic dogs a la Resident Evil, skeletal warriors, and plenty of other nasty foes. The demons are just as ugly, sometimes covered in scales or slime, decorated with detailed armor, sharp fangs, and an ear splitting roar. However, the most noticeable thing is Hyakkimaru himself; every recovered body part will subtly enhance the game. While some parts grant our hero special stats, others will allow you to hear him speak, use more moves, and even see the game in color. It’s little differences like these that make the game seem more interesting.

Blood Will Tell has a few things going for it. It’s got a wonderfully dark an original story, which is complemented with dynamic (if not slightly cliched) characters. The gameplay is straightforward and to the point; fans of action games will have their hands full with small armies of ghouls and 48 bosses to defeat. On the other hand, the combat is incredibly shallow and the game has little difficulty to speak of. The novelty of controlling a bionic samurai will start to wear off once you’ve gotten far enough into the game to realize that this game has enough flaws to bring it down from greatness. But hey, at least Hyakkimaru and Dodoro are interesting enough to warrant the game’s completion. Besides, the guy has two swords and a machine gun built into his arms. That’s got to count for something.

disco's avatar
Community review by disco (January 27, 2007)

Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.

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