Sengoku 2 (NeoGeo) review
"By the leather of my bootstraps, they've gone out and done it. SNK has made the first game totally according to surrealist principles, and if it were done today, John Romero would more or less be involved. It's never too late to drop the old dependable Daikatana joke, I say. Now, I'm not totally against throwing together a bunch of set-pieces and not even bothering to link them with a storyline. Today's subject, the conglomeration of virtual ejacu-late known as Sengoku 2 (which tr..."
By the leather of my bootstraps, they've gone out and done it. SNK has made the first game totally according to surrealist principles, and if it were done today, John Romero would more or less be involved. It's never too late to drop the old dependable Daikatana joke, I say. Now, I'm not totally against throwing together a bunch of set-pieces and not even bothering to link them with a storyline. Today's subject, the conglomeration of virtual ejacu-late known as Sengoku 2 (which translates roughly to "Blonde Mullet Blood Orgy 2"), does not even care to establish its plot, because everyone in the United States is familiar with the Sengoku saga, making an exhaustive recap totally unnecessary.
What? You didn't play it? For those of you who missed out, here's a Cliff's Notes version:
In the year 199X, a drifter by the name of Cornwallis Cowznofski lounged in a turkish bath with his lifelong companion, Etienne, at his side. "Sweetheart," Cornwallis purred, his mullet bushy like he was in a hair band, "Can you teach me how to fence?" Etienne agreed; being mute, he responded by massaging his friend's bulging trapezius muscles even harder. It turned out Cornwallis was a natural, and within weeks he was training for the 199X Olympics. On the bus to Omsk, several multi-dimensional demons from the northernmost frostbitten planet of the Geist system, led by an undead Robert Z'Dar clone, decided to subjugate the human race, starting with several of the American atheletes. Cornwallis could only watch his buddies being anally subjugated for so long before taking action and cutting all 78,039 of them in half with his personal exacto knife. Then, he and Etienne battled all 14 incarnations of Robert Z'Dar while all of Europe burned around them. Robert Z'Dar is driven to suicide after Matthew Broderick flies in and forces him to play Tic-Tac-Toe with himself. Etienne and Cornwallis walk off into the sunset to buy some Chalupas.
With that in place, you can now fully understand my disappointment in the follow-up.
It starts promisingly enough, with mullet-wielding Cornwallis being told by a random person to "BRING THESE MEN TO HELP." One might pause to notice how sexy Cornwallis looks: his tight purple shirt and leggings and possibly an eyepatch all look good until you notice that his mullet is rendered with enough skill to bring the sheer power of the 80s' awesomest hairstyle to full life. I should know, I have one. To top it off, when he slashes his sword in a graceful upward arc, the long end of the mullet bounces and sways to and fro. Orgasmic. From this extremely early point, one can also notice the bland, reused backgrounds, and they do NOT get any better. Etienne is also rendered with little care, and the tight yellow shirt which stops midway up his torso and his hip-huggers seem like afterthoughts. Disappointing.
Current stock time period: the glorious year of 15XX. Within seconds he is almost subjugated by a dragon and is beset on all sides by pissed-off samurai and floating skulls. There are a grand total of two sword attacks which are essentially the same attack. Cornwallis can bisect anyone he comes across, but that's about it. There are three other forms he can morph into: a purple dog, an old man, and a ninja who resembles a certain Tae-Bo master. They all have their own (worthless) attacks, but why bother morphing when Cornwallis' avatar is almost a perfect visualization of Man? That aside, we have the skeleton of a stripped down side-scrolling brawler -- what SNK manages to do with it still has me confused, and I understood Memento, therefore I have a much larger intellect and a bigger dick than you.
Branded on by a horribly derivative musical score, with synthesized tympani beats to burn, Cornwallis is led down the path to the Rightward Promised Land by the Impenetrable Borders of the Screen. From offscreen, your samurai foes rush in, swords held high, and with a guttural "KRIYUUUUU" they are sliced in twain by the blade of Cornwallis and/or Etienne depending on if you bring a friend/enemy to play this game/interactive hallucination with you. After advancing about twenty feet or so, there is some Buddhist chanting and our hero(es) suddenly zoom off to some other realm with a static background, where more samurai will rush in and seconds later will be only a portion of their former selves. Then, it's back to the same level, where you will chop more men in half and be whisked off to some other sub-area to kill a handful of guys.
None of this will matter after you come to realize the game is completely surrealist in its intentions and execution. The levels and overall game are lacking one vital element: continuity. There is no way to anticipate the next crazy-assed tangent, and in fact all the fun is in the wacky surprises. I do not object to fucked-up and unconventional content (in fact, it is to be relished), just the fucked-up presentation seen here. The entire Sengoku series, as a whole, is like this, and it was truly a shock to learn there are three (3!) installments available on the Neo-Geo. There must be a devoted hard-core cult following for this "80s Radical Chambara-esque Shittastic Beat 'Em Up" subgenre.
In fact, I basically abandoned all hope of a coherent experience when I was taken to a sub-level where I was forced to engage in mortal combat with a flying severed head and his associate, a cadaver several times my size which rose from the earth and extended a hand into the frame to whack me with a large wooden mallet. If you just stay still and hit A and B in succession, you can kill anything, even the tougher samurai who begin to pursue you through Time and Space Itself.
Etienne and myself were transported to 194X after killing the benevolent skeleton and his equally benevolent right hand. In World War II-era Iceland, you must do battle with exactly one new enemy and a cadre of others from the previous level. By a "cadre", I mean three. None of the boss fights present any sort of challenge. You can stay in one place and madly swing your sword around, and the boss usually never fails in walking right into it. To further exploit their stupidity, you are perfectly able to trap them outside the screen and continually hit them before they are even able to resume the one-sided fight.
There's another method of gameplay you run into later: HORSEBACK COMBAT! Judging by the awesomeness of this feature in several top-notch and by no means even the least bit derivative action beat-em-ups (like the Dynasty Warriors series and the perennial insomnia cure Knights of the Round), my loins, as well as several other organs, were girded for some slammin' horseback action.
Well, it makes the game even easier. Instead of cutting extremely weak enemies in half, you instead whiz by and lop off their heads while they are trapped moving in a straight line. This is all as simple as the press of a button; Cornwallis will have no trouble doing the hard part. The rushing wind plays on the long end of his mullet while a pink vapor discharges from the samurai's torso still clinging to the back of the galloping horse beside him. Picturesque to be sure, but the exact same scenario happens every 3 seconds or so, and If this sounds fun, by all means it's totally mind-numbingly boring. You know there's something fundamentally wrong with a game if it manages to take the fun out of decapitations!
The omnipresent villain, the Sovereign of Darkness (I knew Darkness would gain its soverignity someday), watches and dispenses Villainspeak: "Mwahaha, soon they will know the true extent of my wrath," "I'll deal with you later," "Insolent fools," and "The time has come when I will gain ultimate power!" are all used appropriately (right out of the bestseller How to Properly Intimidate Men With Mullets written by Liquid Snake). With a name that ominous, one does not expect him to be decked out in mostly purple and green attire, probably from Diedier Sachs or Lucio Fulci or possibly Isaac Mizrahi. Either way, Mr. Darkness' attire would be frowned upon even in parts of Haight-Ashbury. There are problems with character designs in Sengoku 2. It takes a good deal of courage for a mullet lover like myself to admit that.
The year 199X brings about a slight background change and a final confrontation that doesn't even try to be coherent. It does involve a massive electric eel mutating into a contorting and fireball-vomiting dragon who does the same extremely loud attack every quarter of a second. By this point you will be wishing there was a way to change the volume on the cabinet you've been hogging for the better part of ten minutes, and besides this, the same recycled "sword clash" sound effect will be making your ears ring, given all the men you've turned into double amputees. If you're like me, you've been thinking, "Hell, with all the quarters I've pumped into this mother, and what with all the totally badical mutilations I've witnessed today, it would only be worth it if there's some kind of life-altering moral in front of you when all this is over."
Sengoku 2 granted my wish, that's for sure! As a public service, I present to you the reward for beating this game, for no charge at all.
REMEMBER: THERE IS ALWAYS EVIL IN THE PRESENCE OF GOODNESS.
If that doesn't justify playing through a damn near unplayable game, let me know. In the meantime I'm considering spending another eight months walking the earth to further ponder the meaning of this sentence. For a brief time, I was even ashamed that I have a mullet. That's saying a lot.
But, it's a true testament to the power of a hairstyle when it can get a game three points. It makes Cornwallis the most kickass hero since Dalton in Road House. Too bad he doesn't have any good lines. If he had Hellhammer's hair Sengoku 2 would have gotten the full 10.
Community review by johnny_cairo (April 08, 2007)
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