"Every single time a player loses a life and either starts their next one or continues the game, not only do all enemies on the screen get knocked down (a common procedure in these games), but they also lose a noticeable amount of life. Technically, it is possible for a player to defeat even the toughest bosses in this game WITHOUT lifting a finger. Sure, it’d be completely lame for anyone to consider this an acceptable way to win fights — but the simple fact it’s possible to advance through powerhouse foes in this manner is shocking to me."
When life’s getting me a bit frazzled, nothing gets me back in a good mood like busting some heads in a good, old-fashioned beat-em-up brawler. So, a few days ago, when my wonderful cable company screwed up burying a wire, cutting off my phone and television in one fell swoop, it probably isn’t hard to guess what my fingers were twitching to do (at least as a preventative measure to keep them away from other folks’ necks).
So, I decided to have a go at this 1999 arcade game called The Legend of Silkroad. About an hour later, my urge to kill had disappeared -- only to be replaced by a desperate need to drink that experience away.
Like many beat-em-ups, The Legend of Silkroad gives players a crew of somewhat different characters. Here, there’s the big, strong fellow (Jamuka), the tiny, agile chick (Sochun) and the Cody-esque jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none (Munmoo). Strangely, these folks all have alternate names. Controlling Jamuka most of the game, I found myself a bit confused when instead of that moniker above his life bar, I saw the name “Khan”. So, maybe each of the three has a twin sibling who pops up from time to time or perhaps the game uses characters’ last names, too. I don’t know, but it did throw me off a bit.
While the character templates weren’t anything new to me, their abilities were a bit different than the norm. Not only does each character have a full-time weapon for attacking, but they can temporarily upgrade them by smashing treasure chests. In an instant, Jamuka (Khan) can go from a simple handaxe to a quite imposing mace -- not only improving his attacking power, but also his range. Quite nice, if you ask me. Another cool touch is their special attacks, which range from using a bit of magical power to infuse their melee attack with fire, lighting or another element to casting forth a massively damaging spell that smashes all foes on the screen.
I also found the game’s appearance to be nice. The backgrounds were wonderfully drawn and the trio of heroes, as well as their opponents, also were easy on the eyes. Zombies pull off hunks of their flesh and fling them at the player, while muscular men spin at them in a tornado-like rage while flailing their fists. Other members of this motley crew of villainous punching bags included amazonic women, skeletons, fishmen and fur-clad barbarians. In getting through this game’s eight levels, I doubt many players would be able to say they found their opposition stale and boring.
Now, the rest of the game’s a different story. None of the levels seemed particularly long, as they were composed of a handful of tiny segments -- a few of which held nothing more than one fight with two or three enemies. Way too many of these foes only proved truly dangerous in numbers since their attack strategy seemed to either be “walk slowly towards player and attack” or “jump towards player and attack”. The ones that actually posed a challenge (many bosses and maybe one or two regular adversaries) were not memorable because of their cool magical attacks -- which, admittedly, they had -- but because of their proficiency in blocking virtually every melee attack I attempted.
The last few boss fights tended to be designed solely to eat quarters, as these fellows would block about everything I sent at them and then retaliate with one brutal attack after another. The seventh level’s boss would be tough enough if he simply was able to cause waves of spikes to cross the floor of his room and then conjure a demon to shower the area with a couple dozen tridents -- while being backed up by a seemingly unlimited supply of fishmen. But when you add into the equation that he’s likely going to block most non-magical attacks sent his way, well, it’s going to take a hell of an effort (and a decent chunk of change) to bring him down.
At least it would if The Legend of Silkroad didn’t go out of its way to ensure that ANYONE could win any encounter as long as they had enough cash (arcade) or patience (emulation). Every single time a player loses a life and either starts their next one or continues the game, not only do all enemies on the screen get knocked down (a common procedure in these games), but they also lose a noticeable amount of life. Technically, it is possible for a player to defeat even the toughest bosses in this game WITHOUT lifting a finger. Sure, it’d be completely lame for anyone to consider this an acceptable way to win fights -- but the simple fact it’s possible to advance through powerhouse foes in this manner is shocking to me.
Even though I liked some of the ideas presented in The Legend of Silkroad like the magic spells and it was cool to see a diverse line-up of monsters instead of confronting hordes consisting of one kind of generic thug followed by another, the gameplay here ruined the experience for me. I mean....I’m still shaking my head. Eventually triumphing because I’m too inept to actually outfight my opponent? That’s just wrong on so many levels and pretty much negates the cool stuff I liked about this game. Next time I need to take out my aggression this way, I’m sticking to Final Fight.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (July 05, 2007)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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