Title Bushido Blade
Developer/Publisher Light Weight/Square
Type 3D Fighting
English Version Available
Reviews #1, #2, #3, #4

Review #1 by Patrick Dolan

Okay, first the bad news: EVERYTHING is in Japanese :( All the menu entries, options screens, character names, EVERYTHING. I still have no idea how to adjust the skill level, what the options are and I can't even FIND the joystick configuration menu (I've seen a picture in the manual, so I know it's there!). Next problem: You can't play same character VS same character, at least I can't figure out how. You also can't seem to use the STORY costumes in VS mode, you're stuck with the "classic" costumes, and vice versa.

Now the good news; This is the most innovative fighting game I've ever seen (this could be considered bad news for some folks). The control system, combat engine and interplay between characters and the environment is completely unique. You can't take any skills you've learned elsewhere and bring them to Bushido Blade, they don't apply.

It seems basic enough, the joypad moves you around in 3D, just like Tobal. You have three basic attacks: High, Medium and Low, as well as a Parry button. Then things start to get a little unusual; you have the ability to run by holding the L1 button and you can change your stance between High, Medium and Low with the R1 and R2 buttons. The stance you choose will change all of your basic attacks, your defense options, your combos and what special moves you can activate.

Each character has two special moves, their own unique attributes (speed, strength, etc) and a signature missile weapon (with it's own attributes).Each character can choose one of the eight basic weapons. Each weapon has it's own special moves, combos, attributes and different basic attacks depending on the posture it's being used in (basically, the weapon dictates your basic moves).

Additional moves you can execute during combat include jumps, jumping attacks, throwing your missile weapon (or your opponents, if you pick it up after they throw it), throwing a fistful of dirt into your opponents eyes (if available), climb a wall, execute running attacks, pounce on downed opponents, drop prone to lessen damage from an attack, attack while retreating, retrieve missile weapons or surrender to your opponent if you are crippled from the fight.

You have no life meter, and there is no set amount of hits that will kill you. So far I've had fights that lasted up to fifteen minutes, and fights that were over in less than two seconds. In the story mode, you don't really have boundries to the combat area, you can simply run away from your opponent, up hills, across bridges, through bamboo forests, etc. When playing by yourself, this is sometimes enough to end the match, if you get enough distance between yourself and the CPU opponent.

As you fight, the damage you take will affect your performance. Your character will slow down, they may lose the use of their left arm (no missile weapons) or be driven to their knees because of leg injuries (difficult, but not impossible to win when this happens). If you're not careful, your character might simply die from a single hit (being stabbed in the skull with a broadsword is slighly fatal, even if the match just began).

In story mode, damage you take is healed by the next match, but you have bandages over the wounds. When two players are going at it for a few rounds, you can get pretty battered looking..:)

I also managed to get myself covered in mud somehow, from diving off a cliff ledge to escape an opponent. That stayed with me also...

Combat revolves heavily around parrying, either actively or passively. When you are attacked, you will automatically deflect most incoming attacks (depending on your weapon), but be briefly stunned while you do so. If you use the parry button, you can actively bat any incoming attack away, allowing you to immediately attack your opponent.

Parrying is easier to do than in any game I can remember, leading to great sequences of batting each others weapons trying to find an opening. Get used to parrying, it's often the only way to avoid fatal blows.

The arenas (arena?) in this game are amazing. There are bridges, canyons, rivers, a waterfall, waist-deep pools of water, bamboo forests (you can even cut the bamboo and it'll fall!) and more. I recommend playing story mode with another human player and simply taking the grand tour.

In versus mode, you can only fight in small sections of the overall complex, but some of these areas don't seem accessible in story mode, so that makes up for it somewhat.

The game seems to maintain a steady 30fps, with rare instances of slowdown. Background elements turn transparent if they block the view to your character, and the camera will zoom WAAAAAY out to keep both fighters onscreen.

Overall, this is a remarkably unique game with a lot of interesting features. I happen to love it so far, but I don't know how most fighting game fans will react. It takes a lot of getting used to, especially the "dying with one blow" bit. Personally, I'm delighted with the depth and new game elements.