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Fight with honour!
Bushido Blade (PS)
Member Name: tirial
Bushido Blade (PS)
Advantages: Great graphics, strong story, replayable
Disadvantages: Complex Controls, slow to load
Bushido Blade tells the story of a secret society of assassins, one of whose members discovers the leader of the society is corrupt and turns renegade to stop him. There are multiple play modes on offer, including story, versus and challenge, which give it high replayability. There are also secret characters and alternate endings to unlock. Although finishing a character's story mode to get a normal ending is easy, getting the secret endings requires a great deal of skill, which gives the game its high learning curve.
The values of bushido are a vital part of the story, and actually integrated into the gameplay. To obtain the hidden endings you have to live up to these standards, for example you may not hit an opponent in the back, which is difficult when they are trying to kill you.
The game design is very original. There is no screen furniture, and instead of having a hit bar, characters take damage realistically from sword blows: a hamstrung character will kneel or crawl, one with a damaged arm will have moves restricted etc. It is very easy to kill opponents with a lucky blow, even when you do not wish to, causing problems if you are trying to be an honourable fighter. Similarly, a character can surrender when they get too injured, and may be subject to a mercy-kill from the victor. The range of attacks is incredible, and characters have a variety of stances they can use each of which has its own attacks and defences.
Although the fighting controls are well done, changing stances takes a while to get used to and longer to learn which stances are necessary for which attacks. Jumping and climbing is more difficult, especially as the game has exceptionally sensitive collision detection which means you spend a lot of time falling over instead of climbing. If you hit a wall your weapon bounces off with a clang, but your weapon is never damaged or lost as a result.
Graphically the game is beautiful, even though graphics coding has progressed to the point where it cannot be said to be top-class. It takes place on a Japanese castle, the society's fortress, in winter. The snow animation is well done, and characters leave footprints which are slowly filled in. The scenery has a degree of interaction e.g. fighting in the bamboo forest cuts the bamboo as you fight. The voice acting is excellent at conveying a character's mood and personality, though it is subtitled as little of it is in English.
The game has one major drawback. Its originally stunning graphics may now appear slightly dated, but they still take a long time to load. Instead of cutting to loading screens, you can hit the edge of the loaded area when running, and the game will freeze to load the next section while the disc whirrs frantically.
Even when played on a PS2 when playing this game in story mode, the game will freeze every so often at the edge of the screen to let the next section load, or you may end up entering a grey area with no details while the game slowly fills them in around you. Also, you are effectively bound to your enemy and will hit an invisible wall if you run too far from them. This game could probably have done with smaller arenas or some additional work on simulatenous loading.
It is not yet available on the PSN for US and Europe, although Japan has got it, so I don't know whether the download version has resolved the loading time issue.
Despite the loading time, this game deserves a look for the sheer range of moves and attention to detail that has been put into it. When it came out it was one of the most graphically impressive games for the PS1, and still impresses with its moves, story and game engine.
(This is an updated version of my CIAO review)
Summary: A good, but sadly overlooked, fighting game with a few flaws.