Name: Bastard!! Ankoku no Hakaishin (Bastard!! Dark God of Destruction)
Format: Super Famicom
Developer: Cobra Team
Publisher: Cobra Team
Year: 1994

As well as an anime and manga series (apparently*), Bastard!! is also a video game. It was originally released only in Japan (presumably due to the series being very popular over there), but a fan translation has been completed by Dejap Translations. Apparently it was a "fun project" which was started as a joke (presumably because the game was so easy to hack and translate. The game tells the story of Dark Schneider, and evil wizard who seems to want to take over the world (but the plot will no doubt change completely as you play through the game. He probably ends up going back in time and becoming his own father or something.**

The game is a fighting game, but unlike any others I have ever played. The action is viewed using a Mode 7 landscape from behind one of the characters, (they are in the foreground, and the opponent is in the background). Since the characters are super heroes, they can all fly, and so you can move your character left and right (basically strafing while keeping facing towards your opponent) or up and down (floating in the air). You can also fly very fast towards your opponent to either perform a special move or to reverse positions, so that you are on the opposite side of the battle field as you were before.

You perform moves usually at long range - each character will have their own "set" move (eg. fireball) which can be sent in different directions depending on which action button you press. The idea is, as with almost every fighting game since Street Fighter, to knock your opponent's health bar down to nothing. This wins you the match.

There are three modes that you can play the game in - the single player Story mode, the VS Battle mode (which can be played either against the CPU or against another player) and the Team Battle mode (which can be played either against the CPU or another player). The two "Battle" options see you pick either one, or a group of six fighters, and then battling it out with either the computer or your friend until one of you is dead. The story mode is basically scenes of conversations, with a fight going down every so often. Unfortunately, the game is hard. Very hard. I don't regard myself as a particulary good player of beat em ups, but the fact is I cannot complete the first level. Apparently, Dejap put in an instant death trainer, activated by two button presses (in case you just want to enjoy the plot). Unfortunately, I haven't been able to work out what buttons to press. Anyone?

The graphics for the game aren't bad (the Mode 7 effect is reasonable for it's time, but plenty of games made far more impressive use of it (*cough*). The music is uninspiring and repetitive during the battles, but sometimes OK-ish when the conversations are going on. And sound effects are pretty terrible. Overall, if you're into presentation, this probably isn't your thing. To be honest, if you're into a game that is actually anywhere near playable you're pretty much out of luck - this is so abusively hard it hurts. The main problem is that the enemies are so hard to hit that you can spend hours just trying to do some damage. And on the of chance that you eventually manage to win a round... you have to win another (it's the best of three rounds, Street Fighter style). I really can't be bothered with the game, but I'm sure if there are people who have truly superhuman gaming skill or who know the instant death feature, they will enjoy it loads. I wouldn't recommend it myself.


All those of you who are not idiots will have by now noticed that the game is called "Bastard!!". If you think that's rude, I wouldn't try the game - it contains such beautiful turns of phrase as:

"So you're alive, you bastard..."

"Well, if it isn't fuckface himself!"

The scary thing is, this is a direct translation of the original game. I have no idea what the poor Japanese mothers must have thought when they walked in on their 7 year olds playing this game, but either way, if it was released in the West, it would probably have been a 15 rated game.

Overall, if you like the series or you like very repetitive, difficult gameplay, then this is for you. Everyone else, steer well clear.


* - If you are a fan of the anime or the manga, please add a writeup.
** - Lie

Sources:

Found out about the game at Dejap's site: www.dejap.com
GameFAQs for the developer/publisher info.

I will add a writeup about the animé.

First up, biases on the table - I'm not an animé fan. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Ditto manga. The closest I'll get to either are certain French bandes dessinées and ElfQuest (which has manga influences, esp, the stuff from the late 1980s, early 1990s), but that's about it. I think there's something about the fandom that puts me right off, yano, people dressing up in Japanese schoolgirl outfits when they're I. male, and II. at least thrice the age of a Japanese schoolgirl, that sort of thing. So it was with great caution that I scored myself the animé series Bastard!!.

I think I should also explain what got me into Bastard!! as well. Metal, that's what. The author of Bastard!!, one Kazushi Hagiwara, is quite the headbanger, and it shows. Many characters, spells, and places in Bastard!! are named after heavy metal bands, or Engrishified versions of same. For instance, the protagonist, Dark Schneider, isn't miles removed from Udo Dirkschneider of Accept - and he is at the centre of a lot of balls to the wall action (sorry). Then we are told of the kingdoms of Judas, Witosneiki and Metaricana, the latter of which has an order of knights led by Bonjovina. Spells include Exodus, Venom, Sodom, Megadeth, Gansanlo and the "ultimate spell of destruction", named Herrowing. In the fourth episode, we are introduced to a villain called Immortal King Di Amon who looks rather like his namesake - although I doubt if the real life front man of Mercyful Fate ever bemoaned womens' moral standards these days for not being virgins when he was trying to suck their blood.

The plot? It's like the offspring of Heavy Metal (the 1981 film) and a bad martial arts film that doesn't take itself seriously in any way. It's set centuries after the fall of man, when the dark god Anslasax destroys modern civilisation and ushers in an age of blood, iron, bone, and sorcery, forcing humanity to subsist in a barren and bestial environment. In this world, the four Lords of Havoc set off on a conquest of the entire world, and come upon the kingdom of Metaricana, which they almost conquer, until Dark Schneider, the protagonist and bastard of the title, is reborn in ways too alarming to mention here ("seals of purity" are mentioned, that's all I'll say - that, and a spell called "Accept" after... yes, you get the idea). DS then happy-gallaghers around defeating various enemies who all brag of their indestructibility but who all get suitably pwned, usually with a snarky comment from DS. Needless to say, battles usually involve spell effects that are way too large, really big explosions, and flying around with lines buzzing past them at high speed. Not to mention announcing each move like "Hurricane Sword Ultimate Attack!!!!!" and so forth.

Then there's the characters. Man, DS is a bastard. I really mean that. He's utterly amoral, devilishly handsome, and insufferably arrogant. His motivation is, in his own words, "to slay every man in the world who could possibly rival me. And take their women." What's not to like? He's a lean, mean, Chaotic Evil arse-kicking machine, and his signature spell, Venom, melts people. Then there's the bit in the second episode where he carries the rather short-skirted Princess Sheelah up a ladder by the vagina - not that you actually see anything, but you get the idea. Women, men, or both, he treats everyone like absolute filth, yet people like him. But I think this makes sense, actually. I look at it like this. Imagine a game of Dungeons & Dragons in which your character is starting to get really, seriously, powerful. You'll notice that you don't move through the game world so much as the game world moves around you. Soon enough you're the only mage of high enough level in the entire world to be able to cast certain spells. Where's the need to treat people with respect or decorum when you can just pop a Power Word Kill in their ass if they annoy you? This is why Dark Schneider is, well, such a bastard.

The other characters are similar as well. Ninja Master Gaara has similar motivations, as well as having the truly legendary line, "who would be stupid enough to sneak into a Ninja Fortress through the front door?!" and who throws the heroine Yoko into a pit with clothes-eating slime. Thunder Empress Arshes Nei hams it up suitably with what looks like a grey one piece swimsuit that seems disturbingly like it's going to fall off at any moment, and in fact actually succeeds in killing off DS but he resurrects himself through force of will (and at this point she returns to warming his bed). It's almost like the creator of Bastard!! was trying to take the piss out himself...

...oh wait, he is, there's that bit where DS explains to King Di Amon that the latter is definitively going to be beaten because DS is the incredibly popular main character and Di Amon is just a two-bit walk on villain, and then there's the fourth wall breakings after a particularly overdone spell effect...

In many ways Bastard!! is the spiritual successor to the legendary 1981 animated film "Heavy Metal" in that it's a non-stop farrago of somewhat tongue-in-cheek action and with gratuitous nudity and suchlike. The only things that stop it from being such is that the bands that are name-dropped aren't in the sound track (more's the pity, that AMV of it to Kamelot's song "Karma" rules so hard that the band adopted it as a semi-official video to said song) and that the background isn't shaped like breasts and genitalia. In fact, what were they thinking with the soundtrack? What's this completely out of place J-pop tune doing over the end credits? Sense is not made by this...

So, yes, Bastard!! is well recommended, although hardened animé fans will probably not approve of it because it doesn't seem to be aimed at animé fans, rather, it seems to be aimed at everyone else. Yeah, go check it out. I think it's all on YouTube anyhow.

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