Title: Bushido Blade 2
Developer: Light Weight
Publisher: Squaresoft
Date Published: 2/28/1998
Platforms: Playstation

Bushido Blade 2 is, of course, the sequel to the popular game Bushido Blade. It is meant to as emulate real swordfighting as closely as possible, and this attempt, at least, shows. There are no life bars, and no timers. One hit is more than capable of dropping an opponent. If you happen to take a slash to one of your arms, well, you can say goodbye to using it for the rest of the match. All in all, for those interested in swordsmanship, Bushido Blade 2 is just about the closest simulation you're going to find on a console. For those of us who are merely interested in good gameplay and some badass ninja mofos, this game delivers on those fronts as well.

Story

The story of Bushido Blade 2 revolves around the battle between two opposing clans, the Shainto, and the Narukagami. The Shainto broke into the Narukagami's school, and stole their prized katana. The students of the Narukagami wish to avenge this theft, and destroy the Shainto. The Shainto wish to utterly obliterate the Narukagami.

When you begin the game, you choose a character from either of these two schools. If you choose a character from the Shainto school, your objective is to fight your way to the Meikyo-kan, the school of the Narukagami, and assassinate their leader. If playing a Narukagami, your objective is to fight your way to the school of the Shainto, steal back your clans katana, and use it to slay the last blood heir of the Shainto.

This premise has always amused me. I keep imagining the warriors from the respective clans coming back after their victory, only to find that some enemy warrior had eliminated their clan while they were gone. Talk about mutually assured destruction...

Gameplay

As I mentioned before, this game is fought entirely with weapons which are just as lethal as the real thing. If you can pull it off, a lunging stab off the starting line will finish your opponent in record time. The gratuitous red spray of blood that ensues after a good chest or head strike is quite satisfying.

You have roughly 20 characters to choose from, and several weapons.

Any character can use any weapon, but some characters are more proficient with certain weapons than others. For example, the fleet Tony Umeda is best with a katana, while the slow and powerful Gengoro is best suited for the nodachi.

For each weapon, there are three different stances: low, middle, and high. The low stances tend to be more defensive, while the high stances tend towards offensive.

A few of the characters have alternate stances when using certain weapons. For example, Tony Umeda doesn't use a normal low stance. Rather, he switches to a "from the sheath" style of fighting. Alternately, Highwayman uses a two-sword style with a rapier in place of one of his stances with the long sword. There are also certain techniques which only certain characters can use while wielding a certain weapon. This adds a bit of distinctive flair to each character.

The combat system is simple to use, and yet difficult to master. A frontal attack is executed using the 'O' button, while a reverse attack is done using the 'X' button. These attacks can be blocked by using an opposing attack. For example, a reverse attack can be blocked by pressing 'O', or a frontal attack can be blocked by pressing 'X'. This is the ideal method, anyway. You *can* block an attack by using a different method, however, this will knock you off balance, possibly leaving you open to a two-handed broadsword between the eyes...

The different results of each attack are represented on screen in the form of different colored flashes.

  • Red: Fatal Hit
  • Orange: Nonfatal hit
  • White: Weapon struck another weapon or object
  • Blue: Attack was successfully defended
  • Green: Attack was defended, but defender loses balance
Each character also comes with a secondary weapon. These tend to be throwing weapons with varying levels of effectiveness. Some of them are lethal, while others merely injure or maim their opponent. Hongou's axe, for example, is good for a one-hit kill, while Nightshadow's ninja stars will barely slow your opponent down. One of the most fun of these is Chihiro's secondary weapon, which happens to be his pet frog. If thrown at a male combatant, nothing happens, but against a female combatant, it will cause them to drop their weapon and shriek. Some of the secondary weapons, while they can still be thrown, are actually the secondary weapons used for two-sword fighting. These can always be thrown for an instant kill if they connect, but two-sword styles tend to be powerful enough that it isn't recommended. Also, if the thrown sword is blocked, your opponent can pick it up and throw it back at you!

One of my favorite things about this game is that if you hit someone correctly with a thrown sword, you can see it protruding from their forehead when they hit the ground. Priceless.

The levels themselves present a few hazards. Falling off a cliff naturally kills you, and the presence of these hazards can make for quite the strategic kill. Also, characters are capable of slinging dirt or sand in an opponents eyes, rendering them temporarily helpless. Watch for this one on the beach level.

Graphics

The character models are well done, but there is a bit of a "pop-up" problem in the stages. This can lead to being led into a corner that you weren't aware was there, but considering the sheer fun of the rest of the game, it is forgivable. The CGI sequences, being done by Square after all, are very, very beautiful and well done.

Sound

The sound effects are excellent, with the grunts and screams of brutal combat coming through nicely. The parrying noises are even well done, with the difference noted in sound between blocking metal against wood as opposed to metal against metal. One thing though. Where is the background music?

Final Thoughts

I LOVE THIS GAME. It is ludicrous amounts of fun, and I never really got tired of it. In fact, I considered the fact that I traded Tekken 3 for it to be quite a deal, especially considering that I got Tekken 3 for free. The give-and-take movements of a swordfight are well done, while the occasional 2-second-kills are nicely preserved. Overall, if you're looking for a semi-realistic swordfighting simulator, this game is by far your best bet.

Update: Dec 12, 2005 - I have no idea where my copy of this game went. :sniff:

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