Third party developer Lightweight struck gold in the fighting genre with its popular Bushido Blade series for the Playstation. Due to the success of that series, a loose sequel was planned for the Sony PlayStation as well, but the title was later named a PlayStation 2 title by the company; the prospect of which is even more exciting.
The Bushido Blade series was known on the PlayStation for its superb level of realism, and it would certainly be a safe bet to say that the 128-bit incarnation will take that to a new level. The sequel, entitled Kengo: Master of Bushido, is very meticulous in design. The title's characters are actual figures from history, and have sword-fighting styles that correspond to that figure of importance. The game displays its realism in other areas as well. For example, in a game of Soul Calibur, if your character had just suffered a stroke to the head, you would expect your fighter to hop back up, and for the melee to resume. Not so in Kengo, as one well placed blow to the head will push the recipient off the mortal coil instantly. The bouts continue until one fighter has perished, and in a game of this realism, that concept can get fairly interesting. Results of damage are appropriate depending on where a wound is inflicted. For instance, if a character's legs are wounded, his ability to move about the environs will be hindered. However, the last time I checked, a good Bushido fight doesn't end in injury. It ends in death, so no matter the harm inflicted on your warrior, he will continue to thirst for a victory until the life has seeped out of one of the combating bodies. The game also features some subtle improvements, for example, the environments in which you do battle now have a huge impact on the outcome of the fight. For instance, crates, windows, walls, and other inconspicuous and seemingly harmless items will be turned into weapons in this installment. Not so in the last titles, explains Senior Producer Daryl Pitts. He says, "The biggest difference from the old version will be the effects of objects in the environment. Pushing someone against a shelf or a pile of boxes meant nothing in terms of gameplay on the previous version, but for the PS2 we take advantage of the extra processing power to have the collisions actually harm the characters." This announcement may very well foreshadow spectacular results, because when gamers are faced with an environment that can be crumpled just like their fighter's bones, it forces two levels of strategy upon the gamer: one to deduce your opponent's next strike, and another to project how those actions, as well as your counteractions, will influence your surroundings.
The title is set to feature a number of gameplay devices to enhance the enjoyment of this atypical brawler. Such features include a dodge function, which allows your character to escape the heat of an enemy blade. A new feature to the Kengo series is the 'supermove' function. When one thinks of supermove, one probably conjures images of flashy raves performed with enormous zeal in the standard fighting game. The reality is quite different in Kengo, as the supermove is simply a maneuver that will almost certainly cause instant death, but takes an unusually long time to execute. For this reason, supermoves are designed as a last resort, because of the ease at which an attentive opponent could avoid the danger posed by them.
Kengo: Master of Bushido also features some very diverse gameplay challenges. Undoubtedly, the game's versus mode will still be an integral part of the title's allure, but unlike typical fighting games, Kengo will also feature a story mode in which gamers will progress through a pseudo-plotline with a set character, and in RPG fashion, upgrade your fighters with superior skills and equipment. Gamers will have the option to customize characters, as explained by Pitts. "One of your primary strategies will be learning to equip your warrior with certain sword attack techniques." He went on, "If you are going up against the master of the 'School of Dragons,' you would know in advance that their attacks consist of the wild spinning of their weapon, and they often cut low like a dragon's sharp tail. Thus you would want to train your character to excel at low-level blocking and reversals." This could prove a refreshing change of pace to the standard modes of play the title offers. However, as mentioned, even the standard play modes are very complex, featuring some of the most in-depth strategy you'll be able to find in a fighting game in quite some time.
Aesthetically, the game is coming along respectably. Obviously, this early in development there are going to be some bugs to work out, but there's little doubt among the faithful that Lightweight will get these problems (including some jerky animations) worked out by the time of its release. The backgrounds are already quite descript, and show great promise.
Previous installments in the Bushido Blade series have achieved critical acclaim as one of the most intelligent fighting game franchises on the market, and with the newfound processing power of the Playstation 2, Lightweight could very well turn this Crave published title into a classic if it's not rushed to meet its end-of-the-year release schedule.
11/4/2000 Bryan Keers