Title :Bushido Blade 2
Platforms :Sony PlayStation
Publisher :Square Electronic Arts L.L.C.
Game Rating :7.0
Review by :Ken Gagne

Is the way of the samurai the way to a great game? Maybe, maybe not. It's a love-hate situation for Bushido Blade 2, Squaresoft's fighting game for the Sony PlayStation. 

On the ancient island of Kounoshima, off the sea of Setonaiki, wages an eight-hundred year war between the Narukagami and Shainto assassin schools. The time has come for the Shainto to end the battle; players decide the result of this final conflict. 

Bushido Blade 2 is a sequel to last year's unique game which broke apart from the tired fighting mold. There are no life meters, time limits, or fatalities. Victory or defeat is realistically determined by a single stroke. Blows can be deflected, cause arms or legs to fall useless, or a well-placed attack to the torso or head will end the match. 

Most special moves depend not on the character but the weapon the player chooses, such as the katana, broadsword, or nodachis. Attentive pairing of fighter and armament is essential; for example, it is foolish to give a slow weapon to an adroit combatant. 

There are six characters initially available (three from each school). Story Mode pits each character through a specific set of matches with some storyline thrown in; other characters may be playable through plot development. Victory in the final battle ensures continued availability of those fighters, driving the number of characters up by several. 

So far, so good, right? Realism, plot — all the makings of a great fighter. What about gameplay? 

This is Bushido Blade's main fault. The one player mode is terrible. The enemies are too easy, except for the final boss, who is too hard. The majority of battles are against endless numbers of nameless, faceless clones who are defeated with one quick blow. There's little strategy or excitement. 

Battles occur in a musical void. Voice acting between matches is ridiculous in both performance, content, and even length. Noticeable is the clashing sound effects of steel on steel. 

Moves are difficult to recall, as every character and every weapon has different moves, and each depending on the stance — characters can position themselves to attack high, normal, or low, with two different attack buttons. Other control is fine, including jumping, sidestepping, and dishonorable moves such as tossing dirt in the enemy's face. Yet despite the game's 3D fighting nature, there is no analog or shock support. 

Graphically, the arenas are displayed smaller than the original Bushido, as are the action figures. But up close, the characters look better and less polygonal than before. There is nothing astounding anywhere, though: settings are dark and quiet, and attacks are not extraordinary. 

The only redeeming aspect of Bushido is the two-player mode. Despite all above flaws, the fast-paced matches are perfectly suited for exciting head-to-head competition. A variety of play combinations ensures a long life of gameplay. 

As games and consoles become more technologically advanced, it's inevitable that genres will experience surges in realism. Bushido Blade 2 exemplifies why the fighting genre should not undergo such a change. It's quick, boring, and frustrating, as far as solo play goes, and, quality-wise, more a prequel than a sequel.

This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 09-Nov-98