Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Japanese video-game franchises I would like to see rebooted - Bushido Blade

All right, so this one is kind of a flight of fancy because this will likely never happen for a number of reasons, but I also find it curious that no other studio has tried a similar project since. I am, of course, talking about the original PlayStation franchise Bushido Blade!

I think it's safe to say that everyone loves a good sword fight. Many film and literary genres revolve around them. What would our best samurai, pirate, musketeer, knight, and fantasy stories be without them? Boring, is what! Well, obviously I'm a fan of sword fights, and when I first got to play Bushido Blade for the original PlayStation, I was a happy camper. Bushido Blade has often been referred to as a fighting game, but I feel this to be inaccurate. Fighting games, such as Street Fighter or Tekken, have health bars, and the object is to drain your opponent's by landing combos and special techniques without allowing yours to be drained. Bushido Blade was not such a game. Just as you couldn't simply refer to the UFC Undisputed franchise as merely a fighting game because it is more of an MMA simulator, Bushido Blade was more of a "sword-fight simulator."

Kanuki catches Red Shadow with a thrust in the original Bushido Blade. 
Yes, indeed, in Bushido Blade if you made one wrong move, it could spell your defeat. A duel could be won with a single well-placed blow, like an actual sword fight! For some ridiculous reason a lot of people didn't like that about the game initially and preferred more conventional fighting games (fools!). However, Bushido Blade earned a dedicated audience and was able to hatch a sequel. The first game came out in 1997 and was fairly well received, if I remember correctly. I believe the story revolved around the leader of some clan going mad or turning evil and pitting the clan members against each other. As one of the clan members your goal was to slay your former allies and eventually the clan leader in the form of the end boss, who could also be killed in one hit if you were careful. It was basically just an excuse to have sword fights! There was also a degree of honour involved, in that the characters would introduce themselves at the beginning of each duel with an animation during which they were totally vulnerable to your attacks. If you wanted to see your chosen character's true ending cut-scene you could not attack them while they were doing this. I think there may have been some other stipulations as well, but these were only present in the original game and I played its sequel much more avidly. Another interesting detail is that, with the exception of three fights, the duels took place on one giant map instead of separate levels; if you so desired you could run to any spot on the map at any time, with your opponent chasing you. This was scrapped in the second game. At one point you also had to fight "Kaze," a cowboy who wielded a gun!

The following year Bushido Blade 2 came out, featuring a much larger roster of characters. This time the story was expanded to include many more characters and followed a feud between the clan from the first game, the Narukagami, and the Shainto. In this instalment, instead of just fighting clan members you had to fight a group of ninjas, one at a time, until you faced a clan member as a boss in each map. You started with three initial characters, and after choosing one the game would take you through their story. On certain levels the characters would stumble across fellow members of their clan who would offer to take over that particular fight for them, and thus the player would control these "sub-characters" for that level, unlocking them if they were victorious. The game culminated in a boss battle with the head of the clan. The Shainto leader was invulnerable accept for a spot on his back that was really easy to find and exploit. The Narukagami's boss was much more annoying, as he could teleport. There were also the obligatory gun characters, although this time there were two, Kaze, the cowboy from the first game, and Tsubame, a scantily clad woman wielding an M16. These two characters could be unlocked by succeeding in a time attack in which one had to kill 100 ninjas within a specified time in the game's "slash" mode (or whatever it was called). Pretty wild!

A duel ends poorly for Jo of the Shainto.              
So the game worked as such: After choosing a character the player had to choose a weapon; these included a broadsword, a short sword, a distinctive pole-arm (depending on which side you chose), a katana, a notachi (sort of like a really big katana but not really), and a sledgehammer(?), which was featured only in the first game. Certain characters specialized in certain weapons and would have special moves available to them depending on the chosen weapon. Some characters were slow and powerful, others were fast and precise but could be rocked by a larger opponent, etc., etc. Each character had three stances and could chain attacks together, which would differ based on the stance. Each character also had a distinctive throwing weapon; some were lethal and some were just for stunning to leave an opponent open to attack. You could throw dirt at your enemy as well, if it was a map that had dirt to throw, which would cause the enemy to drop their guard. You could also take part in tests of strength where the characters would lock swords and push against each other, the loser falling over and becoming vulnerable. As I previously mentioned, one blow could end the fight; however, it would also be possible to take a glancing blow that would knock you down or stun you and in some cases render one of your arms useless. Some levels also had pitfalls that would spell demise for anyone who missed their footing.

One player chopping down a bamboo shoot in the bamboo grove map during a multiplayer duel. 
All these elements made for some AWESOME multiplier action, and my friends and I would spend hours going at it. Even these days we occasionally load the game on an emulator, as it still holds up! It's a lot of fun and is easy to learn but hard to master. So why would I want this to be rebooted? Because not only is it an awesome and fairly simple concept but the original games were hampered by the original PlayStation's technology. The maps were pretty simple, you could only fight one on one, and the environments were pretty sparse; the story mode was basically the multiplayer mode with CPU-controlled opponents with fairly basic AI. However! Imagine the possibilities with today's technology! Dynamic weather conditions, sprawling maps, larger-scale duels, maps with usable objects, better AI, more advanced physics engines, HD graphics and character models, more weapons, more moves, more modes, more characters, customization--the possibilities are endless! Sadly the original developer of Bushido Blade had a falling out with its publisher, Squaresoft (now Squarenix), and the development team disbanded years ago, so the likelihood of a new Bushido Blade entry is practically nil. However, it's a fairly straightforward concept and I'm honestly kind of surprised no one has ever tried to recreate the experience, even in the indie sphere. Don't people like sword fights anymore? I know I do!                         

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