? Hardcore Gaming 101: Bushido Blade
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Bushido Blade

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Bushido Blade 2 / On Kengo

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Bushido Blade 2 (ブシドーブレード弐) - Playstation (1998)

North American Cover

Japanese Cover

To refine a blade is to strengthen it by removing unwanted materials. This is the approach Bushido Blade 2 takes towards its core mechanics, setting itself apart from the great majority of fighting game sequels.

There are now two attack buttons rather than three, and each parries the other; if both fighters are in the same stance, for instance, and one swings his sword upwards, the other would parry it by swinging downwards. Blocking a Normal with a Reverse (or vice-versa) in this way is called Perfect Defense and provides the defender with a slight advantage. An attack can also be stopped with one of the same type, but this results in a stagger that leaves the defender open. As this renders the old blocking move redundant, the Square button is now used to cycle between your three stances. Crouching is performed with R2 alone, and you can jump or throw dirt or subweapon from there. With this leaner control scheme, Bushido Blade 2's internal logic is more clearly defined and easier to grasp than its predecessor's. It also results in a more defensive game. Avoiding attacks is easier, too, with swifter sidesteps and backdashes, which probably explains why the backroll maneuver was eliminated. In exchange, you can now launch into a lunging counterattack after your weapon is hit while in a neutral position; this can catch the opponent offguard or spell your death if anticipated.

The weapons available to the main cast have gone from eight to six; the Sledgehammer, Saber and Rapier have been eliminated and a counterpoint to the Naginata, the Yari, has been added. The first two were likely judged redundant on top of the Broadsword and Long Sword, while the new Two-Swords stance allows one to stab with the second sword as you would with the Rapier. In fact, one character, Highwayman, uses a Rapier as his subweapon. There is another new stance, in which a warrior keeps their weapon sheathed until the right moment, then draws it and strikes in one swift movement. Both the Two-Swords and Sheathed stances are reserved for a handful of characters. A more ambivalent change is that it's no longer possible to cripple your opponent's legs. Considering that few attacks hit low anymore, this is no surprise. Nonetheless, it was one of the first game's coolest feature and a major part of its strategic aspect. While Bushido Blade 2 may be a more refined game in many aspects, the elimination of leg wounds and the Sledgehammer save its predecessor from obsolescence.

On the other hand, the roster goes from seven characters to twenty-two (once everyone is unlocked), with a wide variety of designs, from the traditionally cool to the comical and extravagant. They're divided into enemy clans, the Narukagami (which includes most of the original cast) and the Shainto, with a few independents who side with one or the other for reasons of their own. Katze, the gun-toting mercenary, now has a female counterpart, making for a fun matchup.

There are many new attack chains and special moves, always depending on the combination of character and weapon you choose. They include "throws", which must be performed at close range and kill your opponent unless escaped. A warrior might slide around his enemy and slice his throat, or kick him to the ground and cut him down mercilessly. Setting them up can be risky, but they're always satisfying to pull off. Each character possesses a unique special move, and there's a much greater variety to the subweapons now; among the coolest are a frog, which leave certain characters paralyzed with fear, and a fierce war cry which temporarily stuns the opponent but can cause its user to cough, leaving him vulnerable instead.

The stages are quite a bit more diverse and there are more reminders that, despite the theme, this series takes place in modern times; between the Japanese forests and traditional dojos, there's an underground parking lot with a No Smoking sign and a concrete bridge with metal railings. Some areas feature cliffs or other high places from which one can fall or be pushed to one's death. The coolest level has to be the narrow Castle Rooftop, which restricts the gameplay to two dimensions. If the first game's visual theme was snow, this time it's darkness, as the story takes place over the course of a single night.

The large cast and high number of battle areas probably explain why the graphics are actually worse this time around; the character models aren't as detailed, and the draw distance is quite low, but the visuals remain decent overall.

There's a new Group Battle mode in which each player picks a school and battles the other. You must pick a different weapon for each character, which can lead to some interesting matchups. As those matches are fought for honor, wooden weapons are used; rather than kill, one must score points, like in a real-world competition. The Story mode has been significantly expanded. Most stages have you fight a series of ninjas before you get to face a playable character or boss. There are two distinct paths through the game depending on whether you play as an Urukagami or Shainto, and the specific stages and opponents in either vary a bit depending on the character.

The most interesting idea, though, is that at two points during the story, an ally will meet up with the protagonist and become playable for the following stage. If you manage to keep the ally alive, you will unlock them in every play mode; if not, your main character will come running to take their place. This adds tension to these stages, though on the other hand, it also means it takes a certain amount of patience to unlock everything, as a single playthrough can get pretty long for a fighting game. It doesn't help that the final boss battles revolve around annoying gimmicks, particularly when palying as a Shainto. The whole Bushido aspect has been put aside, so you can fight however you want to without consequences.

The narrative deals with a war between two secret schools of assassins located on a small island, the Narukagami and the Shainto. The conflict started 800 years prior, when two large samurai clans from the mainland began fighting. Though both the Kagami and Sue were affiliated with the losing side, the Kagami switched allegiances and attacked the Sue, but a few survived and swore revenge. In order to protect themselves, the Kagami eventually founded the Narukagami school, and the Sue followed with the Shainto. They have been fighting in the shadows ever since. With the Narukagami undermanned following the internal strife a year before, the Shainto launches a full-scale attack on their dojo, the Meikyokan, in order to retrieve the sacred sword Yugiri and destroy their enemy.

The plot itself is more developed than before, and it's especially rewarding to see how everyone relates to one another and fits into the overarching events. Unfortunately, their conversations have been fully dubbed in English, and the voice acting is about as competent as you'd expect of a PS1 game, making it hard to take the more dramatic scenes seriously. There are a few attempts at comic relief, usually through somewhat embarassing gaijin characters, but the tone remains serious most of the time.

The Slash mode must be unlocked by finishing Story mode with a few characters this time around, but is otherwise essentially the same, and there's a new story-less single player mode if you just want to fight the CPU. You can still fight in a first-person view, and it's still as useless as before.

The music was handled by lesser-known Square composer Ryuji Sasai (Treasure Hunter G, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest); it has more of a hard rock edge, but still uses shamisen and the like to give it a Japanese feel. Like before, it plays during the VS modes while Story mode is mostly quiet, and the ending credits theme is once again the best song in the game.

Though Bushido Blade 2 and its predecessor share a common spirit, the changes in gameplay from one game to the next inevitably created dissatisfaction among some fans. It would have been interesting to see whether a third episode might have attempted to bring together the best of both games, or taken another direction altogether. Unfortunately, though sales of either games weren't exactly bad, they weren't quite up to Square's multi-million standards.

Sadly, shortly after the game' release, Square disassociated itself from Lightweight and sold off the 40% shares it held in the company. Like Tobal, Bushido Blade ended after only two entries, both of which are available on the Playstation Network store.



Kengo

Kengo 2 AKA Sword of the Samurai (PS2)

Before long, those same shares were bought by Genki, a company whose founders, like several Light Weight employees, had once worked for Sega's AM2 studio. Their first game under this new arrangement was the early PS2 title Kengo: Way of the Bushido. Though director Kunihito Nakata was not involved, it was perceived as a spiritual sequel to Bushido Blade and received as a failure. Two sequels followed on the same console and a final chapter was released for the Xbox 360. In truth, they are different enough from Bushido Blade that they should be viewed as entirely distinct.

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Bushido Blade 2 (PS1)

Bushido Blade 2 (PS1)

Bushido Blade 2 (PS1)

Bushido Blade 2 (PS1)

Bushido Blade 2 (PS1)

Bushido Blade 2 (PS1)

Bushido Blade 2 (PS1)

Bushido Blade 2 (PS1)


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Intro
Bushido Blade

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Bushido Blade 2 / On Kengo

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Characters

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