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Sword Of The Samurai

Sword Of The Samurai

  Full Title: Sword of the Samurai
Genre: Fighting
Developer: Genki
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platform: PS2
Release Date: March 2003

Samurai type games might be on their way to becoming flavour of the moment. I have been known to pay very little attention to them, and not necessarily because they are of poor quality, but my concern was that would I get bored with the same thing over and over again. Often samurai games are adventure based, or a beat-em up. Fun they may be, but there is only so much you can do with these and given I like the whole Samurai theme a lot I have tended to only go for ones on serious recommendation. That was until SOTS was put before me. In all honesty, the box does little justice for the game with poor screenshots and un-exciting descriptions. Still, I had to play this game whatever so I prompty turned my PS2 on and played my first Samurai game for a long time.

 

Overwhelming gameplay

The manual is usually the best place to start, but with SOTS the manual is best suited as a reference guide since most of what you need to know can be found in-game and experimenting. The controls are really quite simple and you realise this as soon as you go to your first Dojo. A Dojo is a school for learning and mastering your basic skills - more on this later. The control system is refreshingly easy to learn and a stray away from the complex button combinations of normal beat-em ups (I know SOTS is not a straight beat-em up, but it's not uncommon for games like this to introduce beat-em up style controls). Fast fingered players will no longer dominate the game unless they take time to develop their character's fighting techniques. Character development is key to proceeding in this game, and like many games where customisation is involved, you have to choose your characters attributes carefully. You have four forms, of which three are attack and one is defense. You can change the style of each form to reflect a type of attack or defense, and within each form you can choose the various attack or defensive moves that you wish to use during battle. To make this even more complex you there are Samurai skills to use, whereby some are more effective than others against your opponents attacks and defensive abilities. It is not an easy task choosing three different forms that will allow you to defeat the different opponents you will encounter. Initially, you are limited with what is available, but as you build up experience throughout the game you learn new techniques and moves to add to your forms. As well as skills learned, the character's basic skills (speed, strength, agility, etc) also improve so as the game goes on your character becomes a better fighter. It gives a great sense of satisfaction once you begin to see your character growing into a strong fighter. Even more so as you customise his forms you realise what suits you and works well in battle. It is a highly addictive type of gameplay and Genki have implemented it well.


You look well, Masaki

Screenshots for this game were released early 2002 and Genki do not seem to have improved much on them. This certainly was disappointing as the graphics are very much PS1 standard. They are not awful and although they don't detract from the game too much, you definately feel as though more time could have been spent on the aesthetics. The 3D models are fine, and the animation fine, but that is just it. Nothing stands out visually in this game - it would have been nice to have seen some nice textures, or some really fluid animation, but unfortunately this is not so. You cannot really fault the game for it, but there is nothing graphically to get excited about.


A world of rogues and honour

What makes SOTS more of a fighting game than adventure game is the lack of a world to explore. Movement is accessible through a menu option called "Movement" - hardly innovative, and a shame there is no world where you can run between locations. Having said that, it does simplify things and within no time you are flicking through the menus as you get used to the environment. Initially, you have three locations to visit; a Dojo, an outdoor tournament, and an unofficial tournament. A Dojo allows you to train safely and perfect your skills without getting killed. Once you complete this you are given options to fight other Dojos or even defect if you prefer to learn different skills. Outdoor tournaments are similar to the Dojo in that you cannot die, but you last as long as your health allows. To keep fighting will allow you to learn more fighting techniques for improving your form, but it may also may hamper progress as you have no chance to recover health. The unofficial tournament are underground matches where real swords are used. Basically, if you lose you die and lose the whole game, but winning means you clock up a good reputation from the kills you get as well as learning lot of skills. After a while, the recruiter option becomes available through the outdoor tournaments, whereby you can take on small missions/tasks. Often dangerous, but more fun as they can allow you to roam small areas, and fight groups of people. It provides a refreshing change from the scrolling fight scenes, and once again you learn more from here than you would in a Dojo or outdoor tournament.


Conclusion

As you can see, SOTS has an added depth to most fighting games and although it may not be an RPG it uses features that appease many who want a good crossover game. I find that more and more games contain the added depth of customisation. They are often associated with RPG adventure games, but it is a formula that obviously works well in a diverse range of genres. SOTS carries this off quite well, although not as deep as some it does offer a unique play on the whole customisation theme. I found myself playing this game solidly for hours on end, which I think is a good sign. Learning to customise the forms is not so simple, and takes time, but pays off as soon as you put together your first good form. As a fighting game it may not be as exciting as a beat-em up, but it has all the addictive qualities you look for in a fighting game. I would definately recommend this game to someone looking for something a little different, but not too repetitive.

Yao Song Ng / Vibes
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