246: The Last Samurai

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The Last Samurai

While most fighting games feature overblown characters with borderline magical abilities, one short-running series offered an unflinching view of weapon-based combat. Jonathan Palmer looks at Bushido Blade and what made the pair of PS1 sword fighting games so special.

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I would love to get my hands on Bushido Blade after reading this. I remember having a passing interest in this when it first came out, but now more than ever a fighting game that has a realistic bent to it sounds both fun and rewarding to play.

Nicely done, Jonathan!

Tell me about wrestling ninjas for food.

The over complicated HUD needs to go. A life bar is enough, I don't need a barrier gauge, heat gauge, character power gauge, and the opponents gauges, too.

*glares at Blazblue*

This was my favourite fighting game of all time; I've still got a copy of it, in fact, and break it out every now and again.

Thanks for reminding me how awesome it is!

Bushido Blade was excellent at the time and I see no reason why such a game couldn't succeed today.

I'm surprised you found all the weapons quite similar, though. For me they were far less so than in conventional fighting games. Taki can block Astaroth's axe, after all, but when a Bushido Blade opponent is coming at you with their Naginata held forward and you're armed with a Saber... well, let's just say there won't be any blocking going on!

Lightweight, in the form of Genki, actually did make a few more next gen sequels that never made it to the US on the PS2 and the XBox, including the reintroduction of 1-hit kills in the later Kengo games. Kengo 3 even received an English translation in PAL territories, and most recently Majesco released "Kengo: Legend of the 9" on the US XBox 360 to lukewarm reviews.

Acquire and Spike have done the most to keep the genre alive in the West with their "Way of the Samurai" series, minus the 1-hit kills.

I love Bushido Blade.

I'm not sure if this was in BB1 or 2 (or both), but I remember playing 2-player matches like this: Both characters run into each other at maximum speed, causing them to get knocked down. Then, we'd try to kill each other without getting up from the ground, rolling across the floor and aimlessly flailing our weapons around.

As much as I'm a fan of more traditional fighting games with their health bars and combo gauges, I'd love to see a worthy Bushido Blade successor.

The only bad thing about the Bushido Blade games was that the singleplayer mode was way too easy.

Bushido Blade flew under my radar all the time i had a PS1, yet from what you say i love the idea. It always bugged me how Soul Caliber and the like seemed to treat swords like foam sticks

I loved this game back then. A friend got the imported version and we did not really understand what it was about regarding the honor code except by trial and error.
But man, that were good times!

Usually we were going to slay as many ninjas as possible, passing the controller for each couple of waves, but the game really shined in one-on-one combat.

Not only did we play it right after having watched Ninja Scroll (which certainly fueled the motivation for epic fights and the appreciation of being able to cut bamboo), but with this game it was literally possible to have unending fights.
The game mechanics for blocking and having different stances were really complex for the time, but they made that I still remember specific matches we had - even today. One of those took almost an hour and whenever we meet up for a beer these days, anyone of us just needs to mention a "remember the fight at the beach?".

Although I am not into fighting games anymore at all, Bushido Blade still has its own very special spot in my memories. Thanks for reminding me with this great article!

Boy do I miss Bushido Blade now. I remember playing it way back. Everyone was going off about Tekken and to me all I could think was, "Yoshimutsu's sword should kill them all with one, maybe two strikes." and then Soul Calibur and Battle Area Toshinden. I just wanted another game like Bushido Blade that allowed me to try and remain calm and calculating when dueling an enemy. Hoping I could keep my legs and arms safe for those missions that lasted forever. Waiting for that fatal opening, where my own master stroke would end it all. Greatest weapon fighting game ever.

Wow, for some reason your negative sayings of it actually made me incredibly interested in this game! I wonder if my local GS would have it... awww PS1? Maybe an emulator then.

Yeah, now Ive gotta pop it back in the drive after work. Thanks :P lets see, it was almost 10 years ago I played that game. True words in the article. Watching some of the trailers for some of these 'street fighter' style games can give me a headache. '10 Bazillion Damage!!!' it cries. *Yawn*

Whats really sad is, while Bushido Blade had that inherent flaw of every victory feeling cheap due to being "one hit", no developer really seemed to be interested to at least look at how fighting games COULD be different.

A Bushido Blade sequel could've, for example, done away with one instant kills, and rather make it a match of who manages to first make enough strikes in a row, throwing the enemy off balance and give the attacker the chance of a killing blow, as well as giving the opponent a last chance to counter it.
Or, if "enough strikes in a row" is too vague, have the characters block semi-automatically and add fatigue in a more traditional way until "killing blows" become possible.

As such, by getting rid of SOME realisim, you could still have a sword fighting game that feels more authentic than any competitor...

Ah this brings back fond memory's. I just remember being utterly blown away at the realism in the trailers etc. Its a shame my ps1 has broke and i can't play it anymore.
I would love a new one to come out though, i think people really would buy it.
I never did complete the hall of 100 ninja's :)

Onyx Oblivion:
Tell me about wrestling ninjas for food.

It's hard. First you have to find the little pajama wearing bastards. Then you have to grab them, which is nigh impossible considering how slippery they tend to be. After that you have to avoid their magic, their hidden weapons, and their tendency to flip out and murder everything around them. However I've discovered once you've pinned them down and start stroking their belly they calm down and go to sleep before long.

One of my all time favorites. We would play this for hours in the Dorm room with bracket tournes and much fun.

This is the sort of game i'd love to play i've even talked to people and asked why there are no decent realistics sword fighting games. The only one that come close is mount and Blade but it's not really quite there

Bushido Blade was one of the first games I ever played seriously with my Dad. He always encouraged me to play Video Games, he bought me a NES even before I knew what one was or before they were popular, but he himself never really had the fast reflexes or rhythm to get into them too heavily himself.

Bushido Blade required timing and precision, rather than pattern and speed he seemed to really get into it. We would play matches for hours on end.

Also would play the hell out of this with friends, our two Fighter staples were Bushido Blade and Street Fighter.

feeling a need to chime in an echo a lot of the comments so far.
- i hate fighting games. I was into SF2 and MK, like everyone else, but then got tired of having to keep up with everything. i remember playing killer instinct in an arcade at some point and stepping back from the controls as my opponent executed some sort of seemingly endless combo. Since then I've just hated fighting games.

But I remember when a friend showed me Bushido Blade and explained "you can just run around and stab them in the back, but then the game will be really short, and it'll give you an insulting ending." This gave me a huge grin. The idea of a game that rewards "playing it properly" in this way, still seems sort of unparalleled.
it'd be like finding out there's an alternate 6 hour game in Portal, as long as you never pick up the portal gun. exciting because it's challenging you to grow up a little and take the game's narrative/world seriously.

anywho. I also hope someone resurrects Bushido Blade.

BlueInkAlchemist:
I would love to get my hands on Bushido Blade after reading this. I remember having a passing interest in this when it first came out, but now more than ever a fighting game that has a realistic bent to it sounds both fun and rewarding to play.

Nicely done, Jonathan!

I, too, would love to play this game.
Or one like it, at least.

Too bad there probably wont ever be anything like it again.

i had to look into google to remember this game, yes it was amazing, i remember playing it for the first time not knowing a thing because i still didn´t speak english, the other guy beheaded me... AWESOME

Sounding like an echo chamber in here, indeed,,, and I'm certainly not going to help that lol

This is still my all time favorite fighting game. As much as I love Guilty Gear and am excited for the BlazBlue sequels and iterations, nothing has ever captured the essence of a fight like Bushido Blade has.

I don't really feel most of the authors reasons for there never being a new are valid. Implementing a tourney mode really wouldn't be hard. I remember the 2p Vs mode having a kill counter at the top of the screen, if we just add some fancy time limits we immediately get the sense of urgency that other fighters have, as well as dumping the possibility of a match that lasts for hours The lack of flashy numbers is a negative, although a shallow one I think. Maybe make kills pop out in slow motion and artsy blood effects. A similar but much smaller effect for deep wounds.

There's a huge amount of promise in a new Bushido Blade style game. The #1 reason I think we won't be seeing one however, is that it's different from the norm. In a industry that gambles with budgets creeping towards Hollywood levels, trying something new is just too risky. We really need a market for lower budget games that aren't so low as to allow iPhone OS level gameplay only.

P.S.
How does on become a freelance writer for a company anyway? Are there job postings?

I found this game was ruinded by only having the chance to play with people who were so much better than me, that it was frustrating for me and boring for them. I suppose if I had the chance to learn from the beginning I might like this game more, but more often than not, I was the dude missing arms and legs just asking to be finished off...

Can we start a petition for a next gen Bushido blade? I had no idea so many people loved the game as much as I did.

How many other one on one videogame fights can you finish in seconds with a lethally thrown blade?

Playing Bushido Blade (both 1 and 2) at a friend's house during my younger years is one of my fondest memories. I've often wondered what a current-gen version of a realistic fighting game would be like. I think, as Johnathan mentioned in his article, there is a heavy emphasis on complexity and the sensational in many games today, not just those in the fighting genre.

A experiment with the uncluttered, realistic and challenging gameplay that a current-gen Bushido Blade could offer would be worthwhile, though difficult to implement.

I still play it from time to time with some of my friends. Just updated graphics and animations would be enough for me, to be honest. I don't really see the point of the nex/cur-gen treatment apart from visuals and audio. Maybe some classical japanese music and recitals here and there. High fidelity sword sounds, that kind of thing.

QTE and/or funky controllers wouldn't be Bushido Blade to me.

frozenfox:

A experiment with the uncluttered, realistic and challenging gameplay that a current-gen Bushido Blade could offer would be worthwhile, though difficult to implement.

How so? The only thing stopping them is the conservative nature of the genre which is really a poor excuse when you consider that it has been a rather bland genre in the past decade. The technology is there, the graphics are there, what's lacking is the willingness and desire to take the risk and do it.

Hazzaslagga:
This is the sort of game i'd love to play i've even talked to people and asked why there are no decent realistics sword fighting games. The only one that come close is mount and Blade but it's not really quite there

It's funny, I was going to say the same thing. I love Mount & Blade to death, and it is an amazing game, but it doesn't quite capture the feeling of Bushido Blade combat. Then again, I wasn't quite looking for BB combat from M&B for reasons obvious to anyone who has played M&B.

You know, I have hated almost every fighting game I played. I only ever took a liking to Bushido Blade and Die by the Sword (PC). All the others feel the same: Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Dead or Alive, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, etc... Why do people play all this copycat garbage? I suppose it's no better than all the FPS and RTS games coming out lately. C&C 4 = Starcraft 2 = Supreme Commander 2 = every other modern RTS. Many who liked the first Supreme Commander feel my pain.

Bushido Blade was sucessful enough to get a sequel, one released in the west, at that.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushido_Blade_2
The control was a lot tighter and the characters moved a lot faster,so much so that the fight against the pistolero no longer felt as unfair as it did in the original.
Besides developer-publisher disagreements, maybe one other reason why there hasn't been another BB just yet is that you haven't touched on is that they may think that they have advanced as far as that mode of one-hit one-on-one fighting game can go. If they add any more move-list complexity, it would be for naught if everything can be decided by a small practical set.
Still, even if they added things such as Melee battles(similar to the extra 1 against 100 challenge to unlock the gunfighter for player use)to the story mode and a more extensive defensive game,a character creation mode and even a few dismemberments for good measure, they might have something on the combo heavy fighting games.

I have one major gripe with Bushido Blade, one that remained years later when I sought it out for nostalgia's sake: controls are terrible for movement. Terrible.

How many games can you think of that require you to run, crouch while running, then immediately hit a stance-raise button just to jump? You could do it with just a step-forward crouch, but running made it a lot easier to pull this off. This was every jump. Not that jumping was a viable action at most points, but what you wanted to do it, it was a needlessly complex input for what should be a basic movement. Oh, and the jump itself was always the same incredibly high arc directly forward. No jumping in place or backwards. Forward arc.

That was really the worst offender, but all the movement controls in that game are...not user-friendly. The combat controls are fine, but positioning is a chore. I don't remember it getting much better in the sequel which suffered from having a much larger cast of forgettable and in some cases intended-for-comedy - I'm looking at you, Random Afro Guy - characters and even more stupid bosses at the end of each campaign - oh god that armored-everywhere guy is terrible; it's taken me over half an hour to land a hit on him while he's standing still - and...yeah, I generally think of the sequel as a worse game, but that's just me.

Aside from iffy movement controls and dated graphics, though...yeah, good times. Oh, and whoever said the single-player mode is too easy, were you unlocking the "good" endings easily, or just beating the game? I agree it's not hard to just get from the beginning to the end, but try doing it without taking any injuries whatsoever and getting the minimum number of kills possible. That's not easy, at least it wasn't for me. (Hint: you have to lead your first attacker all the way through the opening stages and jump into the sewer to fight him/her there. That skips from the first fight to the last of the opening rounds - only two battles instead of four/five - sparing several lives.) If you get hit - doesn't have to be fatal, any hit at all, even from a thrown weapon - you have to start over from the beginning because you won't unlock the second ending.

Have fun with that. I think I've only unlocked 3 of 6 characters. (...the endings aren't worth the work it takes to unlock them, to be honest. But it's a challenge anyway!)

More games would benefit from having honor enforcement, I think. I wonder what the BB judge would have to say about a teabagger...

I remember this game fondly. I had it until I got my first PS2. There was a disc read error when I would try to play BB on the PS2, so I begrudgingly got rid of the game since I had used my PS1 as trade on the PS2...

I remember playing that game forever i have a hard time remembering all the environments but there where a lot. I remember beating the last character in the game while crawling on one knee with one arm with one low slash to the stomach when he went for a downward strike. I'm pretty sure my weapon was always the shorter katana.

I forget how far i had gotten on the arcade mode(if thats what it was called), something like a red and black or maybe gold and something ninja group. Incredible game and besides the original tekken the only fighting game i got into.

It takes balls to wrestle ninjas for food if they can one-shot you.

Shjade:
Oh, and whoever said the single-player mode is too easy, were you unlocking the "good" endings easily, or just beating the game? I agree it's not hard to just get from the beginning to the end, but try doing it without taking any injuries whatsoever and getting the minimum number of kills possible. That's not easy, at least it wasn't for me.

Other than the general uniqueness of the game (and, yes, the extremely poor movement controls) this is what I remember most; how insanely difficult it was to get some of the good endings. It wasn't even a question of just knowing what you had to do, which was in itself often complex, but even if you knew what to do executing it was crushingly hard.

As for a new BB game.. I don't know, I think it's the sort of think that would be perfect as a high quality downloadable title. Almost a sword fighting sandbox game with different areas to visit and a minimal storyline. It really does seem too "simple" for it to be a full retail game now a days though. I can imagine if it was made and released to retail, it would sell terribly. As a downloadable title for Live or PSN, however, it could be perfect.

StriderShinryu:
I don't know, I think it's the sort of think that would be perfect as a high quality downloadable title. Almost a sword fighting sandbox game with different areas to visit and a minimal storyline. It really does seem too "simple" for it to be a full retail game now a days though.

Hm. A sandbox samurai game. "Like GTA but without cars and working for honor instead of crime?"

I dunno. I'd say "I'd have to at least try a game like that," but I don't own any of the relevant consoles and that doesn't sound like a PC game to me. ... Actually it sounds sorta like it'd be Assassin's Creed-ish in (obviously?) Japan. Without the parkour-over-rooftops bit, maybe, which would be a considerable loss.

I dunno about too simple. The more I think about it the more the sound of this game idea appeals to me.

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