A few years ago, the Dreamcast was graced with a title called Sword of the Berserk, a separate side story for a series of manga known simply as Berserk. It was an entertaining, if flawed, action game primarily based around cleaving monsters in half with an enormous broadsword known as the Dragonslayer. The new not-really-sequel now shares the same title of the manga, and it follows that specific story instead of carving its own path like the other, while adding bunches of cool new stuff to just about every facet.
Ultimately, how much one truly enjoys Berserk will probably fall very well in with how much one loves the color red. It's not that the backgrounds, enemies, or even the hero Guts himself starts off dressed in such, it's that within a few seconds of pressing buttons it becomes almost impossible to not cover the screen in blood. From the very first connected swing, the unlucky creature will split into pieces, spraying blood through the air and leaving a stain on the mighty Dragonslayer itself. As Guts hacks his way through groups of helpless cannon fodder, his entire body and cape will become drenched in the viscous liquid, staining his once silver-and-brown outfit. It's a feature I've longed to see for many years. Decimate enough enemies and Guts gets access to a berserker mode, which makes everything even redder with yet more blood spraying everywhere as he plows through twice as fast. This man could single-handedly save the Red Cross Bloodmobile thousands in gas bills yearly.
The aforementioned slaying is a relatively simple and straightforward matter, with the primary potential strategy coming from crowd control. The attack button doesn't deliver the usual three or five hit combo but instead is an unlimited constant swing, continually changing specifics based on when and how far Guts turns while attacking. As he plows ahead, he'll turn as fast as he can in any direction that's pressed to immediately re-direct his kill line, allowing for 360 degrees of death at any time. Granted, that speed isn't the fastest around, since Guts is wielding a sword bigger then he is, but never having to stop makes up for it.
There's also an experience point system mixed in there, with a base amount given on what was killed and then a bonus depending on how many enemies were combo-killed. Guts' slow swing speed can severely hinder this, as continuing the combo is reliant on deaths and merely hurting something won't sustain it. What the experience goes towards I haven't the faintest, since no rewards were shown.
He can also shift into a strafing position that allows for the more commonly used canned combo, which moves quicker but trades off with being unable to alter the aim once begun. The strafing ability doubles as a fairly good lock-on when faced with something major like the boss, Ogre (or as the Japanese write it, "Ogle"), which helps nicely with keeping his sword straight on one target. Guts can also normally charge up the sword to perform a spinning swing attack, but if used when the Ogre has been wounded it instead turns into a new technique: Guts will perform one of a few scripted actions, such as bashing out the knees, climbing onto its back, and then skewering it with the Dragonslayer. It adds a nice personal touch to cutting apart a boss.
Guts retains his secondary items of grenades, a crossbow, a very powerful single-shot gun, and now also adds a group of helpers. These are teammates that can be called in for a single action, like healing, freezing all enemies in place, creating a small damaging circle of fire, or powering himself up. Instead of finding objects along the way to replenish the supply of any of the above like traditional games of the genre, merely beating the crap out of everyone in sight will suffice in re-energizing any used items or partners.
The main problem here seems to be that the best of Berserk is primarily the touches, things like clipping a creature and watching as its arm flies off, making it cry out and paw at its missing limb. Playing the game isn't terribly satisfying outside of fulfilling a virtual bloodlust, although this is most likely the problem of being forced to play on Easy for the demo. The block button is superfluous and the dash (which can be turned into an uppercut) is just as unnecessary when considering how brain-dead the enemies are mindlessly walking towards Guts. Chances are, with one of the three higher difficulty levels turned on it becomes a much more intense experience that requires some sense of planning and attention. Considering how nice the underlying ideas and gameplay are here, it would be a shame to otherwise waste them.
Watch the trailer (QuickTime, 480 x 360, 1:43, 11.7MB)
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