The advertising was sexist and it's yet another combat game, but surprisingly enough there's a lot of class about it. It's nearly two years since Way Of The Exploding Fist started off the constant stream of combat games and it's possible that this could revive the genre.
The concept is simple enough and hasn't changed since Fist. Two guys fight it out in 2D until one of them gets hit enough times. In this fight, the combatants are armed with swords and you've got to battle to release a fair princess (yawn!). There are three forms of fight: one player against the computer in practice, one player against the computer for real, and two players.
There are two different backgrounds for the practice fighting and two for the real thing. You can only play with two players in the practice mode, where the rules are also different. The four backgrounds are all superbly drawn and detailed, adding a nice atmospheric touch.
The fighters are all the same muscle-bound warriors but with varying flesh hues and different-coloured jerkins. They are stunningly animated through sixteen possible moves with many intervening frames. The moves are split into two types: movement without the Fire button pressed and attacking strokes with the button pressed.
The more defensive movement commands include forward and backward rolls, crouching, jumping and protecting the head and body with the sword. The attacks are very varied including a head-butt, web of death (spinning sword) and overhead chop.
Whenever an attack contacts the opponent, a red flash indicates the hit. This will reduce the strength of the opponent - it starts off at six and is reduced by a half for every hit. When no strength is left the fighter will collapse and get dragged off screen by a little green monster looking like a cross between a toad and ET.
There is an even more spectacular way to dispatch opponents, which is not for the faint-hearted. If you successfully time a flying neck chop it will end the fight immediately: your opponent's head flies into the air and his torso flops to the ground spurting blood. This gruesome sight isn't easy to achieve except against the early computer opponents. It's really hilarious when it happens. The green monster will appear once again. As well as dragging away the body, he unceremoniously boots the bonce off screen.
There are seven computer opponents of increasing cunning and skill. The harder ones require a lot of moves rather than just relying on two or three. The two-player game can obviously be a lot more fun and unpredictable. Each bout has a time limit. If you leave a fighter unmoved, he'll turn to you and shrug his shoulders.
The graphics and animation are unsurpassed, the music excellent, the action difficult, and the sense of humour great. However, let's face it: it's a combat game pure and simple. The basic concept and action hasn't changed at all since the days of Fist, and I find it hard to get excited about the format. What the game has going for it is that it combines the graphics, animation, speed and gameplay of all the other combat games to make a very playable one. You'll be delighted at first, but with all the tarting-up in the world you can't disguise the basic gameplay.
I think this is one of the best-presented games this year. The graphics (colourful and detailed) are superb, animation is flicker-free and fast (unlike previous combat games), sound is scintillating and effects satisfying. It's a thrill to play the game: the action is furious and addictive.
Little touches spruce up the overall effect: four background scenes, snake heads that move when a player is hit, an ET lookalike that drags corpses off the battlefield and a great scene where either your head or your opponent's head gets cut-off.
A wonderful game that deserves to be played.
Defeat three computer fighters.
Couldn't be clearer.
P. Four detailed, atmospheric backdrops.
P. Fantastically animated characters.
P. Pleasant tune plays throughout the action.
Grab Factor 90%
P. Delightful touches of humour.
N. Instantly playable with fast actions.
Staying Power 83%
P. Computer is tough and two players is always fun.
N. Still basically a combat game - a strong limiting factor.
The best of the combat games.