In order to give it the attention it deserves, I've decided that for the month of June, I'd give myself a break from the Wii and360 and remind myself of how great the Dreamcast is. I started on the 2nd of June and played a few sessions of Crazy Taxi and SWWS 2000 (Euro Edition) to get me in the mood. Then I played a 'ten minute' blast on Soul Calibur, which then got me (as well as my three sons) hooked for a few days, whilst I made my way through Mission Mode and started to unlock all thos lovely art cards, costumes, arenas and weapons...
But enough of going over 'old ground'. What dusky gems and hidden treasures could I find deep in the bowels of my newly ordered Dreamcast collection? What underplayed classics, what gaming marvels might make my Dreamcast June a month to remember?
Having managed to tear myself away from Soul Calibur, I perused my stack of games and finally plumped for a one eyed man with a massive chopper. That's right, the legendary Sword Of the Beserk...
For research purposes, I read this review on Planet Dreamcast, which rather succinctly gave me the background story to the release of the game. (I'd recommend you always check out the PDC games guides if you're going to buy or play a Dreamcast game, they're quite open minded and usually on the money.
Make no mistake, this is a bizarre game if you've never known anything about it's characters (and pretty bizarre even if you do...) But the back story goes something like this... *clears throat and begins reading from PDC review...*
" For those of you intending on buying the game, a little background is necessary, as the game itself provides very little background about its characters. Sword of the Berserk is based on the Japanese manga series Kenpu Denki Berserk, which is drawn by Kentarou Miura and which was serialized by Young Animal Magazine. The comic also enjoyed popularity as an animated series on Japanese TV.
The background story revolves around the adventures of Guts (Gatsu in Japanese), a strong and skilled swordsman who wanders a medieval land on a quest to destroy the members of God Hand, a group of dark angels and demons who destroyed all he ever cared about. Armed with his giant sword DragonSlayer, he searches for them relentlessly.
On the back of his neck is a mysterious brand, which attracts creatures of the night while making him virtually indestructible in combat. This brand, given to him by the God Hand, serves as a tracking device. Eventually the members of God Hand catch up to Guts, and while he puts up a struggle, it is not enough to prevent his lover Casca from being brutally raped before his eyes. While being held down and forced to watch, his right eye is gouged out by one of the restraining demons. This is where the game picks up the story."
Right! Got that? Good!!! I'll carry on. First of all, if you are not a fan of cut scenes (I rather like them) avoid this game at all costs!!! There's over an hour's worth of the little blighters in there. These cut scenes join up the action giving the game a very cinematic feel, and to use a cliche'd phrase, the game is something of an interactive movie.
The story isn't great, but it isn't bad either. Gut's and his entourage, including his 'raped senseless' Mrs, his naked male fairy 'Puck' (stay with me) and a group of travelling performers arrive in a typical medieval town. Only it's overrun with very freakish looking mutants, who have been effected and taken over by the dreaded Mandragora plant.
Now naturally, the lion faced leader of the village - named Ball Sack - I fucking kid you not!!!!
(Alright it's Balzac) is keen to get the situation under control. He employs Guts to go into the Mandagoran village and steal the living heart of the great Mandragoran tree. Only it's protected by this Nun, see? And she is no way going to let some monocular steroid abuser come in and start battering her Mandragoran offspring....
OK I give up on the story. It's freaky deaky and doesn't make a whole heap of sense. You're either going to love it or hate it. I'd say my affections fall on the love side so far...
The graphics are somewhat, well... rubbish. If you can throw yourself back to 1999 (and I always could before that pesky 360 got in the way...) I guess they're OK, but when you look at the glorious graphics of, say, Soul Calibur, Shenmue, Dead Or Alive 2 or Headhunter, you wonder why some developers settled for second best. They're somewhere between Blue Stinger, Death Crimson OX and Half Life. Still, graphics do not maketh a game, and I have to say that sometimes they do look pretty decent.
In fitting with the cinematic feel of the game, both the musical score and the voice acting are pretty damn good! A criticism of the game is that it's too short. That suits me down to the ground. Half Life proved to me that epic games can grow stale after a while...
Now to the gameplay. It's pretty much a repetitive hack and slash between cut scenes. The control methods are pretty straight forward and each time Guts gets in a good old hit there's a lovely sound and a satisfying spray of blood... He sometimes gets his whopping chopper stuck down a tight back passage though (!) and swinging to no avail is pretty frustrating in a confined area. Guts also seems to have some sort of a crossbow thingy and some bombs of some sort, but although I'm quite far into the game, they've been pretty useless so far.
All in all it's definitely not the worst of Dreamcast games, but it aint up there with the best either. A slightly conservative Krishna rating of 7/10!