What's the point, you might ask, in a fighting game where you can be dead in seconds, penalised for behaving badly, or, for that matter where you can just run away and hide? Run away and hide? In a fighting game? Um, like hello? Isn't that just totally game over?
But this is Bushido Blade from Squaresoft; and this is fighting re-invented. 'Bushido' is a Japanese word referring to the moral code and sense of honour developed among the Samurai and apparently first used in the civil war in Japan in the 16th century. Influenced by the national tradition of Zen and Confucianism, the Bushido code demanded kindness, honesty and loyalty; as well as the more familiar slash and burn qualities. Bushido Blade reflects this in the way that your behaviour during a fight will affect later stages of the game. There are rules, and if you break them, your success could be in jeopardy.
The game features a huge 3-D environment in which the action takes place; and you can literally run anywhere within it whilst pursuing your foes, or hide and wait to ambush an opponent. The environment is fully interactive: you can fight in bamboo forests (where the trees get in your way), or chase an opponent knee-deep in a river. You can also choose to play in standard second person, or the POV (first person) view which gives you an even more authentic experience.
Besides the 2-Player mode (split-screen or via a link cable) there is also Slash mode, where you are given a mission of defeating 100 armed ninjas in succession; and the innovative and fascinating Story mode which weaves a complete storyline into your numerous battles. You fight as a deserter from the secret assassin group known as Kage, the aim being to survive until you can find an escape route concealed somewhere in the confines of a ruined castle tower...
Bushido Blade takes a completely new approach to combat, with a selection of weapons for each character and various 'stances' both affecting the range of attack moves available. New special moves become available depending on which stance your character assumes. The system of simply taking a hit whilst blocking an opponent is gone too. Instead, Bushido Blade makes you actively work at your defence - by parrying your opponent's blade you can actually turn defensive moves into successful counter attacks.
Bushido Blade takes the fighting genre onto a higher plane. Now, you could sit down honourably and meditate on this whilst communing with the elements. Chances are though, someone will creep up behind you with a large sword. Eat your heart out Confucius... before someone else does.