This week I’m fast forwarding a couple decades from the games of 80’s to the games of the early 2000’s. Actually, I’m stopping right on the year 2000 for this weeks review and playing Sword of the Beserk – Guts’ Rage for the Sega Dreamcast. This was a tricky game for me to review since it was born out of the world of Japanese Manga. The universe of Manga is massive and it’s never easy to just jump into the middle of a Manga storyline and know what’s going on. It can also be a little scary since jumping in blind can lead you to things like images of the girl mouse named Gadget, from Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers, getting double teamed by Chip and Dale while Monteray Jack video tapes it, truly haunting imagery.
Sword of the Beserk was developed by Yuke’s Future Media Creators and published by Eidos Interactive. It was released in Japan in 1999 and then in the U.S. and Europe the following year. Now, a lot of you may have heard the name Eidos Interactive before if you’re big Tomb Raider fans. As for Yuke’s Future Media Creators though, wait, who? Yuke’s is the developer behind the WWF and WWE video games released over the last decade. They’re also responsible for the UFC Undisputed franchise. There’s a few more games in the Yuke’s portfolio but the wrestling and MMA games are their bread and butter.
Now, I mentioned earlier that this game is born out of the world of Japanese Manga. The original Manga series, Beserk, launched back in 1990 and spanned 36 volumes which appeared in the Manga Magazine, Young Animal. In the late 90’s, the series became an Anime TV series which spanned 25 episodes. After the TV show, it became a full feature Anime movie series with the last installment being released this past February. So where does the video game fit into this expansive story? Well, it’s rooted in the Manga comics with its storyline taking place between volumes 22 and 23.
Since there’s 36 volumes of the Manga comic, you’d figure that jumping in so late would make it difficult for gamers to get into. This isn’t the case as the games storyline seems to be neatly snuck in between volumes 22 and 23 with its beginning being based on the end of volume 22 and its end smoothly flowing into volume 23. So, the main story of the comic takes a slight detour in the game but eventually the game works its way back to the comic.
The story itself follows Guts, a.k.a The Dark Swordsman. He’s a member of the Band of the Hawk, a mercenary group. The leader and members of the Band of the Hawk eventually turn on each other and the story goes on with the Band being broken apart leaving Guts to fight the now corrupt and evil former leader and members of the mercenary group on his own. During the story, Guts forges relationships with an elf named Puck and woman named Casca, which are both in the story of the video game. That’s about as brief as I can be about the story without turning the review into a full on Manga-fest. The story is pretty deep with a large cast of characters so I’m going to refer you to the comic if you wanna know the whole story.
Guts, Casca, and Puck meet a young girl named Rita who leads them to a large village and castle. Once there, they find out that the villagers are being infected with a disease that transforms them into “Mandragorans” or “Zombies.” The outbreak is being caused by a plant called the Mandragora plant which grows underground in a nearby village. The plant has little arms and legs and when it’s uprooted, will scream. The scream will kill anyone within earshot so these plants aren’t meant to be fucked with. Hmmm…little plants with arms and legs with a fatal scream? Where have I seen this before? I know, the Mandragora plant is the same fucking thing as the Mandrake plant from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets! Looks like J.K. has a little explaining to do.
Anyways, a man named Balzac, which sounds exactly like ball sack when anyone in the game says it, recruits Guts to help him find a cure for the Mandragoran disease. This cure may also help Casca, the woman that Guts meets earlier in the Manga storyline, since she is in some sort of trance which she falls under in the storyline before the video game. Balzac sends Guts to find the heart of the Great Tree, which he believes will help cure the villagers infected by the Mandragora plant. Turns out, Balzac only wants the heart for himself so he can transform himself into a super powered Mandragoran. Going through the story of this game I can’t help but be reminded of the storyline from Prototype. Shit, even the Mandragoran zombies look very similar to the creatures found in Prototype. Did big shot Hollywood producers and game studios of today think that gamers would never play Sword of the Beserk or see the comics or cartoons of it?
Sword of the Beserk is a third person hack and slash game. Guts has an ENORMOUS sword which he uses to completely slice apart anything in his path. He also has some secondary weapons in his arsenal like a wrist mounted crossbow, a small wrist mounted cannon, and a variety of punching attacks. You can sheathe and unsheathe your sword quickly to change up attacks as needed. Even though you can quickly change your weapons, stick with the sword, it’s by far your most powerful weapon. Also, since you face multiple enemies at once that come at you from multiple directions all throughout this game, using the larger screen clearing sword attacks is your best bet at surviving large waves of enemies.
Sword of the Beserk Game Play
There’s one last ability that Guts has and that’s Beserk mode. Basically, it’s a combo bonus. When you successfully land multiple blows on enemies in a row, Guts will go Beserk which means he goes into a brief mode of invincibility and his attacks do more damage. Also during Beserk Mode, Guts can use his sword to break down walls. This is handy because when you’re trying to fight enemies in a small room or area, you can’t fully swing your sword because it hits walls or nearby objects because it’s so goddamn huge. However, while in Beserk mode, your sword will go right through walls and other things allowing you to make short work of enemies in confined spaces.
Before I move on, there’s one last thing this game does that seemingly, all other modern games do now, quick time events. In fact, this was one of the first games to use quick time events. This game is chalk full of cut scenes scattered throughout the game with some leading into brief quick time events. The first time I saw a QTE in this game, I nearly threw down my controller in disgust. “This has to be the most ripped off game in the history of video games!” I yelled. “Now this game is a mix of Resident Evil, Prototype, Harry Potter, AND God of War!” Seriously, it’s hard to get over everything you see that’s been stolen from this game while you’re playing it.
Overall, the game play is fairly smooth and I only have a couple minor gripes about it. First, the camera is awful. Ok, it’s not awful but it’s not good. I guess it’s what I should’ve expected from a game like this that was released over a decade ago. Still though, it gets really frustrating at times when the camera won’t turn so you can’t see where some enemies are coming from which means you end up just swinging your sword blindly hoping to hit something. This can also make the game frustrating to control, mainly during combat sequences.
Secondly, there’s not enough game play. This game is loaded, and I mean fucking loaded, with cut scenes. I understand there’s a lot of information that needs to be relayed to the gamer since the story of Beserk is so massive but Jesus Christ, there’s almost no video game here. Some game play sequences lead into 3-4 cut scene sequences before actual game play resumes. These aren’t short cut scenes either, each one is almost a mini anime episode, they’re fucking long! You can skip over the cut scenes but sometimes a cut scene will reveal an important piece of information and then you’ll find yourself standing there not knowing what to do next when the game resumes because you skipped everything.
This game looks good. Not as good as I think it could have looked but it doesn’t look bad. Games like Soul Caliber and Ikaruga seem to be better detailed than this game and that’s too bad because just slightly more crisp and detailed graphics could have really pushed this game over the top. In the end, this is a Dreamcast game with just a touch of Nintendo 64 detailing mixed in.
The sound in this game is great. So good in fact that it almost helps out the graphics. The slicing and crunching sounds your sword makes as you perform melee attacks through crowds of zombie like creatures really gives you a sense of impact. God of War for example, severely lacks in this department since the sound of weapon contact is so light that what your left with is a hack and slash game with a lot of slash and no hack.
As for music, this games soundtrack was actually a pretty big deal back when it was released separately from the game in Japan back in 1999. The music composer for the Anime series also did the music for this game. Even though the story of this game deviates a little from the main story, this small detail makes the game feel more like volume 22.5 than a separate video game adaptation that’s separate from the comics and cartoons. The soundtrack was even released with collectors materials enclosed.
Collectibility – Very Sought After
This was the only game made based on the Beserk Manga and Anime series so therefore it does have some serious collector appeal. Games like this are a big deal in Japan so American and European releases see a spill over affect because of it. It’s also a pretty solid game that’s fun to play if you enjoy watching Anime with some game play mixed in here and there. A complete in box copy will only run you about $20-$30 dollars so go ahead and pick it up if you see it. It’s a must buy if you see it going for less than that.
Average Value – $16 loose, $32 Complete in Box
Rarity – Very Sought After with a 60% rating on RarityGuide.com
Happy Gaming and Happy Collecting!
Follow me on Twitter @PatsGameReviews or check out the Play On! Podcast right here on Planet Arbitrary!