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TVG goes off to hunt down the 48 fiends in this adaptation of Tezuka Osamu’s classic story...
February has certainly been a busy month for SEGA, which has seen the company release a raft of titles including the update of the MasterSystem/Megadrive/Genesis title Altered Beast, the videogame adaptation of the anime Astroboy, as well as Blood Will Tell, an adaptation of the classic Japanese comic strip â??Dororoâ?, which ran in Japanese comic book â??Weekly Shonen Sundayâ? between 1967 and 1968. Incidentally, both Blood Will Tell (which was published in Japan as â??Dororoâ?) and Astroboy were the brainchildren of the Godfather of Manga â?“ Tezuka Osamu. Blood Will Tell isnâ??t the first time that the story of Hyakkimaru & Dororo have been told away from the paper and ink of the comicstrip; the year after the serialisation in Shonen Sunday ended, a 28 episode series anime of Dororo was broadcast on Japanese TV, and much like the TV series the videogame follows the events of the comic strip quite closely.
The storyline of Blood Will Tell (and Dororo) wouldnâ??t seem out of place in a collection of Japanese mythologies. Set in the feudal era of Japan, the story sees the separation of the Sun, so that one remains radiating light, whilst the new dark sun is black with a blue corona. The evil demons or â??fiendsâ? at the time feared their destruction after interpreting the double suns as a bad omen. They foresaw that the birth of a child would cause their obliteration and sought the would be father of the child. They tricked him into thinking that in exchange for his unborn son he would have the power to calm the chaos that was raging throughout the country. When the child was eventually born, the demons removed 48 of the childâ??s body parts and organs and he was cast into a basket form the river where he was found by a man called Jukai who raised the boy as his own. Over the years he discovered that the boy, whom he called Hyakkimaru, had a sixth sense that enabled him to telepathically communicate with him. Jukai made the child false limbs and when Hyakkimaru realised that his destiny was to destroy the 48 demons who stole his organs and limbs, Jukai fitted him with a rapid-fire cannon in one arm and a heavy cannon in one leg. He also fitted the boyâ??s arms with two swords, which is where the game begins.
Woah! So there it isâ?¦itâ??s some exposition, and whilst itâ??s something that we in TVG Towers try to avoid wherever possible, the fact of the matter is that there is quite an in-depth back-story to the game as a result of its manga heritage.
For a majority of the time in the single-player game, youâ??ll be playing as Hyakkimaru, although you do get to play as Dororo during certain segments. Blood Will Tell does allow for a second player to join in too, and in that case they will take control of the thief-boy sidekick Dororo. In the early part of the game including the prologue sections the game is played in black and white (which SEGA are quick to point out is not a problem with your TV, PS2, or disk â?“ which was quite reassuring.)
The game is a third person action/adventure game with RPG elements, so youâ??ll find yourself in familiar territory here. What makes Blood Will Tell ever so slightly stand out amongst such an over-saturated genre is its mythological narrative and itâ??s â??biology-classâ? quality whenever Hyakkimaru vanquishes a demon and reclaims a body part â?“ if you ever feel the need to learn the key organs, then Blood Will Tell is the game for you.
The control system in the game is very standard and for those of you who have played the new version of Altered Beast the majority of the controls will feel very familiar to you. Aside from the usual jump, moderate and strong attacks, Blood Will Tell also includes a rather interesting way of integrating combos into the combat system; if you hold your strong attack button down and then release it, youâ??ll engage in a frantic button-pressing situation where youâ??ll have to decide the best place to hit the triangle again before being beaten by the clock; achieving a certain number of hits in a combo sequence will reward you with various health replenishments and the like. Quick reflexes and a good sense of timing are essential in being able to pull of a high combo (we managed to get up to a 16 hit combo, but getting beyond 20 hits is definitely possible), and again this adds to the overall originality of the title.
Blood Will Tell also uses a gauge that fills up as you start to defeat opponents, which when filled (indicated by flashing) allows Hyakkimari to use the â??Spirit Powerâ? attacks, the Blood Will Tell equivalent of going absolutely berserk. Whilst the attack certainly becomes useful against the 48 fiend demons the over-the-top attack hits and misses enemies in equal measure.
Thereâ??s no denying that Blood Will Tell is a nice looking game â?“ it was one of the positive aspects that we raised about the title at the Tokyo Games Show in 2004. Having only seen still images of the animated series in research, we can only comment that the models of Hyakkimaru and Dororo are awesome representatives of those anime characters, right down to the recurring pattern on Hyakkimaruâ??s robes.
Even though Dororoâ??s attacks are limited to throwing stones and punches in equal measure, he is no match for the dual sword wielding heavy artillery legged Hyakkimaru â?“ there may not be an endless supply of Crouching Tiger style combos, and neither do the moves really flow into each other as in Ninja Gaiden, but nothing beats slashing down a couple of demons before opening fire with your inbuilt machine gun and mowing down the remaining cohorts.
The gameâ??s bosses, which we can only assume are also close representations of their anime counterparts are also fine, although they arenâ??t done to quite the same level of detail that the two main characters enjoy. Also the learning curve of the bosses does seem to run at an even pace and runs parallel to the difficulty of the game â?“ youâ??ll defeat the early bosses with relative ease after vanquishing several dozen of their minions with the flair any samurai ninja would be proud of.
Level design may not be the most inspired ever, and the camera does annoyingly have a habit of jumping from freestyle to a static camera; also, the levels are very linear and there are few opportunities for you to explore some of the more open environments.
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