Blood Will Tell Review
Osamu Tezuka's storyline alone makes Blood Will Tell worth playing.
Inspired by the Dororo anime series that dates back to the '60s, Blood Will Tell is a third-person action game in which you assume the role of an unusual samurai named Hyakkimaru. "Unusual" is something of an understatement, actually, given that the focus of the game's intriguing storyline is Hyakkimaru's quest to regain 48 body parts that were stolen from him by demons (known as fiends) as an infant. Accompanying Hyakkimaru for much of his quest is a young thief named Dororo who can be given simple instructions and, at certain points during the game, can become a fully playable character. The late Osamu "Astro Boy" Tezuka's storyline is arguably the best feature of Blood Will Tell, but the gameplay is certainly good enough to ensure that reaching the story's conclusion--which you will want to do--is a pleasure rather than a chore. Another of the game's most notable features is that it contains around 60 boss-style battles, although the game's often erratic camera system is undoubtedly the enemy that will give you the most trouble.
At the start of the game, Hyakkimaru's body is largely man made and, as such, comes with some pretty impressive extras--sword arms and a knee-mounted cannon, for example. You won't lose any of the abilities that these modifications afford you as you progress through the game and as Hyakkimaru becomes more human, but you will gain a number of additional ones. Each of Hyakkimaru's missing body parts is being held by a different fiend, and the only way for you to get them back is to defeat the fiends in boss battles that are dotted throughout the entire game. Every body part you collect will improve Hyakkimaru's attributes in some way (he has ratings for health, attack power, regeneration rate, luck, speed, endurance, and so on), and a number of them will actually grant him new abilities.
One of the first body parts you'll retrieve, for example, is his left eye--which allows you to see the game in color for the first time. Other missing body parts worthy of note include: ears, which improve balance and allow you to land on your feet after you're attacked; the left leg, which grants you the dash ability; and the nose, which causes the PlayStation 2 controller to rumble when Hyakkimaru senses that one of the 48 fiends is nearby. The character progression in Blood Will Tell actually works very well, and it is made more interesting by the fact that it's nonlinear (you can't help but miss one or two fiends on some levels the first time you play through). The more that you play the game, in fact, the better it gets--the storyline twists and turns like an upchuck-inducing roller coaster, Hyakkimaru's attack combos become longer and more powerful, and the lesser demons that try to hinder your progress through all seven of the game's main chapters (it's possible--and definitely worthwhile--to unlock an eighth chapter) become much more varied.
In addition to his built-in arsenal, Hyakkimaru is able to employ various swords that you'll find as you progress through the game. All of your melee attacks and combos change when you choose to use a single sword as opposed to the sword arms, but all are executed using just two attack buttons. New swords will invariably allow you to deal out more damage than you ever could with the basic blade you start out with, and they can also offer additional benefits, such as: protection against poison, fire, ice, or lightning attacks; improved luck; occasional one-hit kills; or increased speed. Many of the swords (and other desirable items) in the game are quite well hidden or, at the very least, will require you to go out of your way to find them. For this reason alone, it's well worth taking the time to explore each area, to smash open any crates and urns that you find, and to kill all of the demons that you encounter (even if you don't find anything great, you'll notice that your combat skills level up pretty frequently). At the very least, you can expect to find a bunch of health-restoring rice balls and temporary power-ups when you stray from the most obvious route through a level. You'll also invariably find small quantities of medicine scattered throughout each level, and while these do very little for the most part, you'll be rewarded with an extra life (up to a maximum of three, depending on how far through the game you are) each time you collect 100 of them.
Perhaps the easiest way to collect items when your health is running low is to make use of Hyakkimaru's slice attack. By powering up for a moment before attacking an enemy, you'll be able to deliver a paralyzing blow that gives you an opportunity to perform some particularly devastating combos without fear of retaliation--although any other enemies nearby can still attack you. During slice attacks, you have to enter randomly generated button sequences within a time limit before you hit the triangle button to finish your assault. There's no minimum or maximum number of blows that you can land, but the number of items surrendered by your enemy when its ordeal is over with is directly proportionate to how well you do. Your enemies in the game, incidentally, come in well over 100 different forms, and they include 48 fiends and 60 demons. You'll fight skeletal warriors, ravens, specters, guardian dogs, soldiers, rock golems, demon foxes, Sasquatch, death otters, zombie moles, and undead frogs, to name but a few. The enemies are a mixed bunch, for sure, but unfortunately the tactics you need to employ in order to defeat them are far less varied.
In addition to the regular attacks and combos at his disposal, Hyakkimaru is able to employ spirit attacks, which can only be performed when his spirit meter--which fills up every time you hit an enemy or collect certain items--is full. You'll start the game with only one spirit attack available, but if you make a point of exploring as you progress through the game you'll find scrolls that unlock additional spirit attack options. We finished up with five the first time we played the game through, but while each had its uses, none of them were really any better than the one with which you'll start the game.