Kengo: Master of Bushido Preview

The ultra-realistic Bushido Blade games made waves as truly revolutionary fighting games. Lightweight is now developing a Bushido Blade sequel, in spirit if not in name, for the PlayStation 2. Check out our preview with information straight from the developer.

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Fighting games aren't traditionally about realism. Capcom and SNK fighters feature outlandish, exaggerated moves like spiritual fireballs and death-defying leaps, not to mention some wild character designs. The Namco variety of fighter does away with such unbelievable action in favor of strict martial arts or weapon-based combat. This ostensibly creates a more refined fighter, but even hits like Soul Calibur utilize lethal weapons that would kill a real-life opponent in one hearty slash. The Bushido Blade series, then, has emerged in the face of such popular titles as an unlikely success. The original game and its sequel, both for PlayStation, center around a fighting model that is unparalleled in its realism. Whether it takes ten minutes of combat or a single thrust of the katana, Bushido Blade's fights end only when one opponent has fallen before the other. Bushido Blade is a Square-published series, but now developer Lightweight has gone solo by forging ahead on PlayStation 2. In Kengo, the developer is creating a direct successor to Bushido Blade, in spirit if not in name.

Kengo maintains the same gameplay model that made its predecessors popular: two warriors square off with a weapon of each player's choice, utilizing a variety of fighting styles, until one character is slain. Players have an unequaled amount of control over their weapons, and unlike other weapon-based fighting games, complex interaction between each fighter's weapons is possible, such as blocking, parrying, and countering of moves. Location-based damage will also factor heavily into Kengo's gameplay. Injure an opponent's leg and he'll limp slowly along, or take out both of a fighter's arms to render him nearly defenseless. Unlike most fighters, whose battles take place in tightly constrained arenas, Kengo's backgrounds are sprawling outdoor environments with varied topography and an assortment of interactive elements.

Though the basic gameplay is the same, Lightweight is making several changes to differentiate Kengo from the Bushido Blade games. Foremost among these changes is the new ki, or spirit, meter, which gauges a character's remaining stamina and attack power. Repeated use of special moves, for instance, will drain ki, so more powerful attacks will require judicious use to remain effective. An additional enhancement to Bushido Blade's gameplay is the ability of Kengo's characters to evolve over time. Each character has initial stats in categories like attacking, movement, and evasion. Through experience, however, these stats can be increased, and new abilities and techniques can be learned. Dojos will provide the opportunity to run through training exercises so a character can perfect new fighting styles. After you're confident that you've mastered all a dojo has to offer, you can challenge the school's master to truly prove yourself.

Dojos aren't the only way to add new moves to your character's repertoire, though. The trusty katana is Kengo's main instrument of offense, but a multitude of additional weapons will be available for the game's characters to use. Each weapon carries with it a bevy of new moves, as well as a special move that can only be used when a character's ki meter is maxed out. Lightweight tells us they're shooting for nine or ten weapons, 20 stages, and over two dozen characters, so with the ability to develop a character over time and equip him or her with new weapons, the combinations for two-player battles should be virtually endless.

For Kengo, Lightweight has shifted development to PlayStation 2, and this will no doubt affect the game's creation in some way. Aside from the enormous graphical potential, PlayStation 2 features vastly improved facilities for such things as physics simulation and artificial intelligence, both of which would be well utilized in a game like Kengo. Of course, time will tell to what advantage PS2's hardware is used for games like this, but as Lightweight says, on the PS2, the sky is the limit. Look for Kengo to hit stores early next year.

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