Sword of the Berserk: Guts’ Rage (Available exclusively on SEGA Dreamcast)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Yuke’s Media Creations
Release Date: February 29th, 2000
Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Sword of the Berserk M for mature because of animated blood and gore and animated violence. Enemies can be decapitated, cut in half, and more. Clearly this isn’t for younger players.
Plays Like: Sword of the Berserk reminds me of an old-school hack and slash arcade game. The type of game where you just run around linear environments killing everything in your path until you eventually reach a boss. The only difference here is that it’s a solo affair and there are more cutscenes than there are gameplay stages.
Review Basis: Finished the game in under five hours, and doubt I’ll be returning any time soon.
When Sword of the Berserk first came out way back in February 2000 it was during a time when action games as a whole were going through a period of change. We already had the incredible Metal Gear Solid, and were only a year away from the first Devil May Cry on the PlayStation 2. Action games were trying to become more mainstream than ever by introducing more and more mechanics and complex gameplay. This is one of the main reasons why reviewers the world over fell in love with Berserk’s simple mindless action. All you do is go from one area to the next killing off wave after wave of mindless enemies. Fast forward to 2013 (the year of this review’s publishing), and that mindless action isn’t quite as impressive as it was way back when. That’s not to say there aren’t some redeeming qualities to be had here, just that action games as a whole have evolved so much that going back to an arcade-style beat ’em up of sorts is much easier said than done.
+ Interesting storyline. Based off the Kentauro Miura’s Berserk manga, Sword of the Berserk is about one man’s journey during the Middle Ages in Europe. Strange plants have started infecting the people and for some reason you’re the only one strong enough to put an end to the madness. There’s much more to the story than just that, but it’s enough to get you going.
+ Enemy deaths can be extremely brutal, from being impaled, sliced in half, and more. It fits the theme perfectly and it’s clear the developer didn’t hold anything back. Oh and the North American version of the game has 30% more blood!
+ Multi-branched levels. During certain scenes a quick-time event will play out, and if you fail to press the button fast enough instead of dying you actually continue on a different path than had you pressed the button quickly enough to continue the scene. This adds some replay to the game.
+ When Guts has received a certain amount of damage he enters Berserk mode. This allows Guts to perform twice the damage on unsuspecting enemies. There’s also a pretty cool graphical effect that kicks in while in this mode.
+ Prize Box unlocks certain goodies as you complete the game on the three available difficulty settings. You can unlock things such as a stage select, mini-games, artwork, movies, and more.
+ Graphics still look good. Stone walls, rivers, and most importantly the sword all look the as they should. There’s a nice mix of enemy designs and environments, and Guts’ animations are pretty impressive for a game released before the dawn of the PlayStation 2. Some stages do look a little barren, and enemies don’t feature the same level of animations as Guts, but for the most part they’re not bad.
+ The soundtrack is fairly generic, but the sounds effects are great. The sound of the sword hitting walls and slicing up enemies sound raunchy, just as it should. The voice acting is surprisingly better than I thought it would be. It’s clear some effort went into this. I mean Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles voices Puk, what’s not to like about that? Certainly some actors do a better job than others, but as a whole it’s impressive for the time.
+ There’s a character named Balzac. Any game that is intelligent enough to name a character that so closely matches ball sack, gets a point in my book.
+/- If you get surrounded, blocking enemy attacks will prove pointless. Instead you need to slide or jump away, or use one of your grenades to help clear a path. I found the blocking mechanic as a whole to be a little slow and unresponsive.
+/- Very simple gameplay. You have two basic sword attacks that can be strung together to perform simple combos. You can also perform jump attacks, block, and sheath your sword and take hold of a crossbow for ranged attacks, or use your fists of fury. There are a few other items you can make use of, but for the most part your trusty sword is all you need. There’s also a slide move that’s particularly useful when you find yourself surrounded by enemies.
– The camera angles can be horrendous, especially when in close quarters. It’s not uncommon to have four of five enemies in front of you that you didn’t even know were there until you got hit by the arrows they were lobbing your way.
– The lack of a map system makes finding exactly where to go a chore. Often times I would run around in circles until I accidentally found where I was supposed to go. Either a map, or an on-screen indicator pointing in the general area would have helped as certain areas have non-stop respawning enemies.
– For every minute of gameplay there are ten minutes of cutscenes, and no this is not an exaggeration. There is one point in the game where you can put the controller down for almost 30 minutes. Yikes!
– Guts’ sword bounces off walls and other surfaces just as it would in real life. Why is this bad, because this isn’t real-life, this is a videogame and while trying to put together a combo you continuously find yourself interrupted because the giant sword accidentally hit the wall instead of an enemy. While you can switch to your fists, where’s the fun in that when you’re carrying such a massive blade?
– Weird checkpoint/save system. Instead of saving like you would in another action game, you actually have to make it past a ‘stage’ for the game to automatically save. Failure to reach said location means you have to restart from the what could potentially be 40 minutes earlier. It gets annoying when you only want to play for a short period of time.
Once you get to a certain point in the game it’s actually possible to completely skip almost all the enemy encounters and just race towards the next section of the level. Sure there are areas you will be forced to play through, but it’s pretty amazing to see just how much of the game you can skip.
Sword of the Berserk is a very basic action game that feels extremely dated in 2013. The poor camera system, the annoying bounce your blade has whenever it hits a wall, and the non-stop cutscenes make for an experience that might just be better off left in your memory. If you can overlook all these things, and are in the mood for a simple arcade-like action game, then perhaps Sword of the Berserk will offer you a couple of hours of fun. Just don’t expect too much overall.
Final Score: 4.5/10