Since I covered scrolling fighters in my Missing in Action article recently, I figured that it would be good to cover one in my next review. This week we’re taking a look at a rather obscure game, Blade Master by Irem.
Forces of evil have kidnapped the princess who has a magical power that can bring their prince of darkness to life and it is up to Ron and Arnold (the ultimate names in warrior circles) to fight off hordes of orcs and other magical creatures to reach her and stop the army.
Blade Master is like a poor man’s Golden Axe, minus elements like ridable animals. It follows the standard scrolling fighter formula – throw as many enemies at the player as the hardware can handle, offer several different stages that players can venture across and pit you against giant bosses that were made solely to drain quarters from the players. But it doesn’t offer anything in the game mechanics department to make it really stand out from the many other scrolling fighters that we saw coming out about the same time. There are only two buttons, one for attack and the other for jump and as such there are only a couple of different attacks that can be unleashed upon the enemies you face and there is no magic system where you can use that to clear the screen of enemies for tight situations. It’s not all bad however – the levels are longer than I have seen in some scrolling fighters and there is a wide variety of enemies that you confront that helps keep the game interesting.
You start the game with two lives, which can be lost when the player looses all of their energy. Energy can be regained by breaking vases which are littered about each level and picking up certain treasures that are dropped on the ground. The only treasure that restores energy is the water of life, which look like a smaller vase; the other treasures give you bonus points. In all there are 7 levels and if you have an unlimited supply of credits it might take an hour to beat the game, maybe less.
There is no blood to make the game ultra-violent but the final boss does have a gratuitous amount of cleavage that would probably give this a yellow label rating had that system been around at the time (although not many players would probably make it that far so it might have been overlooked). For some reason the game decides to fill you in on the entire storyline after you beat the game – throughout the game all you know is that some girl is kidnapped by a large bird creature and for some reason you decide to go on a rampage because of it. I guess it’s a requirement for the protagonist of these kind of games to have short fuses so they can go out and destroy everything that gets in their way, which leads to more fun for us who play them!
Where Blade Master stands out is in it’s graphical presentation which has aged well (something that I am noticed more and more with older 2D games – maybe it’s just me appreciating the amount of detail artists would put into the game) with great detail in both characters and levels, as well as some special effects such as your sword slashing through the air or when enemies disappear in flames. The animation is one of the game’s graphical highlight’s as well which includes both parallax scrolling and animated backgrounds in addition to the character animations. Most of the bosses you face are huge, detailed and while this has nothing to do with the graphics, tough.
The background tunes throughout the game are frankly forgettable although the game does make sure of some digitized voice in certain parts to make up for it.
I have not seen an original dedicated Blade Master cabinet yet so no comment on this.
It may be generic but I found it fun. If Golden Axe is around then it’s the better game to play but if not and you have a chance to play Blade Master it is worth a few rounds.