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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Game Boy
Metro 3D
Dinc Interaktif
GENRE: Fighting
PLAYERS:   1-2
September 05, 2002
 Written by Ilan Mejer  on October 29, 2002

Review: The spiritual follow-up to Namco's 16-bit classic, WeaponLord?

Dual Blades is a 2D weapon-based fighting game in the vein of traditional titles such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Weaponlords. However, since this game features over eight unique characters, each armed with their own personal melee weapons, such as swords, staves, and knives, Dual Blades has more in common with the latter. With gratuitous amounts of blood and brutal finishing moves, Dual Blades more than earns its mature rating, wearing it like a badge of honor over the body of a bloody and cut foe.

Looking at screenshots of the game, you will be impressed by the sheer size of the fighters on the screen. Likewise, each of the characters are unique in his or her design, stances, and attire. Unfortunately, the game's weaknesses will make themselves apparent in movement, specifically in the animation. The characters and their many actions all animate awkwardly and poorly. The developers would have done us a greater service to decrease the size of the fighters and increase their frames of animation. Complimenting the generally good character designs is generally good stage design. The blood itself looks decent enough when the game's fast pace keeps your hands and eyes busy, but once you are given the opportunity to enjoy the spectacle of a ?fatality,? you will realize how badly even that element of the game moves. Overall, the graphics are somewhat generic. They can be both effective and flawed, but not fatally so.

The games music and sounds suffer from the same symptoms as its graphics as it is sometimes great and sometimes terrible. Themes like those that compliment the title and character select screens are truly inspired and memorable. The background stages are filled with a broad range of songs. Some of them are decent, but most are just boring. At least the sound effects come off very clearly and powerfully. Particularly the weapon slices, as they sound at once painful and stylized.

However, fighting games are defined by the balance and integrity of its fighting engine. The number of attacks, the forms of defense, and ultimately, the balance between these two gameplay characteristics are what essentially decide whether a fighting game can hold its own against its competitors. The current state of handheld fighting titles might just help it out, though. It has been many months since Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo Revival and Tekken were released on the GBA, and with Street Fighter Alpha 3 and the new Mortal Kombat not due out until the end of the year, Dual Blades might just cash in with the fighter-hungry handheld crowd.

Dual Blades efficiently utilizes the GBA's four action buttons and maps the two weapons-based slashes to the face buttons, kicks to the L button, and Power Moves to the R shoulder. Power Moves are the equivalent to Super Moves from later Street Fighter games. As you attack and land hits, your Power Bar increases. Once it fills up to appropriate levels, which vary depending on which Power Moves you armed your character with, you will be able to unleash special attacks, which score many hits in succession and generally do excellent damage. Each character has four different power moves broken up into two different categories, Red and Blue. Red Power Moves generally do more damage, but require more Power to execute than the Blue variety. After choosing your character, you must choose one Power Move from the two available in each category, lending the game a welcome amount of customization.

The core fighting experience is what you would expect from a 2D fighting game. Your character may move towards or away from his/her opponent, duck, jump, and execute a variety of standard and special attacks. The special attacks are accomplished much in the same way they would be in a Street Fighter game, back-forth and circular motions on the d-pad in conjunction with appropriate button presses. You may Guard against incoming attacks, both melee and projectile, simply by pressing backwards on the d-pad, but only when you are on the ground standing in a neutral position. Taking a page from Street Fighter 3, you may execute a Block (not to be confused with the standard Guard) by hitting forward on the d-pad just as your enemy's attack is about to land. This will execute a SF3-like parry without the helpless pause that accompanies a Guard, allowing you a small window to counter-attack.

Unfortunately, the Block is an extremely powerful tool that was implemented sloppily. The threshold for actually timing a Block is half a second too long, making the act of Blocking too easy. Fighter-fiends that tweaked their twitch-gaming skills with Street Fighter 3's Parries will find Dual Blades' implementation of that maneuver easily exploitable, allowing them to turn and counter just about any attack they are dealt. Additionally, the combo-system, which on the one hand is very fun to play with, is also a bit too powerful. Standard ?two-in-one? combos are quite simple to execute, and allow you to begin a standard attack, cancel it just after connecting, and interrupting it with a special move, just like in basic Street Fighter clones. The developers took it a step further and allow you to incorporate a few too many of these types of attacks in their combo system. On his first day with the game, this editor was able to execute a combo that incorporated standard kicks and slashes that flowed into a massive Power Move, and continued with another standard-special two-in-one juggle, totaling to a massive 28-hit combo that drained over ? of his enemy's life bar.

Bottom Line
Dual Blades is a decent blend of technical mastery and solid fighter gaming. It does not truly offer anything new to the genre, but does successfully blend the elements of many 2D fighters into a relatively exciting experience. Some technical flaws and a general imbalance in the gameplay may scare off the hardcore fighting-fiends, but extras such as a combo training mode, time attack, survival, and a well implemented multiplayer mode should keep casual gamers occupied for quite some time. Unfortunately, the excessive blood and dismemberment earned the game a mature rating from the ESRB, which most likely will limit that audience as well. The dedicated may want to wait for the up and coming release of Street Fighter Alpha 3, but Dual Blades is not a mindless waste of thirty dollars, as it does offer up a solid and relatively fresh experience.

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