Blood Will Tell PS2 Review
Inspired by Osamu Tezuka’s Dororo anime, Blood Will Tell is a third person hack and slash adventure with a difference. You play the role of Hyakkimaru, a samurai seeking vengeance. Before the birth of Hyakkimaru, the world had become infested by demons and in particular; fiends. The sign of a second sun in the sky told the demons that a person would be born, a person so powerful, that he could destroy them. Acting on this, the demons sought out the father of the soon to be child, promising him power beyond his wildest dreams if he gave them 48 of his son’s body parts.
As Hyakkimaru was born, his father whisked him away to the fiends and allowed them to take what they needed, in return giving him the power. Something in the father clicked, realising what he had done, he rescued Hyakkimaru, chased by the demons he had but one option, to try to hide his son, placing him in a basket he put the young child down a river. (Wonder where they got that idea) At the bottom, a doctor who was picking herbs at the time, noticed a small infant, he immediately rescued the child and raised it up as his own. Performing a serious of operations the doctor managed to give Hyakkimaru a great life. One day when praying, Hyakkimaru heard a voice telling him what happened to him when he was a child. Telling the doctor this, he decided to embark on a quest to regain his humanity. The doctor performed one last set of operation on Hyakkimaru, fitting him with a series of deadly weapons.
As I said earlier this game has a difference, the difference being that Hyakkimaru is like no other samurai. Fitted with two swords built into his arms and a cannon built into his knee, Hyakkimaru is able to perform attacks that other samurai can only dream of. The game tells the story of his quest to regain his lost body parts. In the beginning of his adventure, Hyakkimaru meets a young thief called Dororo, who then accompanies him on his adventure as his “trusty sidekick”, as Dororo would say.
The graphics in Blood Will Tell have a Japanese feel to them, from the characters to the surroundings it is all steeped in anime styles. The graphical style of the two main characters Hyakkimaru and Dororo are very nice indeed, these two are well detailed and their textures are of a good quality, the animations of the two used throughout the game are a bit hit and miss. Hyakkimaru’s animation when swinging his sword, firing his cannon and jumping are spot on, but it’s the animation of his little friend that are questionable, His/Her (the game says him, but I’m undecided) animations look very rough indeed, from punching to especially jumping, all does not look good, it’s a bit disappointing really as Hyakkimaru looks so good.
The surroundings throughout the game are very bland and dull, and some of the textures are very out of place, so much so that in some scenes it looks as if the background is moving, however some of the buildings in the game are nicely detailed. A heavy feature of this game revolves around “fiends”, these 48 beasts in which you must battle. The bosses posses by far the most graphical flare in the game, all of them are unique and well detailed, especially some of the larger ones. All their animations are decent and textures impressive. The same cannot be said for the majority of enemies that make up the game, from the skeletal warriors to the skaters, all are very dull and slow, with their animations and collision detection particularly dodgy. The graphics do look decidedly dated compared to some titles, even more surprising, as this is not a particularly old title.
The frame rate in the game holds steady throughout and barely stumbles, although being a hack-and-slash adventure, there are never too many enemies on screen at the same time, however there are some mighty big bosses that move around very quickly, and stomp all over the place, again though, the frame rate doesn’t drop at all. One last graphical note; the cut scenes in the game. Beautifully rendered, they are one of the game’s high points. The game uses a unique style when informing the player at the start of the game, about the background of Hyakkimaru. Perhaps borrowing from its anime influences the game has a narrative passage, which is highlighted by a series of anime pictures describing what the narrative is telling; I believe this a nice original feature that works very well and gives the player a sense of what has come before.
The controls featured in the game are largely the same for both characters. Both are moved about using the left analogue stick, where as the right is used for camera controls. The “X” button is used for jumping, pressed again in mid-jump will perform a double jump. The “O” will give hints, which sometimes can be useful but for the majority of the time just point out the obvious. The square and triangle buttons are used for attacks, the square button will perform a light attack whereas the triangle will perform a heavy attack. One area where the controls differ between characters are the shoulder buttons, R1 and R2 for Hyakkiramu will attack using guns, L1 being the gun in Hyakkiramu’s arm and L2 being the cannon embedded in his knee. L1 will centre the camera behind both characters; L2 for Hyakkiramu will allow you to switch between his normal arms and his sword arms. For Dororo, The R1 and R2 buttons both perform throwing actions, with one throwing a different item to the other. Throughout the game Hyakkiramu’s ability’s will change as he collects body parts, for example one nice little effect is at the start of the game, where all the action is in black and white. The reason for this is that Hyakkiramu’s eyes are man made and are not able to see colour. After defeating a fiend Hyrakkiramu will obtain his left eye, this then allows him to see colour transferring the whole game in to colour.
However, for most of the time the extra abilities will be combat based. Another feature of this game is the ability for Hyakkiramu to level up his stats. For each body part he collects, he can also level up his combat ability, such as his sword skill and sword arms. It is well worth spending time defeating the enemies in the game in order to upgrade Hyakkimaru’s abilities or you might find the later encounters difficult. Hyakkiramu also posses a powerful ability known as “spirit attacks”, this consists of a bar which fills up every time you hurt an enemy. When the bar is full, you are able to unleash a powerful attack using the square and triangle buttons. During the game, you can collect new spirit powers by retrieving the “spirit scrolls”, some of these are very hard to find, so it is a shame that the other attacks do not provide too much difference from the first one you start with. One last thing, Hyakkiramu can collect new swords, these allow him to deal more damage, but are also able to protect him from attacks such as poison, these items can also be hard to find, but are worth searching out for as they can be very useful. The game can get repetitive as you are following the same structure every time, of defeating a fiend and gaining a new body part, but as the adventure progresses and you gain new items, the effect of the repetitiveness will dwindle.
Depending on whom you are controlling, the game has different types of mission for each character. Hyakkiramu’s missions tend to be combat based, where he goes about destroying all the enemies in his way. Dororo’s mission are a little different, they tend to be more stealthy and do not include anywhere near as much combat as Hyakkimura’s, though they still include enemies – Dororo’s punching ability is quite impressive. For the main part, you will have missions including both characters; you will control Hyakkiramu, while the computer will control Dororo. You will however be able to issue commands to Dororo to do something, these consist of getting Him/Her to fight and find items, and it is a nice touch but you’re better off just concentrating on Hyakkiramu for these missions. The main game consists of seven chapters, in which you must recover all 48-body parts. For each body part, you must defeat a fiend that carries it; there are also other bosses – which mostly consist of humans. Collecting all 48 body parts will allow you to unlock the final chapter, not wanting to spoil anything for you, I am keeping quiet about that. The last point I will discuss about game play is perhaps the most disappointing, the camera. My biggest grievance with this game was down to the shoddy camera, which can certainly take some of the enjoyment out of the game.
The camera normally follows the game from behind the player, but there are many sections in which you run with the camera in front, this is hugely annoying, as you never know what is in front of you. There will be many occasions in which enemies you cannot even see, when controlling Dororo, will hurt you, there are a lot platform sections in which the game can become unplayable, as the camera can make it impossible to see where you are jumping. Many a time I died falling into pits that I could not even see. It’s a real shame that more time was not spent on the camera system, as it is a crucial part of any game, especially this one where you need to be able to work the camera to where you need it, sadly this rarely happens and you have to hope what your doing is right. Despite all that is wrong with the camera for the most part, the camera during boss fights is very useful indeed. Dubbed “boss cam”, the camera centres on the boss allowing you to see everything that it does. This can easily be exited using the R3 button and re-entered also using the R3 button, I found this a great help during fights as I was always able to see what the boss was doing.
One of the greatest parts of the game is the sound department. The voice acting in the game is top notch, with Hyakkiramu’s voice showing real emotion at some stages, there are times when the whiny voice of Dororo can get on your nerves, but that is more down to the character than the voice acting. All the sound effects are there as well, with the sound of the weapons which are particularly impressive, the sword can be heard above everything, you can even hear the cries of anguish from Hyakkiramu as an enemy hits him. Another nice feature is the narrative used during the start of the game; it is well spoken and gives a nice effect over the picture it is describing.
The last part of the sound is the soundtrack. Again another decent effort, it includes some very rocky tunes and some softer ones. The songs can very quickly change depending on the situation on screen, for example you could be searching around one area, listening to a chilled out song and then a horde of enemies approach you and the music will start to get louder, a nice effect that helps heighten the sense of battle.
Blood Will Tell is not a game that will be over quickly, even if you decide not to collect any extra swords or spirit scrolls, the time it takes to defeat most fiends and get to the end is still a good 13 hours or so. If you decide to collect the extras then you can easily expect to add another 2 hours to that number. There is replay value in this game, for starters, not every fiend is crucial to the story, therefore it is very likely you will miss some out during the course of the game; this gives you incentive to try again and get the parts you miss. It is also crucial to get all parts if you want unlock the final chapter. Another nice touch is that the boss fights will change every time you play the game, some bosses you played early in one go, might appear much later the next time you play. There are also unlockables, which will appear in the menu, only one is playable though. All in all this is game that could easily last you over 20 hours; even then, there is scope to replay it.
This is a game that I enjoyed very much, despite the terrible main camera and the average graphics, the charms of story and the uniqueness of the characters make it a different game from most on the market. It can get a little repetitive early on, and you are doing the same thing throughout, battling one boss to get a body part, but once you gain some new abilities the game can change considerably for the better. If the camera was better and the graphics improved, then I would have no worries about recommending this to people. If you are a fan of Japanese anime, then I am sure you will enjoy this game, fans of hack and slash will find something here to occupy them. Adding in the little RPG elements as well and you have a game full of diversity, something that is not common in games nowadays.
7.5 out of 10