Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sword of the Berserk - A Look Back

One of my early assignments at was to review an obscure little title for the SEGA Dreamcast called "Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage." The game came out back in 2000, and at the time, it was essentially a game that was intended for a Japanese audience only. I say that because, "BERSERK," the Japanese manga series on which the game was based, was not available in the US until 2003. The events depicted in the game are supposed to take place between volumes 22 and 23 of the manga series, which didn't hit US shelves until 2006 or 2007. I had no clue what was going on with the story when I was asked to review it, and no doubt the same held true for anyone else who bought it.

No doubt a suit at EIDOS Interactive, back in the early days of the Dreamcast, wanted to cash in on the early popularity of the console (this was before the PS2 debuted). Finding a graphically beautiful action title ready-made by Yuke's (the Japanese developer) in "Sword of the Berserk," EIDOS licensed the game and published it for a quick buck. I found the game to be pretty good from a production standpoint, the game play not so much. It wasn't that I found the hacking and slashing to be awful, it's just that the extent of the game play ended there and got repetitive.

Now, in 2009, I've managed to read a lot of the BERSERK stories. I appreciate the game a lot more, now that I know who the characters are, why they act the way they do, and their unique back stories. In fact, I don't think I'm the only one who's gone back to revisit the game since the manga was translated into English. It's enjoyed a bit of a revival of sorts within the secondhand Dreamcast marketplace. The series can best be described as a medieval horror-fantasy mixed with elements of Clive Barker's "Hellraiser," so anyone who likes comics and can handle disturbing subject matter should give it a shot.

The manga deals with the trials and tribulations of a lone swordsman, Guts, who is on a quest to deliver payback to a group of demons responsible for the loss of his left arm, one of his eyes, and the sanity of his beloved, Casca. "Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage," is actually about a side adventure Guts experiences while on his travels. He discovers Mandragora plants that kill and disfigure those who foolishly uproot them from the ground. The atmosphere is chilling, disturbing and fans of Resident Evil games might find much to like.

There's also a sequel, "Berserk: Millenium Falcon," that was developed by Yuke's for the PlayStation 2 in 2004, which is graphically even more impressive. Sadly, the sequel never saw release in the United States and sells between $30 and $100 within the import collecting world! If you're looking for a new Dreamcast game with an interesting story, check out "Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage," it's really not that bad of a game.

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