Hack and slash games will always have a special place in my heart. When I first discovered Onimusha, Devil May Cry games, I was blown away by their mechanics, and their worlds. This genre has a handful of games. Eventually, as the genre grew on me, I took a liking to underrated hack and slash games, partially due to the lack of games in the genre and partially because of the interest I had in it. Today, I will take a look at some hack & slash games that failed to hit the market quite as hard as genre stalwarts but are still worthy experiences if you want to quench your thirst with something different.
I have already included the 2nd part for this article. Please, check over here
1- The Sword of Etheria (Konami-2006)
It is one of Konami’s budget titles on the PS2 that had some interesting gameplay elements. Unfortunately, the game went under the radar when it released and to my utter dismay, the game has been completely forgotten to the flow of time. So, I have taken it upon myself to spread awareness about this gem of a title.
If you are familiar with shounen anime, you will feel right at home with the story. It is set in an alternate world where humans, gods, and spiritual beings known as Katenas are coexisting in the same realm. The game starts off by introducing Cain and his two comrades. After the prologue, it shifts the story to revolve around Fiel, Almira, and Leon. Their mission is to save Fiel’s sister who was kidnapped by monsters. Further in the game, Fiel and his friends fight other Katenas standing in their way.
The gameplay relies heavily on chaining combos that can be executed by teaming up with Almira and Leon. At least that is how the game is supposed to be played. The game quickly slides into button-mashing territory otherwise. In fact, some enemies and bosses nudge the player into executing certain combos in order to unleash special attacks. These special attacks, in particular, can inflict considerable damage, unlike regular attacks. This is what makes The Sword of Etheria interesting and worth playing through at least once. Its ability to push the player into using all the mechanics of the game is commendable.
The level design is a pretty straight forward affair with no riddles to solve, unlike its contemporaries like Devil May Cry. The Sword of Etheria is played through several linear stages where the player must reach the end of each stage. Eventually, a boss or mini-boss must be defeated to proceed to the next level. The game also features some role-playing elements, such as levelling up each character, upgrading their strength and health, and using certain items that will have unique effects. Despite all of this, the graphics may turn some players off. However, the CGI cutscenes look exquisite.
Legendary composer Michiru Yamane has composed the soundtrack of the game. The female composer who is known for her work in Castlevania, Bloodstained and other good games. Although the first soundtracks may not please many players, however, playing through the game, the soundtracks will have a significant role in absorbing the player.
Another thing to consider is that this game has nothing similar to Devil May Cry, they’re both different. After all, this game is nothing but a budget title built using the RenderWare engine.
Here is an old trailer containing some gameplay footages.
It isn’t the greatest game in the PS2 library. It lacks the in-depth combo system for a single character that, I feel, is a defining factor for any ‘character action game’. However, the game brings its own twist to the genre and executes its ideas in a perfectly satisfactory manner.
2-Bujingai: The Forsaken City (Taito-2003)
Taito was known for developing hilarious games back in the day, such as The Flinstones for the SNES and Kick Master for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This game is no exception. Bujingai, known in North America as Bujingai: The Forsaken City and in Europe as Bujingai: Swordmaster, was developed by Taito Corporation in collaboration with Red Entertainment. The latter is responsible for making some of the most underrated games in the industry; games that were based on mangas or anime. More importantly, they were done right. For example, Gungrave, and Blood Will Tell on the PS2.
Bujingai’s story is set in the distant future, specifically in the 23rd century when a tremendous global catastrophe has wiped out a majority of the earth’s population. Lau Wong, the protagonist, is a sword-wielding hero who was banished for unknown reasons. He returns to earth to confront and defeat his best friend who leads an army of wicked demons that are threatening the future of earth’s possible peace.
Unlike The Sword of Etheria, Bujingai has a variety of combos that can be performed by players as well as abilities and other unique features to spice things up. Bujingai puts great emphasis on gameplay above all, and that’s what makes it worth the shot. For example, Lau can perform a variety of combos using his two swords. Lau is also able to hit enemies using his legs causing a 20 damage hit if the button is smashed repeatedly. In fact, attacks in the game are performed in an acrobatic way. It seems these attacks are heavily inspired by martial arts (Wuxia) from Chinese movies. The player can also perform wall runs and jump from place to place while executing long jumps similar to what you see in Chinese films. However, this is not what makes Bujingai fascinating. The best aspect of Bujingai is the ability to counter-attack anything.
This plays a major role in breaking the repetitiveness of smashing the same buttons all the time. For example, enemies wielding melee weapons can be countered by chaining sword slashes. Once the player sees a specific symbol on the top left of the screen he’ll be ready to unleash devastating attacks that can throw the enemies away causing huge amounts of damage. Also, Lau can counter-attack magical attacks by sending them back to the targeted enemy. The player must master these techniques at all costs since they are a valuable skills to the player.
The level design, in my opinion, is somewhat similar to The Sword of Etheria. However, there are some differences. Bujingai’s gameplay consists of stages, and in each stage, players will have to confront a boss. The game has some minor puzzles from here and there, but none of them are head-scratchers. Take this key from here and put it there, or defeat a certain amount of enemies to unlock a door. Nothing that’ll make you use YouTube as a last resort.
The graphics are extremely pretty for a 2003 game which was released in North America and Europe in 2005. In my opinion, the game still holds up graphically among other PS2 and PS3 hack and slash titles. The cutscenes are well crafted. It feels like watching a Chinese movie, especially with all the implemented effects in each cutscene. The on-screen action is extremely impressive with a fascinating art style and various visual effects. Another thing to note is that Lau’s character was modeled after the famous Japanese rocker Gackt who played a major role in increasing the number of sales. Gackt was also modeled in other video games, such as Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. and Dragon Nest.
Here is a trailer for you
Overall, if you’re looking for an enjoyable hidden gem hack and slash video game, Bujingai is one of those games that may please those hardcore hack and slash fans looking for some weird and fun games to play on the PS2.
3-Maximo vs Army of Zin (Capcom-2003)
One of Capcom’s most criminally underrated sequels, and one of those franchises that deserved another chance. It is shockingly sad that Capcom gave many games second chances- Mega Man, Devil May Cry, Monster Hunter while Maximo got none. The 3 games I mentioned, struggled once or even twice in the past, but because Capcom gave them an extra push, they’re now the top trending titles in the industry, if not, the most loved IP’s by Capcom.
Maximo vs Army of Zin is the direct sequel to the successful Maximo: Ghosts to Glory and the spiritual successor to the Ghosts’ N Goblins franchise. It released back in 2003 and was developed by Capcom Production Studio 8, the Team behind Final Fight: Streetwise.
The story picks up from where the original game left off with Maximo still searching for his beloved Sophia while being accompanied by Grim. Their journey, however, is interrupted when Grim discovers that there is someone toying with human souls, using them for his wicked goals. Strange mechanical creatures appear out of nowhere and start causing chaos in certain villages slaughtering people in the process. Maximo comes to know that these creatures are a part of the army of Zin, an ancient army powered by wandering souls that were locked inside a vault. Maximo and Grim have to team up once again to rout Zin and his army and restore peace to the land.
Maximo vs Army of Zin mixes both platforming and hack and slash elements to bring something enjoyable. Unlike the original game, Maximo now has a variety of combos that involve either his sword or hammer, both of which can be upgraded. Maximo can now transform into Grim and unleash devastating attacks for a short period of time. Another thing to note is that the difficulty this time is lowered to a level where anyone can enjoy it, especially if someone had already finished Devil May Cry 3.
The level design in the game consists of stages. Unlike the other two games mentioned in the article, the player is not required to fight a boss during the end of each stage. In fact, the stages this time aren’t like the original. The player can save whenever he wishes to without paying a penny or throwing a dime into that fountain. In case you’re wondering about the puzzles, they are very simple.
In addition, the soundtrack of the game played a significant role in making the game feel more epic. The score has been composed by Tommy Tallarico. He is known for composing many awesome pieces of music for some of the most critically acclaimed games in the industry. For example, Metroid Prime, Another World, Earthworm Jim 2, Time Crisis: Project Titan, and the original Prince of Persia (1989).
Here is the trailer for you
Overall, if you’re looking for an epic platforming game where you can slay anything like a badass while listening to epic music, this one is for you. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret the experience. Although it is sad when we realise Maximo 3 will never happen because of what happened to Capcom California and the issue with David Siller.
You can check the unreleased prototype of Maximo 3 from here
By the way, this is nothing but a compilation of games I already mentioned from my page over here. So if you are interested in such obscure games from around the world, you can click the link above.