Main Articles Stacks Links Contact
[ Title ] [ Read ] [ Information ] [ Quality ] [ Hate Mail ]
[ Writer ] = BAD
[ 12/09/08 ] = From The Window

Taito, best known for classics across all genres (from Renegade and Bubble Bobble, to more recent classics like G. Darius and RayStorm), celebrated its 50th anniversary not just by re-making an older title, but by making a completely new title. That new title was Bujingai. From casual fans interested in Asian culture and mythology, to fans of the DMC games would enjoy this game. That is, if they had ever even heard of it. If there's one game that has been completely overlooked and underrated on the PS2 hardware, it's this one. There are a ton of inferior PS2 games out there that have gotten more support and attention than Bujingai has, so I decided to do it the justice it deserves. This game is about sheer scale; the stages, the bosses, the moves, everything. If I had been able to play it back then, it would have been in my top ten of 2003...







Where Capcom has always had a traditional approach to the action genre, and Konami an unorthodox approach, Taito has always been somewhere in the middle, but closer to Capcom's school. Bujingai came out a little after Devil May Cry 2, and its sword-slashing gameplay shows it. There are no guns in the game, and in an interview the game's producer says it was inspired by Honk Kong films, but several elements its sword-fighting action seem to have been influenced by DMC. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the swordplay in this game is just as good (if not better) than in DMC. You have all the fancy swordplay from DMC here, but with some major differences in execution. Performance ranking seems is more forgiving than in DMC, yet challenging.

First, the combo meter is more forgiving in this game than in DMC (thankfully), giving you enough time to do bigger combos. My highest was 151 Hits! Moves are linkable, and even though there are spells in the gamespells are alright, they aren't easily put into combos.

Second is the flashy counter-attack system, which essentially allows you to gain the upper-hand by parrying an attack. There are different types depending on what type of attack is being parried, but the coolest is against enemies who have the same ability; you become locked in a choreographed duel as glitzy pyrotechnics erupt in the collision of blades. Not only do the fancy pyrotechnics and laser show look cool, but it's easy to perform, too. Did Capcom get the idea of the DMC parry system from this game?

Third, running on walls is also easier than in DMC (where there's no room for error). And it's a good thing, because mastering it is essential for the parts where there are no platforms. The platforming parts are actually fun, and they're not annoying as hell (unlike a lot of other games in the genre)! Instead of falling once, dying, and going back all the way to the beginning of the stage, you fall and it starts you at the point you were last standing. Props to Taito for this. It may seem too easy from this description, but there are a few mean platforming parts that benefit from it. Gliding in this game is pretty cool, too (even if it could have been better with a shorter delay between the jump and the glide). It also goes hand-in-hand with running on walls.

The levels are divided into sections, and you can plow through them or take your time and find all of the items. Lots of exploration and plenty of shit to break and collect. Aside form the typical health power-ups there are also hidden items like spells, bonus coins, and currency for power-ups. There are even parts where you cut bamboo in search of items. It becomes tedious, but it's still pretty fun, and it looks pretty cool, too. There may not be objects or interactive junk everywhere, but there's enough to have fun breaking.




Of more interest is the sheer proportion of the stages, which is something Taito really deserves praise for. They're boundless, and filled with intricate detail that give them a real sense of depth; bright rays of light pour in through castle windows, buildings tower into the sky as far as the eye can see, and phantom mountains pertrude from the surface of the heavens. These details compliment the Chinese architecture to create some of the coolest stages in a PS2 action game. The Hong Kong stage (seen right) is the best; though it would have been cool to have seen the urban jungle populated by more than just monsters (even if only by bums and/or stray animals). Still not bad at all, though!

By 2002, the "dude looks like a lady" fad was in full-force in Japan (with the US soon to follow), and everyone knew it wasn't dying out anytime soon. Taito saw this, too, and figured it'd be safe to use for the main character of their new game. They chose Gackt (who is apparently a male), a Japanese pop singer who fit the bill almost too well. If you thought Dante looked gay, this guy looks even gayer. And what's with the name "Gackt?" What the hell is it? It sounds like the kind of noise you make when you choke on something. Or when dogs choke on something...

At first, the uni-sex design will probably put you off, but you get used to it after a while, and start to notice the intricate detail in his clothing. His swords look cool, too; (cooler than he does, actually); the ring one of the swords even sways from side to side as he runs! I'd say that he sports some of the best texture-mapping seen with the PS2 hardware. But just saying the enemy design is impressive, would be an understatement; there are hardly any bland ones in the whole game. Lumbering demons with spiked clubs, dudes rigged by spikes, and burrowing moles round-out the coolest enemies, but the huge bosses are even more impressive in their grandeur. They are incredible; absolutely monstrous, and a technical marvel that stands ultimately as a testament to Taito's long experience in the industry. While the main character Gackt was inspired by God-knows-what, the bosses all appear to be inspired by Chinese mythology, and as such resemble the type of eye candy you see in books. They definitely make my list of best-looking bosses seen on the PS2 hardware, ever.

AI is another area the development team did a good job on. It is fitting, and there aren't many spots that will have you feeling downright cheated (unlike some other titles in the game genre). It's easy to see that Taito wanted everyone tp enjoy the game; the enemies are aggressive when they need to be, but still not overly-difficult to hit and combo. They also made it challenging to chain combos without making it nearly impossible (again, like some other titles in the genre). Bosses are a challenge, but never border on impossible (even though they have a god assortment of attacks and patterns). In the very important aspect of difficulty, they did a good job making it fun and enjoyable for everyone.










Taito games are always hard at first and get easier as you play them; Bujingai is a bit different, though, and it's moderate difficulty is more like a Capcom game. There are times when it gets a little hard, but it's nothing overbearing (like what you see in some Konami and/or Irem games). Anyone can pick this game up, start playing, and have fun long enough to feel satisfied. For this reason, I consider it to be a must-have for the system. There are other PS2 games I put above it, but for those who either don't like Capcom and Konami, or have played the hell out of all their games, Taito's Bujingai is good. For the long-time Taito fans (such as meself), it serves to show how far Taito's come over the years, and how they're still alive and kicking. One has to wonder if this game was made as one last hurrah before the setting of the sun on pre-Square Taito.

I've always liked Taito games, and Bujingai is no exception. It's a good game with several good concepts behind it. It may not have the absolute ferocity of some other titles on the same hardware, but it still delivers. Moreover, it's fun. New-wave abstract action games like Shadow of the Colossus and ICO are not only overrated, they're overpriced. You can get an even better (underrated) action experience for a lot less money with Bujingai. Bujingai was probably made on a tighter budget with less advertising, and less-than-stellar media reception, but most other action games seem boring in comparison. This game is a perfect example of a "sleeper hit."