Bushido Blade Uses Quick Deaths to Load Fear Into Every Strike
Bushido Blade is a fighting game where a single movement decides victory or defeat. If one sword swipe slips through your guard and hits your head or body, it’ll likely kill you. Your opponent is just as vulnerable, though. This creates a tense competition between you and the game because every button input represents a likelihood you’ll die. Or win, as well, which adds a great deal of exhilaration when you take a swing. Every movement is life-or-death, every action carrying terror and excitement in equal measure.
As an escaped assassin, you’ll need to deal with several of your former comrades who are looking to do you in. You can choose one of several different potential assassins to play as, as well as a weapon of your choice to fight back with. These tools have a variety of properties that make them hit faster or slower, or slam foes with more or less power. The interplay between these weapons goes a long way into choosing your strategies on how to fight. Also, characters have certain weapon preferences, so you’ll want to factor that in.
Once you choose your fighter and weapon, Bushido Blade starts pitting you against your opponents. While fighting them, you can slip between a couple of stances with your weapon. These offer you different striking and defensive options. Without even making a move, you’re going to want to see which stance gives you better protection against your foe. If they’re swinging a hammer, you should probably protect your head, by the way. In each stance, you can strike at the upper, mid, and lower body. Your swing style will depend on your stance and the weapon, offering many ways to cut folks down. This, in turn, means more things to consider as you fight.
That’s a fair amount of stuff to weigh in your mind before you’ve even swung a sword. In other fighting games, this stuff would be important to know, but a single failure wouldn’t be cause to crumble. Maybe you miss a stance swap and get hit a few times. Maybe you choose a weapon that doesn’t work well with your play style, but you make it work. Ordinarily, you have a little bit of wiggle room to fail and experiment in fighters, but not here. If you choose a stance that leaves your head wide open when a spear is lunging toward you, you’ll die.
Because of this, you can’t even pick out a weapon without worrying a little bit. There’s a fear that weaves through the menus of Bushido Blade. Will you pick a weapon that leaves you open to attack? Will this stance change make a gap in your defenses that someone could exploit? You could be choosing your character and fiddling with weapon choices and still feel that bit of tension. Then, once you enter a match, and without even attacking yet, you can find yourself feeling that bit of fear over what stance you’re using. Any misstep can make you lose, so every action, no matter how simple, is loaded with a little tension.
Then, there’s the striking itself. With each attack comes the potential to win instantly, but also to find your skull caved in. Taking a big swing might leave you wide open for a quick stab in your face. Your quick strike could get blocked hard by a heavier weapon, leaving you open. Maybe you get cocky against a downed opponent but miss your attack, exposing yourself to be disemboweled. You can’t help but feel like you’re dancing on the edge of a knife the whole time, and whether you’re being too defensive or too aggressive, you feel like death is right at your shoulder.
Bushido Blade has even more mechanics at work, though, to make you that much more fearful of every move. Strikes to the arms can break the limb, making it useless and making certain attacks impossible. If your leg gets hit, you’ll drop to one knee and have difficulty moving. These change the flow of battle and can severely limit what you can do. Even if you drop your foe to their knees, their new position and moveset can throw you off enough to leave you open, too. The battle’s structure changes continually, making the danger shift.
There’s also the matter of fighting with honor. As if it isn’t hard enough to win in these conditions, you have to be a good opponent. This means you can’t stab people in the back, and you can’t be throwing sand in their faces. These are both combat options you always have, but they’ll result in you losing the game. You’d think that you just wouldn’t use these options. However, it’s easy to accidentally slash someone’s back if you’re not taking special care to only attack the front. It’s tempting to throw sand when you’re about to die. You have to be particular about your movements and stay calm when a part of you is screaming that you don’t want to die or lose.
This is especially true when you play in the game’s first-person mode. Seeing someone come rushing at you, sword swinging, activates a survival-focused part of the mind. It doesn’t help that you don’t have a visual indicator of your weapon and position, either. So, you see some brute with a hammer held high overhead. Do you stab them quickly, hoping you’re faster than they are? When watching it from an outside perspective, it’s easier to make that call. When it’s coming for your head in first person, though? It’s a harder choice to make. Not just because you can’t see all your options easily, but also because the game makes you feel the danger from the perspective. Even if things are looking a bit blocky these days.
It’s this proximity to death – that hint of fear – that makes Bushido Blade so compelling. There’s so many little things you could do wrong. Stances, weapon choice, character choice – they all matter. You have so little chance to do anything about it if you screw up, too. And even if you do well, a single accidental backstab or moment of weakness could see you losing the game anyway. Every moment and movement in this game is loaded with tension from this constant possibility that THIS will be the thing that gets you killed. This one button input will mean your death. This one menu selection will put you in danger. That fear, and the excitement when you survive, make for a unique fighter that still makes my heart race when I play it.