Kengo - Master of Bushido

Kengo - Master of Bushido
Games based on samurai and ninja have been popular for years. In Kengo, you move from apprentice to full samurai master, fighting through challenges.

You start out by choosing a samurai from 3 basic characters - and choosing which dojo, or school, to join. Each has a different focus. When you begin, you learn the basic moves with a wooden training sword.

Your training lessons help you learn about "ki", or special inner strength that lets you perform special moves. You have a normal health bar and fight your way through your lessons. You can go back to your room to "sleep" (save) or check your status and progress.

The graphics are reasonably good - there are reflections on the polished wood floor of your dojo, your training outfit and hair sways as you move. Not the best I've seen in fighting games, but definitely better than many current releases. There isn't any hard-rock background soundtrack - you fight to the soft movements of your feet, the sounds of birds in the forest beyond your dojo walls. The click of your swords and grunts of your opponent are your only accompaniment. I do admit that the birds get really annoying after a while in the mini-games!

The mini games appear a short while into the game and are reasonably fun, but can be very frustrating. The controls are jerky and even though you might point straight at the bamboo shaft you want to cut, your character will dance completely around it, as if blocked by an invisible force field.

After a lot of training, you're finally ready for a tournament with a sword, and as in real life, this goes by pretty quickly. Then you're done. Another downside is that you can only save one game per memory card. While this is fine in a single-gamer household, if you have multiple people playing you have to get multiple cards. That's an unnecessary burden.

As a huge, huge fan of feudal Japan, I had high hopes for this game. And I greatly appreciated its attempt at realism. But the frustration level in the slow response, and the long, long 'training' before you actually got somewhere - combined with the super-short actual combat - made the game not much fun to play. I would have enjoyed it much more if you had the training for a while - but then had hours and hours of tournaments to work through. To get beaten up in training for only a quick real "life" wasn't much fun at all.

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