Fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger will no doubt take a second glance at Taito’s new action game, Power Blade. A model with an extreme likeness to the Terminator star graces the cover. If you’re thinking of games like Total Recall, Conan, and Predator (awful NES titles based on Arnold’s movies) rest assured this an original game, not based on any action film, and the quality is light years ahead of those abominations.
Power Blade takes place 200 years in the future. aliens have taken over the peaceful planet and hack the Earth’s Master Computer, which basically runs everything in 2191. You play as Nova and must disarm the six sectors guarded by aliens and destroy the Computer to restore peace and order to the planet.
This is a side-scrolling action game, which at times reminded me of a more adult Mega Man, while also drawing influence from games like Journey to Silius and Ninja Gaiden, with a hint of Castlevania (heck you even have a clock tower level). Nova’s main weapon is his boomerang, which can fire in eight directions. Throughout each stage there are essential power-ups that will increase the range and power of the weapon. When powered up, the game becomes a lot easier and less frustrating (much like being fully powered-up in Life Force).
There are hidden items in the stages that allow you to upgrade the Power Blade. These give you a special suit armed with a large wave type weapon that is extremely effective and deadly. You’ll keep this until you take a total of three hits.
In addition to the alien enemies, which mostly have robotic characteristics, there is a fair amount of platforming. Getting used to the jumping is a chore, and prepare to see lots of insta-deaths until you get used to the precision needed to make the long standing jumps. Nova has a pretty generous health bar, and health packs (hamburgers) are dropped regularly by killing enemies. You get three lives, but have unlimited continues and there is a simple password system. You can also hold and save health packs, which refill your life (just like the E-Tanks in Mega Man 3) and these are really helpful during the boss fights.
Thankfully there is a stage select, something I like to see in games so if you get too frustrated with one level you can move onto the next and come back later to the one giving you problems. There are six different sectors to choose from and they of course can be completed in any order. However, I found they got progressively harder numerically, so I’d recommend starting at 1. They all have slightly different settings, but aren’t necessarily themed like you’d see in other games. The sectors are quite large, and it’s not a bad idea to make a little map while playing, as these stages are non-linear with several different paths to explore.
In each sector you must first the find the agent who gives you the code to access the Security Room. Once you located the Room you are treated to a boss battle. I do love this idea, adding an extra element to the game, I just wish they would have gone more in the style of Metroid and had all the sectors connect, rather than breaking them down into six individual stages.
The graphics look really sharp, and there is great detail to Nova’s animation and character. I like the futuristic setting as it is illustrated well, I just wish there a little more variety to the areas as well as the enemy characters. Power Blade has a nice soundtrack and each sector has a different theme to it. However the tracks and sound effects don’t quite stack up against the incredible music of Mega Man, Ninja Gaiden, or Silius.
The attack controls here feel really good, and I love the 8-directional boomerang. However, jumping from platforms feels stiff. There is not a run button, so making these long leaps feels unnatural and can be really difficult at first.
Power Blade is a really good action game with an awesome weapon and a cool futuristic setting. The ability to choose your stage is a feature I wish more games took advantage of. The levels are fun to explore and have the added challenge of finding the code and the room, rather than just rushing straightforward to the boss. The game has two difficulty levels which helps add to the re-playability factor. The graphics and sound are both high quality and this tears apart so many of the lame action games from last year. However, the game seems to fall a little short compared to the truly great Nintendo action titles. It’s lacking a little something in every category and although I enjoyed it immensely, it never felt as magical as playing the Ninja Gaiden or Mega Man series.
Power Blade Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 7.5/107.5/10
- Gameplay - 7.5/107.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Taito made a really nice game in Power Blade. Although it clearly borrows from a lot of other games, the action and exploration here are really well done. Playing this was a lot of fun, however I think giving each stage a distinct name, theme, boss, and setting would have propelled this game quite a bit.