Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Demon Chaos (PS2)

When Dynasty Warriors 2/Shin Sangoku Musou came out back in 2000, it wowed everyone with it's hge battlefields filled with dozens of enemies. As that series has gone on, the amount of enemies on the battlefield, as well as the amount of enemies appearing onscreen at a time have both increased. But even now, after tons of sequels, spin-offs and licenced tie-ins, none of Koei's games have been able to match the sheer number of enemies displayed in this PS2 game from 2005.

Developed by Genki and published outside of Japan by Konami, Demon Chaos (also known as Ikusa Gami) sees the player controlling a big, burly lion-man samurai, somewhat reminiscent of the 1970s tokusatsu series Taiketsu Lion Maru. They're tasked with saving feudal Japan from hordes of spider-like demons that are spewing forth from giant red gems called blood crystals. At first glance, it all looks like a fairly standard Dynasty Warriors clone, albiet with a fantasy coat of paint, and few more on-screen enemies.

As you progress through the first cople of stages, however, things start to change a little. Firstly, you'll become a leader of men, having huge armies of human soldiers following in your wake. These soldiers are obviously a lot weaker than the player character, though you have to rely on them to destroy the blood crystals, which are unaffected by your own attacks. Secondly, you gain the ability to order your soldiers to build magic pillars. These pillars have various uses: healing soldiers that are near them, firing arrows at nearby demons, and destroying nearby enemy structures (including blood crystals).

The fact that your entire army follows you directly, and that you need them to build pillars gives the player more a feeling of responsibility when it comes to keeping them alive, compared to the Dynasty Warriors games, where you barely interact with your underlings, and their lives are of no consequence to you. I guess it also helps that there are constant on-screen trackers telling you exactly how many soldiers you have left alive.

There's more interesting things to be said regarding the pillars, too. As well as the main effects they carry, having them built is also the best way to fill up your power meter, which allows you to perform special moves and activate your "spirit release" ability, which essentialy turns you into a destructive force of nature ntil it runs out. There's also the whole "earth force" mechanic relating to the pillars too: as you walk around, you'll see ripples of energy at your feet. These ripples represent the earth energy, kind of like ley lines, and the more ripples there are in an area, the stronger pillars built there will be.

Now, the enemy count. It's insane. Only a couple of stages in, and you'll be killing hundreds of enemies in the opening skirmish, and thousands by the end of the stage. On top of this, you'll also have hundreds of your allies fllowing you around too, so there's always a sense of the battles taking place on a grand scale. Taking this to its absurd extremes is an extra mode aside from the main game called Massacre mode, which places the player alone in a flat, featureless field with 65535 enemies, where they have to attempt to kill as many as they can in 3 minutes.

Although the whole battlefield action genre has an (unfair) reputation for all being identical, boring and repetitive, Demon Chaos is a game that definitely does enough to stand out from the crown, both in its mechanics, and in the sheer spectacle of its battles. It's odd that no-one (as far as I know) has ever tried to match or even top the scale of the battles in this game, especially considering that it came out over a decade ago, and there's been two rounds of more powerful consoles since then.

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