Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Kozure Ookami (Arcade)

So, Lone Wolf and Cub, sometimes known as Babycart or Shogun Assassin, is a very well-known comic and series of movies about a guy named Ogami Itto and his three year old son, who goes around violently killing lots of people. I have to admit that I've never actually read any of the comics or seen any of the movies, but I do know that much about them, but doesn't everyone? This game's a beat em up based on that story.

Obviously, you play as Itto, and you go about with your son in a backpack, slashing lots of guys to death. Though it's a belt scrolling beat em up, in terms of mechanical complexity, it inhabits a kind of middle ground between the simpler single plane beat em ups that came before it, like Spartan X, My Hero, et al., and the more complex belt scrollers that would come later, the Final Fights, the Streets of Rages, and so on. There's no comboing, but you do have a block button, and can perform a couple of different slashes with your sword by holding a direction as you press the attack button.
There's very few power-ups, with the most exciting being the famous babycart itself, which will appear for a short time, giving you increased movement speed and a projectile attack. Interestingly, if you press the block button while the babycart is present, you'll instead dismantle it to create a halberd, giving you slightly greater attack range for a short time instead. I assume there must be some advantage to doing this, though I'm yet to have figured out what. Another one is a little piece of paper (I think?), that does nothing until you collect three, at which point, you're whisked away to a duel mini-game. Be the first to attack after the counter reaches zero, and you cut your opponent down, and get a big points bonus. You don't lose a life if you fail, you just get sent back to the main game without a bonus.

Other than that, the game's structured pretty traditionally: you go along the stages killing enemies until you get to a boss, then you kill the boss and go onto the next stage. Starting with the second stage, though, the game does commit a heinous design crime: there's platform sections, with instant death pits, while you also have to avoid enemies jumping out of the pits and the game doesn't even have a dedicated jump button (you press block and attack together to jump). It's unfair, it's no fun, and it's an awkward break from the constant disembowelling that makes up the rest of the game. I'm not going to say it totally ruins the experience, but it's definitely a significant detractor.

That one big flaw aside, though, Kozure Ookami is still a pretty great game, and it does an especially good job creating a mood and forging its own identity through the way it looks and sounds. I'd say it's definitely worth a look.

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