| paleface [sys=GBA; cat=Beat_em_up; loc=JPN] |
|It's always nice when you find that a fun game has more depth than you'd given it credit for. At first Dancing Sword seems like a meaty beat-em-up with female leads, weird-looking monsters and a lot of fighting. Good deal, eh? Well, it gets better: each character has three A/B chain combos corresponding to different elements (fire, ice, electricity, maybe others).|
Now, you're probably thinking "chain combos with just two buttons? Lame" but wait, there's more. Here's where the "Dancing" part of the title comes in: in addition to hitting the right A/B button sequence, you've also got to hit them in the correct rhythm. Tricky, so it's fortunate that you can pause the game at any time and go into a special practice mode that shows you where your timing is off. As you perform a combo your girl makes a brief battle cry with each successive move so you can tell when you've lost the combo because she'll stop yelling.
So, you run along horizontally with a bit of vertical space too, like the old Capcom beat-em-ups, and, well, beat people up until you get to the boss, then beat him up, then it autosaves and you start the next level. With a notable exception: for much of the time in a level the background just sort of wraps from left to right, for instance if a powerup drops on the ground and you run quickly to either side, you'll come across that powerup again after you've travelled a little over a screen length. Enemies appear in the offscreen area and then scroll in. Once you meet certain requirements you sort of teleport to the next area of the level, possibly with another looping background.
In the first couple levels pulling off the chain combos hasn't been necessary except at one spot where I had to trigger the correct elemental effect to continue. They'll probably come in handy in later levels though. It's difficult to do them in actual combat, either because I'm a panicky bastard or because there's a little touch of slowdown throwing off my timing. Probably a mixture of the two, which I guess is good because if you could do them every time then there wouldn't be much challenge in the game because you'd just go through everything like a train. As it is, by the second level the game starts to throw some tricky opponents at you, they attack from all sides, nasty things start happening in the world around you, and it sometimes gets a bit sweaty.
Aside from the A/B slash/kick (you can choose from four different control mappings) there's a "Guard" button (haven't used) and a fourth button that I think is used for hitting downed opponents, but I haven't tried that yet. There's no Jump button but with the girl I played you could side jump by double-tapping to the side and hitting A--this isn't a jump attack though, in fact you land facing the opposite direction, as if you're supposed to use this to flip over someone and attack them from behind. Unusual. If you lose all three lives you can restart at the beginning of the level.
Graphically it is somewhat sub-par, not bad but kind of ugly in areas, and the animation isn't great. But this is a beat-em-up with lots of things to beat up and complicated combos to master, so who cares about graphics? I found myself playing this for longer than I intended, trying to get the combos down and trying to pass the @$&#%! poison swamp level. It delivers quite well for a beat-em-up, with more depth than most.