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Shinsengumi Gunrou-den
  opened by paleface at 02:34:00 03/03/05  
  last modified by paleface at 02:48:31 03/03/05  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Beat_em_up; loc=JPN]
I've also seen this romanized as "Shinsen Gumi Gunraw Den." Certain fans have been known to refer to it as "ShinsenGuro."
A medieval samurai action game, ShinsenGuro confused me at first. Normally you have to hold a shoulder button to stay locked-on to an enemy in these kinds of weapon-based beat-em-up games, but in this one, holding the shoulder button activates and then de-activates the lock-on. So you just tap it once.
Then, there's what to do with the locked-on target. Let's see: Square slashes, and Triangle does a single powerful strike, so let's him them with those. Um... They keep blocking me. This isn't fair! Mash buttons! I died! I don't like this game!
Fortunately, as it turned out, I was missing the point and style of combat here: it's all based on countering with carefully timed button presses. So, you wait for the opponent to make a move, at which point an arrow thingy appears, showing you a direction or directions in which you can dodge. Press the stick that way and hit X, and you dodge, then ready yourself for a counter combo (screw up the dodge and you get hit, often more than once).
Counter combos can get pretty detailed, but the basic one is Square, Square, Square, then Triangle. If you've got this far and your opponent is still alive, you now have some options: wait for a beat and then do another combo, or press R2 and input a power move button sequence. You start out with just one, Square Circle Triangle, and this executes a big sweeping blow that does pretty good damage and knocks the opponent down. Apparently you learn/earn more power moves as you play through the game.
Pretty deep, eh? But there's more. Doing something or other stores up energy in a vertical meter on the left. Once this is full, press L2 to go into a glowy blurry red mode in which I think you do extra damage or something.
Something else (sorry this is vague, but I don't really know) gradually fills up a horizontal meter below your health meter: once this fills up and bursts into flame, press L2 + R2 to call in your sidekick for a massive scripted combo sequence that does incredible damage and looks cool. You have six or eight or so sidekicks to choose from at the start, and I'm not sure if you get more or not as you go on.
The levels are pretty darn long for a game of this sort, and I found myself wishing that I could save between sub-areas. Mid-bosses abound, and then of course you face an extra-tough final boss at the end. Lots of the time you're running through ricepaper-screened interiors, and you can joyfully rip right through the paper walls with your sword. You can smash lots of other stuff to, looking for XP powerups or temporary power boost items.
If you die, you usually have to restart a good ways back, although some of the foes you defeated before death, particularly midbosses, may not be in your way when you run back through their areas. That's nice, but more mid-level saves would have been much nicer.
The whole counter/combo fighting system is built around facing one opponent at a time, and usually the stock baddies respect this and only attack one at a time. However, sometimes they attack together, particularly in boss encounters: for instance you may face a sword boss with two sidekicks who shoot at you with rifles the whole time. These situations are pretty darn tricky.
The game has a ton of story in Japanese, fortunately you can skip all scenes with the Start button and cut right to the chase.
As far as looks go, the game manages fairly well. Characters look and animate pretty well, and the environments, though at times rather square and bare, and laden with heavy fog, generally manage to evoke the intended setting. Music does the same with a focus on light use of stringed instruments, but this doesn't exactly get you pumped. Ah well. Sound effects do a good job of helping the action, with zingy sound effects for sword clashes, combo timings, and so forth, and I particularly like how you can hear the footsteps of people sneaking up behind you (darn those ninja).
The camera seems a little lazy: if you turn around, it doesn't turn with you unless you start running, and then it only swings around gradually. This leaves me pressing R3 to recenter the camera quite often, and it becomes a little tedious. It ain't bad, but could have been better.
Anyway, so far I like it. The back and forth nature of the counter-based sword combat (some bosses will go through elaborate attack sequences, and you have to dodge and counter-combo multiple times in quick succession to get through) reminds me a fair deal of developer Red Entertainment's earlier game Bujingai (see entry 387), which I rather enjoyed. Red appears to be in a groove with these sword-swinging games.
· Bujingai (PS2)

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