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Berserk and the Band of the Hawk
Score: 73%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: KOEI TECMO America Corp.
Developer: Omega Force
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:
There have been several games now where they take the Dynasty Warriors concept and apply it to other stories. It works pretty well on some games, while in other stories, it just doesnít fit very well. Berserk and the Band of the Hawk fits into the latter category.

It looks like there are three different art styles. Youíve got the cut-scenes that show at certain times. In these, the art looks more or less like the anime. Then thereís the battle art, which looks pretty good too. You can opt to turn blood off in these scenes. There is a lot of blood and it sprays when you slash anyone, like you would expect. Your character ends up covered in blood, but this is not a bad thing. It is more realistic with the blood turned on. Then there are the scenes in your camp, between battles. I really donít like the artwork there. It just doesnít look right. Their mouths, especially Cascaís, are a bit creepy when they talk. I think the teeth are too big or show too much. However, their clothing is pretty well done and you will unlock new costumes as you play.

The game is done solely in Japanese with English subtitles. As I have said about pretty much all the previous games, this is a problem when you are in battle. You tend to miss things that are said, but you can always go check the Battle Log and see what was said. You just have to pause a lot. The music is perfectly fitting for battle. Plus, you get a lot of neat sounds for sword strikes and such. You definitely get a battle feeling.


Gameplay:
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is the story of Guts and his companions. Guts is your main character and he carries a huge sword. At the beginning of the game, he wakes up in a very creepy place essentially made of skulls and patrolled by monsters. This is just a nightmare that will let you get the feel of the game and the hang of some of the controls. After you wake up, you will find out that Guts is a mercenary and has been a mercenary since his birth, trained solely to fight, but now he works for whoever pays. Guts is not a part of the Band of the Hawk at the beginning of the game because you will have to face them in battle first. After that, you will pledge to follow Griffin, leader of the Band of the Hawk. Griffin wants to have his own kingdom, and since Guts is now in his service, he has no choice but to follow him. With Griffin, that attitude never lasts long. He exudes a confidence that makes people like him and want to follow him. You will start unlocking more characters for play, some that can be used in the Story Mode and some (like Nosferatu Zodd) only in Free Play and Endless Eclipse Mode. Even after you unlock more characters, there are certain battles that can only be played as Guts, because thatís what the story dictates. Free Mode and Endless Eclipse Mode are available after you beat the first real battle.

The story is where I feel Berserk and the Band of the Hawk falls flat. I really loved the anime and there are a whole bunch of little things that make it excellent. Unfortunately, all those little details get left out, which leaves you with just the basic story - mercenary band fights everyone. There is more to the story in the game, but itís just missing so much that could have been told.

After you complete battles, you will unlock events. These events could have been a bit longer and gotten you into more of the story, but instead, they are 30 second or so conversations that donít really add anything to the story. This is not to say that the story is bad, but rather that it doesnít even compare or begin to give you the full sense of the show.

Story Mode consists of fighting battles. You can go back and repeat any of the previous battles, if you want. You will probably need to if you want to collect all the Behelit. In the Story Mode, you will be given Missions and completing them will get you Behelits. Collecting these will let you unlock picture panels that you can view. The battles in Story Mode will be over when you complete the final mission. You will fail the battle if you die or if you fail to complete the final mission.

Free Mode has the same battles as Story Mode; you can simply go back and replay them as whoever you like. The scenes that are locked to a certain character in Story Mode are open to all unlocked characters in Free Mode. Endless Eclipse Mode is different. Here your "characters' desires are revealed." You basically fight your way through to descend into deeper and deeper layers and you will earn rewards for getting to specific layers. You will want to play as a variety of characters as the rewards depend upon the characters. The Desires are also different for each character. You can collect Behelits here as well, when you defeat the Stray War Demons and you can only go back to camp after you make it through five layers. If you quit or die before that, you lose everything you have collected. You can choose the desire you are working towards in camp. If you played Warriors Orochi 3, this is similar to the Gauntlet Mode. The one drawback is that you cannot save. Once you enter this mode, you have to play through to the end or you go back to level 1 and you will not have all the levels unlocked at the beginning. You unlock more as you progress in the Story Mode.


Difficulty:
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk provides four difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Berserk. When you first start the game at level 1, you probably donít want to take on Berserk. You can probably pass the levels on the rest of the difficulty levels. If youíre just looking to see the story (what little of it there is), you can play through on Easy without missing a thing. Normal will give you a bit of a challenge. If youíre looking for a fight, take on Berserk. I would recommend leveling up a bit first though! While in battle, look for chests and theyíre easy to find since they glow gold. These have recovery items in them. Youíll also earn spoils of war that you can equip before battle, which can greatly help you if used correctly.

Some levels are more difficult than others. In some, you can run into giant beasts. On these, youíll only have one enemy, but heíll be quite hard to take down. On other levels, you are locked into using one character. We all have our favorite characters to play with, but youíll be forced to use one that you might not be so happy with. You can always change the difficulty before each level if you have trouble getting past one.


Game Mechanics:
If you have played any of the Warriors games, then you will already be pretty familiar with the controls in Berserk and the Band of the Hawk as most of them are the same. Some things have different names, like Frenzy Mode is similar to Musou attacks. (Square) is normal attack, (Triangle) is charge, while (X) is quick step and lets you hop on or off of a horse. (L1) is guard/reset camera. I donít find I guard too much in these games, but I needed to at times. (LS) moves your character, while (RS) moves the camera and you can also strafe, which can be handy. To do so, hold (L1) while moving. (Options) brings up the Pause Menu. Your Frenzy Mode gauge fills while you fight and (O) launches your Frenzy, which will make you stronger. While in a Frenzy, you will fill up a Death Blow Gauge for monsters that you kill. You can press (O) again to release the death blow and plow through your enemies. (R3) will let you lock onto those stronger enemies, making it easier to target them specifically. Just note that if you want to run away from them, press (R3) again to unlock from them. (R1) uses equipped items, and (L2) is used to call your horse. If you keep holding it, your horse will pick you up while you are running.

Overall, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is an okay game. It has some good gameplay and I do quite enjoy the Endless Mode. I just wish it gave you more of the actual story. You donít understand the character interactions by playing the game, which leaves you feeling a bit bleh as to the overall concept and story and it feels like thereís something missing. If youíre looking for another game to run around and slash people and monsters open though, itís definitely up your alley.


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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