It's the storyline that draws you in more than anything. Blood Will Tell would have made a great TV anime series if it wasn't a PS2 game (the game is adapted from the manga Dororo by Astro Boy maker Osamu Tezuka).
The main character of this hack-and-slash game, Hyakkimaru, is a samurai warrior with 48 body parts missing. With the world corrupted by demons controlled by the 48 Fiends, hope lies in the hands of a "saviour" who will come to free Japan's suffering citizens.
After being made aware of a hero that could rid the land of evils, the Fiends looked for the parents of the child seeking to corrupt them before the child is born. The demons and Fiends feed on human misery, greed and dispute, which drew the hero's father to strike a bargain with them. In exchange for wealth and power, Hyakkimaru's father gave him up to the Fiends who divided his body parts into 48 pieces.
However, at the last minute, his father changed his mind and salvaged what was left of the infant Hyakkimaru. He floated on the river ala Moses until a medicine man found him. Through telepathic communication, the medicine man built Hyakkimaru's limbs with concealed weapons. His prosthetic arms mask the swords attached to his limbs, his right knee opens to become a canon, while his right arm works as an armalite.
As Hyakkimaru, you are tasked to find all 48 Fiends, kill them and retrieve your missing body parts. It is actually a little of an educational process getting Hyakkimaru's body parts back, as the game shows what each part is for and what it needs to function (eg. the esophagus pushes the food in a process called peristalsis).
The more demons Hyakkimaru defeats using his arm swords, the higher the level of skills he acquires. Although the gun is not very flashy, it comes in handy when you need to shoot down Fiends from a distance. The canon is also very good for this. However, we found that it was difficult to aim using the canon, especially if you are trying to avoid a monster 100 times bigger than your character.
Hyakkimaru can shift from his sword arms to swords he picks up along the way. However, we found the sword movements to be limiting and not as engaging as the moves he can do using his arm swords. Slashing open containers and statues scattered throughout the game will give additional ammunition for both the arm gun and the leg canon. Some of it also provides health and spirit powers. Spirit attacks come in handy once your Spirit gauge is full. But doing the combo specified on the screen for maximum pain can be tricky, especially if you are not used to using the Spirit attack.
A Fiend comes at the end of each chapter, with some tougher than others. Each Fiend, however, can be defeated after several attempts at learning its pattern. Once you get the routine of their attacks, it will be easier to figure out what to do.
For instance, the Ogress runs around chasing you during the first half of the fight, so you must strike from behind after she finishes releasing her electric bolts and circle of fire. During the second half, she will float on top of a tower and release other demons to get you. The demons are too stupid to be a threat so just run around them. The game hints that you are supposed to use your leg canon to shoot down the flying Ogress, but most will probably find it hard to get a clear shot since you have to run to avoid her lightning bolts. She will eventually float back down where you can continue attacking her from behind.
Players also get to play Hyakkimaru's little boy/girl sidekick Dororo (he is referred to as a boy in the game, but you'll understand the confusion once you see him/her). Several segments in the game require the use of Dororo in investigating and stealing things. He is not much of a fighter, but he's very agile. He also helps Hyakkimaru during fight sequences. Although he "dies" faster during fights with Fiends when the artificial intelligence is controlling his moves, Dororo can make a decent dent in the demons' or Fiends' life lines.
The camera in this game is pathetic to say the least. How, pray tell, do you kill a Fiend or a demon when you can't even see yourself? There were several instances when Hyakkimaru just disappeared after moving in a certain direction. There seems to be several blind spots in this game.
To confuse players further, the vantage point shifts strangely during several instances in the game. When this happens, the player finds himself pressing back when going forward, left when going right etc, which is annoying and confusing especially when trying to avoid fireball breathing demons. With the dodgy controls and weird camera, it is best not to look at the map on the upper right hand side of the screen lest you get more confused.
As for the myriad of demons, well, it is not so hard to avoid them if you need to conserve your life line for a big fight. Run around them, jump over them and just plainly go through them and you'll be fine. Not too much of a challenge, eh? But they will be once you start getting more body parts which gives you additional skills as well. For instance, once you get your legs, you'll be able to run faster, which means the demons also move faster.
If you prefer to just hack and slash and not use much brain power to figure things out then this might just be the game for you. It is annoying in places but it will be enough entertainment for a rainy day and a great way to kill time.
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