Bujingai: The Forsaken City

One of the best action games on the PS2


The Lowdown

Pros: Flashy action sequences, loads of fun, great graphics, excellent soundtrack

Cons: Short, really really really short, easy to beat

Purchase at Play-Asia

When Tatio and Red Storm Entertainment set out to create Bujingai people often questioned the game. Red Storm Entertainment's lukewarm success with Gungrave already raised doubts in people's minds about the quality of the game. Hearing the inclusion of the Japanese pop star Gackt being the main character, Lau Wong Yu raised more doubts. The character model didn't help raise people's hopes either. If you take a glance of character model his pink hair, visible lipstick and feminine dress makes anyone question him as a hero. Bujingai proves that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover because Gackt.. umm.. Lau has some cool moves. In the end Bujingai ended up being a surprise hit and a well deserved success for Red Storm Entertainment.

The game doesn't stop with the celebrities there. The story of Bujingai was written by Yousuke Kuroda, best known as the writer of Trigun. In 22XX, after a nuclear reactor explosion, civilization collapses due to the lack of electrical power. Lau lives in this period along with his friend Lei Shen Long. However, Lei is possessed by demons and it is bent on destroying what remains of the world. It is up to Lau to stop his old friend and save the world. Lau isn't exactly on his own. He's trained by martial arts master Takehiro and accompanied by the mysterious Liu.

When you first pop Bujingai in your PS2 you're thrown right into the action. Lau is placed in a small city level where you get a chance to experiment with the gameplay mechanics. After about two minutes the level closes and your actions are played back in a small music video accompanied by the game's credits. Watching the flashy swordplay movements of Lau in the music video sets the tone of the game, which is this game is cool. Everything in this game is graphically stylized. Even the smallest gameplay details like running from location to location looks well done. When you actually engage in combat it looks more like a movie scene or something out of an anime series than a video game. Lau dances around his enemies waving his two swords around him like a graceful Chinese fencer. Every movement is fluid even when side stepping around enemies and changing into different moves. The eye candy continues when using Lau's magic attacks which include shooting a fireball and an attack that launches Lau at his enemies.

While the combat looks beautiful, it's extremely simplistic. You have one button for your basic attack and another button for a whirlwind attack. By alternating pressing these buttons you can do different combos. These combos include a fanciful Chinese swordplay dance, an aerial rave and even an attack that has Lau kicking his opponents repeatedly. Add in another button for a magic attack and you've got a combo system that anyone can learn in a few seconds. Each time you hit an enemy it is added to your Gungrave style hit counter. You even have a brief three second grace period to find another enemy to wail on to continually increase your combo meter. There are plenty of enemies to be found so stringing together a hundred hit combo or more can be done easily. If Lau is attacked by any of the endless enemies he can easily counter attack. By doing nothing Lau will block a number of hits indicated by the white flames next to the yellow life bar. If you press either attack button before the flames run out Lau will instantly counter attack and you're treated to more flashy attack effects than a standard attack.

While Lau has an arsenal of melee moves, Lau is also versatile for moving on the ground. He can jump, double jump and even double jump off of buildings. He can also run up walls and even have glide by holding down the jump button after leaping. All of these moves are required to get from area to area since there will be high buildings to leap over and far away platforms to reach. The controls are simple enough and responsive enough so you won't get too frustrated when trying to control Lau. The only exception is gliding. When Lau is gliding the controls don't seem as responsive so you may find yourself falling down again and again when trying to float to the next area.

Red Storm Entertainment did a good job of having different level styles. Instead of seeing bland backgrounds over and over again each level is in a completely different setting. The first level puts Lau in a city and the second one in a bamboo forest. Each of the levels are large and contain a lot of hidden items, like Tai Chi symbols that can unlock extra features and hidden magic attacks. Each level is also packed with blue orbs, which can also be obtained by beating enemies. These orbs can be used to increase Lau's life, magic gauge, combo length and even the amount of free hits he gets. Customization is up to the player, but the options are somewhat limited. While each level feels fresh and has secrets, there are only seven levels. Let me say that again, there are only seven levels. Of course you can play them again and again, but only seven levels? The lack of levels compounded with the ease of the game means it can be beaten in one sitting. Beating the game does unlock "harder" difficulty modes, but they're still not that challenging.

Even with the lack of levels Bujingai shows that the developers at Red Storm Entertainment weren't lazy. The amount of detail put into the presentation of Bujingai is amazing. Besides the fluid graphics and gameplay mechanics there are lots of little details added into the game. For instance in the bamboo level you can actually cut the bamboo around you. So while your slashing away at enemies there are bamboo stalks falling down around you. The full motion video sequences show immense detail, the level of detail that you would expect in a Final Fantasy or other Square Enix game. The voiceovers are also excellent. After all they star famous voice actors Hirokazu Yamadera from Cowboy Bebop and Maya Sakamoto from Escaflowne. The background music completes the sound package. Most of the in game music sounds like a techno remix of traditional Chinese opera music or remixed Japanese drum sounds. However, the music retains an organic feel even though it is clearly synthesized. One great thing about the soundtrack is that it keeps the pace of the game at a constant energetic level.

While Bujingai is a short play through, it's fun the whole way through. Everything about the game is so well done, its action sequences, the music and even the voiceovers make you want to play the game over again even after completing it. This game proves that Red Storm Entertainment can include a lot of professional talent with solid gameplay to make something that anyone can enjoy.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1

While the game is primarily in Japanese, most of the crucial menus are in English. You won't need Japanese to know how to play the game, it's pretty self explanatory after ten minutes of experimenting with it.

US Bound?

Update: Due to the popularity of Bujingai in Japan it will be published by BAM! Entertainment and released in the US in May.

Overall

While Bujingai doesn't offer anything new, it does what it does well. Simply put Bujingai is an engaging action game from start to finish that is a blast to play.