REVIEW: Blood Will Tell

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As Willy will tell you, I am a big fan of Japanese comics, or manga.  I’m sticking my hand out now, and laying it on a wall of literally 1,000 graphic novels.  I even have a secret website dedicated to said hobby, though this website is probably more secret than that one is.  Among all this, there is Osamu Tezuka, who people will tell you is the “God of Manga.”  Some of what he’s done has been published in English, and certain series are more “Godlike” than others.  The three-volume series Dororo was published last year, a kid’s series published in the late 60s, and the manga that this game is based on.  Now, what would make a grown person want to play a game based on an obscure kid’s comic from the 60s?  Especially since most licensed games are crap. 

How about the awesome plot?  When was the last time you’ve played a game with an awesome plot?  I don’t run across them often.  In Blood Will Tell, you follow Hyakkimaru, whose father traded him to demons in exchange for being some sort of evil King.  Hyakkimaru was stripped of 48 body parts, one for each demon in the deal, then floated down a river, left for dead.  Luckily, a puppetmaker found him, built most of a body for him, and taught him how to be a regular person.  As grown-up Hyakkimaru, you are starting a quest to slay the 48 demons and get all your body parts back.  Each body part you recover gives you a stat boost or some ability you didn’t have – Hyakki’s voice is fake in the beginning, and once you recover his vocal chords, a phanger effect on his speech disappears.  When you recover one of his eyes, the game gains all its color.  Recovering your real legs lets you run, and other parts that make less sense (his five chakras, things like his pancreas) will give you boosts to health, strength, speed, et cetera.

So what do you do to slay the demons?  Well, you cut them apart with your sword arms, shoot them with your machine gun attachment, or fire on them with your leg cannon.  Mostly you will be wielding two swords, one for each of your nonexistent arms, though you can also find special swords and wield only one that has a bonus like shocking enemies, freezing them, making you immune to certain things, et cetera.  You will be cutting down many foes.  There is more than one instance of Robotron-like “fill the area with enemies, then slay all of them” events.  There are lots of demons to slay, and cutting them apart with your swords will never get old.  After you mow down a ton of small enemies in any given villaige, forest, et cetera, you will have to face one of the 48 fiends, and these are a typical boss battle.  Most of them are pretty easy, though sometimes they’ll throw you a curveball like being able to fly, having some sort of massive elemental attack, being super-fast, and stuff like that.  In addition to the fiends you will encounter as bosses, there are any number of hidden fiends you have to find in each area, and you usually go back to the area after you’ve beaten it to locate all the fiends and claim your ribs, or nose, or whatever it is that they have.  They are not difficult to locate, but you will have to mow down all the enemies in the stage again, sans bosses, to get to the areas where the fiends are hidden.

You don’t have to find all the body parts, but you’ll want to.  In addition to two insane hard final bosses where you’ll want all the help those extra body parts can give you as far as stats and stuff go, you need 47 body parts to unlock the last boss fight, which is next to impossible to beat.  I had trouble because I didn’t actually use combos the entire game, and you will need them on this boss, in addition to swords you would get by beating enemies with combos.

There’s also Dororo.  The series (and game) was called Dororo in Japan, and this goes back to it being for little kids.  Dororo is a little kid that will follow you around, Tails-like, and in story segments bug the hell out of you.  You can tell him to do various things like look for hidden things in the level (usually fiends), but he will also help you by throwing stones at bosses, grabbing items for you, and… I don’t know, I didn’t really use him for anything.  Mostly he just yells “Something’s not right!”  There are Dororo-only segments in the game, where Hyakkimaru and Dororo will split up.  Dororo segments are sort of wars of attrition, because Dororo can only throw things like stones at his enemies, which is slow and boring after slicing through demons with two sword arms.  Most of his segments are also puzzles, which are often difficult because of the game’s terrible camera.  The camera isn’t actually an issue when you play as Hyakkimaru, but it will make you curse and throw things when you have to play as Dororo.

The gimmick of playing a mostly-puppet protagonist and slowly turning him into a real boy (like some sort of bizarre Pinocchio) is fun, and there’s definitely a sense of accomplishment that comes with getting part of Hyakkimaru’s brain back by defeating what appears to be an alien shooting lasers at you (though most of the demons have pretty traditional Eastern designs, some of which are recycled for some of the hidden fiends throughout the game).  I don’t know that a lot of people played this when it came out, but the awesome plot combined with somewhat mindless gameplay make for a pretty fun experience.

Plus, the manga was unfinished, and the game gives it the totally epic ending it should have had.  When was the last time you played a game that was better than the original story?

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