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Sean Pettibone

Bujingai: The Forsaken City (PlayStation 2)

By Michael Palisano

Mixing elements of Shinobi and Devil May Cry, Bujingai: The Forsaken City is a stylish hack and slash adventure with a surprising amount of depth. The game casts you as an immortal martial arts master named Lau Wong. Lau has some cool moves and special abilities such as long jumps and wall-running that allow him to dispatch the hordes of enemy fighters with ease. Most of the game involves battling foes using your moves and combos. Bujingai is a fast-paced game that offers plenty of action while offering a surprisingly deep and satisfying attack system. While Bujingai's short length and predictable enemy AI are major drawbacks, the title's aesthetic excellence and addictive visceral action make it a satisfying title for fans of the genre.

Bujingai is set several hundred years in the future after a devastating attack by evil forces has killed most of the human race. An isolated island houses most of what remains, but the ancient technology in the city has also unleashed a horde of demonic invaders on the remaining citizens. An ancient soldier named Lau Wong is called into action and returns to the Earth to defeat these hordes and rescue one of his old friends from the evil clutches of this mysterious force. The game begins with an extensive tutorial where you learn Lau's techniques and special moves. This is done in the form of small mini-missions that you can also return to at any point during the game from the main temple to polish your fighting skills. Lau's standard two sword attack is devastating on most enemies will quickly send them back to where they came from. Most of these moves can be performed by pressing a single button, which causes multiple slashes at foes and intense damage. Players can also combo or chain moves together to inflict even greater damage on their opponents. The game's pace is relentless throughout, and you'll have to go through dozens of enemies on each level to progress.

When Lau confronts multiple enemies, he can use the special attacks in unison to defeat a single foe or concentrate his attacks on all nearby enemies. He can use his jumping and running abilities to get out of the way of enemy attacks and can perform special techniques such as wall-running and gliding to escape damage. Lau can also use the targeting feature to focus on a single or multiple foes, making his attacks much more effective. One of the coolest aspects of Bujingai is Lau's ability to counter an enemy spell by catching it, and adding its energy to his own reserve. This is tricky to accomplish at first, but an amazingly effective technique once mastered. In addition to these standard moves, Lau can unleash a number of spectacular magic attacks by calling on his spells. These are incredibly damaging and especially effective against boss characters. When an enemy falls, they'll usually drop a few blue orbs, which he can use to purchase upgrades or new spells between rounds. During each mission, you can also collect other types of orbs that can replenish your energy, unlock spells, release sealed doors and more. Some levels require you to collect a number of orbs or special items, which adds to Bujingai's depth and immersion. Since you're limited to a few basic moves and spells when you begin the game, upgrading your character is essential if you want to succeed in Bujingai's later levels.

The game's intricate combat system is surprisingly deep, and adds a great deal of strategy to the gameplay without sacrificing the speed and intensity action gamers have come to expect. While you can make some progress mindlessly mashing buttons, the real satisfaction comes in mastering the game's intricacies and nuances. Chaining the different combos together is another key strategy that takes some trial and error to get the techniques and maneuvers down solidly. Whether you choose to attack foes from the air or on the ground makes a big difference in how effective your strikes are and how vulnerable you are to taking damage. Bujingai's intuitive, responsive controls make playing the game an easy task that allows you to have a great flexibility in how you attack. Performing the special moves is nearly automatic and requires only a single button press. Chaining a few of these moves together is likewise fairly simple, allowing you to create some incredibly massive multi-hit combos without much effort.

Bujingai's gameplay is fairly straightforward, with levels designed for easy navigation that makes them fairly easy to traverse. The vast majority of your time will be spent battling foes, and the game's puzzles aren't that difficult to figure out. The game itself is structured nicely with a nice pace that allows you to gradually gain proficiency before it throws more challenging action at you. It starts off fairly slowly, with a first level that feels derivative and somewhat dull thanks to waves of similar enemies with predictable attacks. Your initial impression of Bujingai is likely to be negative if you only see the first level, but the game becomes more interesting later on as it throws more varied and unpredictable foes at you. The combat system is beautifully designed, and while Lau's elegant moves seem to be unnecessarily flashy initially, these flourishes become more meaningful when you face off against tougher adversaries. To help you along during the each level, you can call up a mapping function. It's fairly useless in the early stages with their simple, linear layouts but as the levels and environments open up and become larger, this is quite a handy function. However, the problems with the gameplay are two-fold and significant. There are only eight levels in the game, which means it seems to climax and end just as you're getting into the groove. The other major problem are the enemies, which aside from the boss encounters, become quite predictable in a hurry. There aren't as many types of enemies as you would like, which makes playing the game an exercise in mindless button mashing. Once you have learned their attack patterns and can anticipate their moves before they make them, the challenge lessens dramatically. Playing through each level unlocks some extra content and a harder level of difficulty, but it's not enough when the gameplay is so predictable. This elaborate combat system's depth is what saves the game from becoming an exercise in mindless button mashing. Mastering all of the moves and techniques requires a great deal of patience and skill that makes for a satisfying and intense experience.

From a visual standpoint, Bujingai makes impressive use of the PS2 with richly detailed environments that are expansive and realistic. The post-apocalyptic design is further realized by the use of detailed polygon mapping and light-sourcing to create a believable game world. The game's environments offer a wide range of locales from urban landscapes to creepy forests which gives Bujingai plenty of aesthetic variation. Character designs are excellent, and showcase a unique and stylish approach that's somewhat reminiscent of other genre titles, but with a unique eastern flair rooted in martial arts tradition that sets it apart from the pack. The enemies are particularly impressive and show a great deal of flair and menace. This is particularly true of the bosses, which fill up the screen and move with great menace towards Lau. Bujingai's animation is likewise impressive, with the characters moving smoothly throughout each level. Lau's move-sets display an acrobatic, almost artistic flair that accentuates his powerful abilities effectively. The soundtrack fits the action and style of the game perfectly, with a mix of traditional Japanese sounds with light techno beats that compliment the action without overpowering it. Unlike many games that implement a third-person perspective, Bujingai's.excellent camera system is surprisingly effective and rarely gets in the way of the action. Players can either adjust the camera using the right analog stick, or automatically center the action behind Lau. His acrobatic movements are beautiful to behold and the game frequently changes perspective when you perform a special attack. Overall, Bujingai's beautiful design and detailed environments make for an impressive visual experience that immerses you into an evocative world.

While Bujingai lacks the polish or depth of other titles in this sub-genre, it's still an enjoyable experience that offers plenty of enjoyment for players looking for something relatively intense, yet requiring some skill. Beautifully rendered environments and stylish visuals add to the game's visual punch.The intense combat and flashy moves are the game's main draw, but it's the deep combat system that will keep you playing after the initial excitement wears off. The opponents' AI is a bit predictable, and the lack of levels means it's relatively easy to beat, but these problems are overcome by the game's successes in other areas. Ultimately, Bunjingai: The Forsaken City delivers a solid gaming experience that fans of the genre should enjoy. It's not the most original game ever made, but the stylish graphics and addictive gameplay make for an exciting experience that's worth a purchase.

Grade: B

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