Budokan - The Martial Spirit
Copyright/Publisher: Electronic Arts, Music By: Pablo Toledo
Release Year: 1992, Genre: Fighting Sports, Number Of Players: 1

'I wanna be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle,' screams CARL ROWLEY in an irratating whingey voice. Well tough luck matey-peep - you're too old, a complete wimp and getting you to shell out on anything's an uphill struggle. But as consolation you get to do this ninja-ish review...

Welcome humble student to my unworthy dojo (que?! - Man Ed). Once you enter here you must put aside foolish things (like OXO cubes, tir cones and plastic bananas) to pursue bujutsu, the art of battle and budo, the path of life. For wise man say, 'The mightiest sword is as a red if the arm that wields it is not worthy.'

Well as far as I'm concerned the mightier the sword the better and I like 'em pretty damn mighty, preferably with a razor-sharp blade, lots of teeth and covered in gore (hopefully someone else's).

Anyway there's none of that to be found here (sob, sob) but hang on before you all run away and commit ritual hari-kari (oops, too late) what we do have is probably the best martial-arts game I've seen a heap (most of them were too).

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Bo!
After some neat graphics and a great little tune which sets the mood you find yourself outside the gates to the Tobiko-Ryo Dojo where, before you can enter to train under your new Sensei, you must match a crest to a list provided (less brain cells than fingers required here). A little care is needed 'cos get it wrong an' you can only practise.

A courtyard lies beyond, off which are the four dojos where you train in the disciplines of Karate (chop, chop), Kendo (big stick), Bo (even bigger stick) and Nunchaku (sounds like nutcracker and best describes it).

The dojo screen's well-drawn, bright and colourful - a delight to the peepers. And as for the animation on the big chunky characters, interfrastically funkadacious are the words that spring to mind.

The next thing that strikes you is the mind-numbing selection of moves available, no fewer than 29 for the Bo! Plenty of joystick bending required here (at one point the guys had to unite my fingers).

Hand on, this isn't the bamboo garden!
In the dojo start on Jiyu-renshu, to practise the mass of wicked, bone-crunching moves alone. When satisfied with your control, move on to Kumite, the sparring section where a white-haired instructor knocks seven bucketfuls out of your unworthy hide until you get it right.

There are three instruction levels: Sankyu (easiest), Ikkyu (more difficult) and Shodan (most challenging). When sparring, your stamina and Ki bars come into play: Stamina's lost as you move or strike but mostly when you're hit. However, it can be regained by avoiding the other huy and not attacking (a bit like Chris Eubank).

Ki is the energy of the universe, the essential life force that flows through and around us (the silly notion that if you concentrate really hard you can put your head through a block of ferro-concrete).

The idea's to build up Ki by not attacking and not getting hit, the more you collect, the more damage you inflict when you kick butt. Ki is lost when you wallop someone, when they wallop you and if you're pushed off the mat during a bout.

After each bout, the instructor analyses your performance, telling you if you need to improve your speed or style and how your Ki is flowing - and let me tell you mine was flowing like Niagara (my Ki, you filthy beast!). Do this for all four disciplines then toddle along to chat with Tobiko-sensei who lives in what looks like a lrage garden shed at the top of the courtyard.

Watch yer lip
It's time to hunker down for some serious wisdom-getting as Tobiko tells how you probably aren't ready for the Budokan tournament but you can go if you want (how kind!). So off you go all over the world in search of fame, fortune and a fat lip.

The Budokan consists of 12 different opponents of increasing levels of difficulty who, in some cases, have moves you won't have seen, not to mention completely new fighting styles. Such was the case with Jimmy on Level Three: blow me I thought, the little yellow fellow's got a Wok on his head. I then proceeded to get a right good wok-ing myself!

Ah well, I'm off to compose great soiritual death poem... 'My life was like a bowl of rice pudding, fully rounded but over, too soon'. Not bad eh? (Get on with it pillock - Man Ed.) There only a couple of niggles with the game. One is the faffing around changing between the two double-sided disks: quite time-consuming but not as I had at firest feared, leading to frustration, as the anticipation levels remains high throughout.

The other is slow gameplay which at first made the thing look very pedestrian. However, what this really achieves is to give you time to plan and choose your attack (time well needed bearing in mind the array of moves available and the need to build up Ki).

As a result it doesn't degenerate into a frenzy of joystick waggling with the sprites leaping about like the epileptic March hares. On the whole this sums up Budokan, a game treading the fine line between frustration and anticipation and just coming down on the right side.

If you want to whip around the screen at Mark 5 killing everything in sight, pop out and rent 'Top Gun' 'cos this is not for you. But if you want a real battle of the wits and a cool calculated kick in the head, get in here! Well I'm off to try out this big stick on Lucy (ho, ho, ho little girl).

Carl! 94%

Ian!
Wayhay, hurrah, and a whoopie bleedin' do-da - at last, a beat-'em-up game that's everyhting it should be! After the current batch of sub-standard, boring crud (see last three issues), Budokan's a real breath of fresh air!!! The practice sections are interesting, varied, and feature a whole host of moves. What's more, it actually uses them - no one-blow-kills-all crap here!

Electronic Arts have certainly done their homework on the martial arts. The techniques used by the fighters are brilliantly realistic, and splendiferous animation makes the bouts a joy to watch - even the shadows look good!

With so many games following Hollywood's lead in portraying the martial arts as violent thuggery, it's great to see one that explores its philosophy as well as fighting techniques. Thorough research, excellent planning and brilliant execution make Budokan the Black Belt of beat-'em-ups.

93%


INTRO SCREEN

PRESENTATION 90%
Smooth, sharp and really well thought out.
GRAPHICS 95%
Best animation seen in this genre - ever!
SOUND 88%
Brill intro, this one really gets you going.
HOOKABILITY 90%
Once you're in there's no escaping this one.
LASTABILITY 94%
So in-dpeth, come back again factor is high.
OVERALL STRIKE 92%


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