Many people often think about what the distant future would be like. Would the world be a better place? Or would it be a horrible nightmare? Star Trek or Blade Runner? The game X-Kaliber 2097 gives its take on what the future holds. It’s a grim place in more ways than one…
X-Kaliber, Be My Strength
The story takes place in Neo New York in the year 2097. A large part of the world is ruled by Warlords. A man named Raptor lords over Neo New York. Raptor employs Morphs- mutant shapeshifters created by an evil dude by the name of Dr. Blast. There’s only one person who can put an end to Raptor’s reign: Slash!
Slash possesses the ultra powerful weapon named X-Kaliber, which comes from another world. This valuable sword has the power to shoot crescent-shaped fireballs and rumored to cut through steel like rancid butter. This scares Raptor, so he kidnaps Slash’s Special Forces partner, Alix, in order to draw Slash out into a fight and take the legendary sword. This is how our story begins…
Controls and Gameplay
The controls work good for this game. B button is used to jump, X lets you block attacks, Y performs a sword swipe, A does a sword thrust, and either the L or R shoulder pad enables you to throw a fireball. Pressing up on the d-pad in conjunction with the A button makes Slash do a vertical thrust. I don’t have a single complaint about the controls.
My complaint with the game is the frustrating gameplay. Firstly, the bosses are some of the cheapest I’ve EVER encountered. They make SNK fighting game bosses seem fair. They generally have the same pattern. They will try to attack you, then run away from you towards the corner of the screen. Each boss fight is an exercise in patience and endurance because it’ll take awhile to whittle them down in defeat. The bosses all know how to block. Most of your attacks will be blocked. The only way to land a hit on a boss is:
- You get a lucky hit
- You employ the jump and slash attack
This is funny because for a guy who has a super powerful sword from a highly advanced alien planet, Slash’s attacks, including his fireball, can be blocked with the greatest of ease by ordinary swords and canes.
Secondly, some of the stages are extremely frustrating. I’m talking about wanting to throw your controller at the TV frustrating! Above all others, the construction site in stage 3 is the worse! As a matter of fact, the construction site is in my top 10 list of most aggravating stages ever!! What makes it so frustrating is the jet-pack men who zoom by dropping bombs. They can come from the left. They can come from the right. They can come two at a time. They sometimes seem to come as your trying to make a jump. The bombs they drop can fall from way above the visible screen. All too often interference from these “Rocketeers” causes you to fall to a lower level of the construction site that you’ve already traversed.
Ok. After several playthroughs, the game does become easier. After the first few tries, I was ready to give it an abysmal score. However with some practice, the gameplay becomes bearable. Not fun. Bearable.
Aside from the main game, there is a two player fighting mode. This consists of single round one on one fights. The characters you can pick from are Slash and six of the bosses. I must admit this was an entertaining little diversion. I actually had fun controlling some of the bosses in the game I felt were so cheap. It contributes to the fun factor, but it’s not fleshed out enough to balance out the frustrating single player game.
The game has 7 difficulty settings, ranging from very easy to expert. My review is based on playing the normal setting. I dabbled with the highest difficult, expert. It seems the higher the difficulty, the more hits it takes to kill opponents and the greater the damage you take with each hit. I thought beating the game on normal was annoying. I couldn’t imagine trying to beat this game on expert.
Other options include how many lives you start out with. You can pick any number from 1 to 5. You are also allowed to pick the number of continues you possess, from 0 to 5. Finally, there are options to modify controls and a game sound test.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics are the high point in this game. I just love the anime style cinematics at the start of the game and before and after boss fights. They remind me of one of my all-time favorite games; Ninja Gaiden on the NES. As for the in game graphics, they are very good. One of the things that stick out the most is the background scenery. Attention to detail were afforded to them. Picture yourself jumping from rooftop to rooftop at night and having the beautiful backdrop of a big city skyline behind you. Or traveling in an alien world watching what look like eerie clouds moving to and fro. I’ve also noticed subtle things like red bulb lights coming on and off. These touches really breathe life in the game. Too bad not more time was put into tweaking the gameplay.
Slash is detailed well, though his facial features are hard to see. Same thing with the bosses. I thought the sprites could of been bigger. The regular enemies and mid-level bosses are also well detailed and look good. I wish there were a little more variety in the enemies though. For example, the foot soldiers in the game make a multitude of appearances, but their colors change on each level to indicate they are tougher from previous versions. It would have been nice to see a different enemy to replace all of those palette swapped foot soldiers.
The tunes from the game are provided by a band named PsykoSonik. The music is very good. Some are even catchy. They fit in nicely with the story’s setting. There is one tune in particular that is used during the introduction, ending, 2 different levels, and the final boss. I wish PsykoSonik lent more tunes to this game, but that is a minor quip. I don’t have many negatives for the sound effects. When Slash is hit, he makes a sound as do the bosses. My only criticism here is all the bosses have the same getting hit yell. Some variety would have welcomed. Sounds including: Sword slashing, weapons clinging against each other, power-up getting, foot soldiers blowing up, and more add to the ambiance of the game.
If the gameplay experience was tweaked to make it a less frustrating experience, this would have been a very good game. What it does have going for it is Nintendo Ninja Gaiden style cut scenes, lovely graphics, good music, an interesting premise with Slash’s sword, and an entertaining two player duel mode. However what ruined the experience was the lackluster one player experience. It almost felt like a chore trying to play this game. I did beat the game with its 6 stages. Would I want to do it again? No. If your a side-scrolling fan, this game might be worth a pick-up if you can find it for $12 or less. Otherwise skip it.
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