I don’t care how “stale” people think the Musou franchise is getting. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but you’re wrong. Sure, it’s not revolutionary as far as combat goes, but that’s not what they’re here for. It’s to show off badass characters fighting hordes of enemies, and then their cunning, and often evil leaders. That’s what the Musou franchise is built on: Heaps of dead enemies. Some series have fit this better than others. The Gundam Musou games were wonderful, and fit perfectly! The two Fist of the North Star games? Ehh.. not so much. Those weren’t quite as good. But if I had to think of a manga/anime series that deserves this treatment? It had to be BERSERK. Berserk is deserving of a game that hacks thousands of men to bits and pieces, and boy howdy, do they do it here. It’s one of the most story-driven of the Musou franchise I’d say, and while the Berserk serial is decades old, I appreciate them covering the important bits, not trying to push just one or two story arcs on us, none of which are important. That would have driven me away in a heartbeat. They don’t shy away from what makes Berserk a compelling series, either! It features some of the most horrific and depressing things I’ve ever read, and that’s saying something. Sure, it’s not going to wow you with unique stage concepts [there are really only three when you get down to it].
But you know what it does do well? It immerses you, the player, in the life of Guts, a swordsman/mercenary who is on a path of revenge. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil what story arcs are featured in the game, because despite how old Berserk is, that’s no excuse for spoilers. You’ll just have to see for yourself. That’s what the game does remarkably well though. It goes back to the old style [earlier Musou titles] with equippable items and upgradable trinkets, utilizing buff items that you take with you into battle. Sure, you can play as Casca, Griffith, or a few others, but why? Why would you want to be anyone other than Guts? I appreciate that they’re there to break up the monotony should you get bored, but I didn’t. You do have the Free Mode to play other characters in, if you want to play a stage that you can only, say play Guts on but want to do something else. But I don’t really bother with Free Modes, that’s not what I’m interested in. I only use Free Mode to maybe get some exp on a character, or farm better items, and that’s a maybe. The only real downer I have is the Endless Eclipse mode. It’s just.. a neverending story parade. Didn’t really care for that mode.
Berserk is pure insanity given life through ink and creative storytelling. If they had really gone whole hog with the insane levels of violence the show offers, it would have had an “AO” rating, and that would definitely hurt profits. So from that perspective, sure. I’m not upset, I get that they have to make money too. I enjoy that each character plays differently, and has their own moveset in battle, but honestly? The only character I really wanted to play as was Guts, maybe Griffith. He’s the star after all, and him and his badass sword deserve to be on the center stage. I was hoping for maybe more of his youth than we got, but the story shines pretty hard the deeper you go into it, so that isn’t something I’d gripe long and hard about. Maybe they’ll add more story stages as DLC later, if the game is profitable/successful? I will say that it has a deeper combo system than most Musou titles, with lots of options and ways to obliterate people with your sword. Personally I like being able to start a combo, slap some dudes away/around, dash to the closest group, impale one on my mighty blade, and swing them around, returning to kill the soldiers I left behind.
Hype Train: Brakes Don’t Work: 4/5
While Berserk and the Band of the Hawk may not be the most ground-breaking title in the Musou franchise, or the most complex in terms of game modes, it offers exactly what I was hoping it would. A look into the life of Guts, a tragic, but ridiculously powerful hero, and let me walk a mile in his shoes, to feel his sorrow, his pain, and just how good it feels to turn a host of my foes into a fine blood pudding. Sure, it’s not going to wow you with things you’ve never seen before, but it is true to the Berserk manga/anime, it really gives me a new appreciation of the franchise. Most of the really horrific stuff goes on off-camera, but the levels of violence did appease me. Characters wind up splashed with the red stuff, but I was admittedly hoping to see more body parts go flying, people to get hacked into pieces, and much more. I was pretty surprised with how much they got away with, but I won’t lie, I was sort of hoping to see bodies get split in two, more limbs go flying, maybe deeper pools of blood? I don’t know what that says about me, but it’s probably not good. All told, Berserk is a lot of fun, and it’s a pretty good introduction to a long-running franchise.