Ah the future. 2191 to be exact. The air is clean, the trees are growing, and major metropolis cities are running smooth. In the not-to-distant future, the many scientists and engineers will build a super computer that will run everything, from mundane tasks to complex chores. One single large computer, placed in the centre of it all, taking care of all things great and small. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, if it’s anything like the game Power Blade, for the N.E.S. From Taito, how about an alien terrorist organization hacking into said super computer to control everything, causing chaos and havoc all over this big city. You know, with all the great minds this bright future has to offer, with all the intelligent scientists and engineers running the show, you’d think they would have thrown some kind of fail safe to make sure that if some radical extremist group actually successfully breaks into this digital Fort Knox, then all sensitive data and daily duties would still be protected. Unless of course, the network was built by Sony. (I know, cheap shot to a dated event, but it seemed fitting)
Now it’s up to find someone to fight all sorts of thingys and knick knacks and return everything to status quo. Enter Nova, a regular beefcake that looks like Duke Nukem’s younger brother, Blake. His weapon of choice for this adventure? Boomerangs, the classic Australian weapon that Nova swiped from some kid in a green tunic. Now it’s up to this pile of pecks to play knifey-spooney with destiny and save the big city from being completely annoyed by the fact some alien dill weed is flickering the lights off and on again and again.
His assignment, should he choose to accept it, is to locate the six data bases located outside the main computer, defeat any security protocol machine inside, and collect the tape units. Once all the tape units are collected, he can enter the main hull, defeat the evil, and put everything back to normal. However, in order to open the doors to the bosses, he needs to find the individuals in each stages to get the key card to open said doors. Sounds crazy I know, but that’s the plot, so go with it. Seems like a big, long and convoluted way to enter a secure area, but what the hell. If it was just open door to big giant computer and beat alien terror scum, it would be an insanely shorter game.
Wait, before we continue, I have to ask. What city is this supposed to be? I mean, from the above picture, it looks like any big city, but what’s to the left of the image? Looks like a tower. Like the space needle in Seattle, or the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio. Could be the Sydney Tower, that would make the more sense with the whole Australian theme. You know what, it’s my blog, so I say it’s the C.N. Tower in Toronto. There. Done. Moving on.
Your standard issue boomerang comes with power ups, and there is a bar that controls how hard and how far the weapon can be tossed. The more star power ups you get, the further it goes, but spamming the weapon will diminish the distance, which makes it fire like the Laser gun from Contra. Another power up increases the damage, but really, almost everything dies to one hit anyway, so there’s no benefit. There’s also a power up to have multiple boomerangs at once. It makes him look like a horizontal juggler, almost like Mega Man 2’s Quick Boomerang weapon.
There’s also a power up bonus of metal armour and a sonic boom style shot. Now this is the Power Blade that the title is mentioning. There really is no district advantage to getting this, with the exception that it gives you three free shots to your health. The weapon is stronger, but not a whole lot to make a difference in the fight between good and evil.
There are six stages you need to complete before the final stage, and in true Mega Man fashion, you can select which stage you can go into in any order. But the problem with that is that it doesn’t matter which path you choose. They all need to be completed eventually, and there is no distinct advantage which stage goes first, like upgraded weapons to use in other stages, or bonus items to make certain parts easier. So really, what’s the point? More than likely, you’ll choose the stages in sequential order.
Each stage is not exactly linear, by comparison to other side-scrolling games. The stages branch off into other areas, and some can lead to dead ends. This gives the game a sense of exploration, because you still have to find the key card before finding the end door to the stage. This makes the game a little more unique in the game play, and makes it a little more fun.
The game shows a lot of its inspirations on its sleeve, almost intentionally showing that it’s ripping off other games. The music is fun and upbeat, but it’s borderline lifted off of Castlevania games. In fact, there are a lot of elements straight from Simon Belmont’s bag of tricks, like the floating creatures with the same flight plan as Medusa heads, creatures that crumble and reassemble like red skeletons, and fish-men that jump from water to attack and jump back. Some stages have a feel like they have direct ties to the Mega Man series, including having disappearing blocks. There’s even the disco balls the spin around a focal platform, that looks straight from Super Mario Brothers 3, released in 1990. With a game like Power Blade, released in 1991, it seems the creativity well was ran dry.
The timer in the game is useless, inconsequential, and non-threatening. In normal difficulty in the game, you get 999 game seconds to complete the level. Not only is that more than enough to complete the stage, but it gives our hero enough time to run home, change shirts, check his email, walk his puppy, pay some bills, and reconcile with his girlfriend for forgetting their date (again). I actually timed how long it takes to get to zero on the clock and it took 17 minutes and 45 seconds to run down the clock. Even on expert mode, where it only seems like the difference is that it gives you 300 seconds instead, still takes about 5 minutes 20 seconds. There’s also a weird glitch, where it will hit 2 seconds left, and skip straight to 0 seconds and dead.
The interface is a little confusing. The player’s health is below the enemy bar, instead of the standard above the enemies health bar. To use the energy pill tank, which replenishes your health, you have to pause to switch between the grenades, then use it with select, then switch back to the grenades if need to. Of course, the screen-clearing grenades are pretty ineffective, so why bother. There’s also no points system, and there’s no 1-ups or any way to gain one, but with unlimited continues, it raises the question of the relevance of having a lives system in the first place. There’s also a password system that’s only 8 characters long. But the game is so short that there really is no need for one. You can beat the game in just over an hour.
Overall, it’s not a game that’s winning any points in creativity, but Power Blade definitely redeems itself in the presentation department. The graphics and sound still look and sound solid, the controls are manageable, and it still offers a fun experience. It’s recommended for anyone who likes their Metroid-Vania type games, and looking for something that’s not really a challenge. It doesn’t offer a whole lot in terms of being revolutionary but you’ll get your money’s worth. There is a sequel, but it’s harder to find, and the price tag is mighty hefty, so unless you see a tremendous discount, try the first Power Blade for yourself..
Oh and by the way, the game also serves up this friendly reminder. Change your passwords. You never know when misguided alien reactionaries will type 123456 into some super computer, to get access to your emails. Then you have to explain the charges on your bank statement to a certain web site you’d rather not have broadcast that you visit frequently. It’s just awkward to everyone.