Power Blade
by Polly

It's "Weird Ass Game I've Never Really Heard Anybody Talk About" time here on the ol Socksmakepeoplesexy.Net!

Who needs guns, bombs, super powers, or magic mushrooms to make you grow taller, when you've got that Duke Nukem'ish musclebound jock look and your trusty...boomerang? I imagine that's the question that Taito asked themselves when they thought up the premise to this 1991 hardly ever mentioned title. They may have also asked themselves questions about who needs original ideas other than the boomerang one-man wrecking crew, but if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, a whole lot of NES superstars' egos might feel about an ant hill taller when this review is all said and done.

Ze plot, how you say, goes something like zis: In the 22nd century all of "New Earth" is basically being controlled by a super computer of some sort. Humanity's too damn stupid to take care of itself anymore, so why not let a man-made machine take care of everything for us? Has this idea EVER worked? Of course not. Of course, one day, aliens get a stick up their ass over our peaceful little society like they always do and decide to attack the super computer to fuck some shit up. The super computer goes apeshit and... fucks shit up, I guess.

Enter Nova:

He's the "lord of the power blade," a super awesome magical boomerang that GLOWS (read: IT DOES NOT GLOW!) SUPER MAGICAL SHIT ENERGY and he's the only one who can save humanity now.

In order to stop the rampaging super computer, Nova has to beat the shit out of aliens in six different sectors and obtain "tape units" from boss guardians of each sector. In the year 2191, I'd certainly hope they've moved to a medium a little more reliable than TAPE to run a super computer controlling all of humanity's important shit. I hope the enemies don't have a GIANT FUCKING MAGNET or we're all fucked.

Visually, Power Blade is average. Barely average. There are really only a few bright spots in the visuals and they don't last long. The backgrounds are really barely recognizable from one another. One level we have orange blocks, then some green blocks, then some orange blocks, then some grey blocks. The backdrops are typical barely better than boring sci-fi'ish digs. There are a couple instances where you've got a waterfall in the background taking up the whole screen which is made primarly of just blue and white pulsing back and forth and it literally just hurts the eyes. Enemy sprites aren't really all that animated. Most are fairly boring and are predominantly colored a light poopy brown with only a few exceptions in the mix. Poor Nova doesn't get it any better. Sure, he ain't all poopy brown but he's probably got one of the god damn goofiest running animations in the entire NES library:

I'm really not sure I've seen too many goofier run animations than that.

The weak graphical presentation is easily made up for with the audio. There's some really good and under-appreciated tunes here. I'm surprised the soundtrack doesn't get any real attention. The tunes are like a perfect combination of "Capcom Catchy" and "Konami Groove." The tunes almost make the ridiculously annoying Sound Test cheat worth doing. (read: it involves one hand and one foot across two controllers. Programmers who put in cheats like this need to be run over by a pack of stampeding oxen...from Oregon Trail. Fucking Oxen...)

As mentioned before, your true main weapon in Power Blade is your super duper magical (though not all that magical) boomerang and it actually makes for some neat combat situations. You might actually find yourself feeling a little smug about giving your 'rang a toss far away from the enemy and running under him as your blade takes the enemy out on its return. There's a little room to get fancy with your boomerang skills. It's nothing really all that jazzy, I suppose, but this game had to have something going for it to keep it from being completely mediocre.

Nova also has access to a super dooper bloo power suit, which can sustain three hits before being lost. Along with its projectile doing more damage than your boomerang, you can also fire the projectile through walls, making some tight spots infinitely easier. It's a neat add-on, but I never really found it to be quite as versatile or fun as sticking to your boomerang.

All of this is easily handled by the platformer controls you've all come to know and love. There are really no big problems here at all.

Fans of Mega Man may feel... a LITTLE MORE than merely comfortable here in Nova's shoes. From a level design standpoint, though Power Blade's levels are MUCH bigger and feature a little less variety than any Mega Man stage I can remember from the 8-bit era, they all follow pretty much all the conventions of earlier Mega Man games. Ladders and pits galore. Now, you might say, "Polly, that's just platforming back in the 8-bit days!" but a lot of evidence points toward the fact that Power Blade was paying a little too much attention to other games. While Mega Man may prove to be Power Blade's biggest influence, Taito shows they were more than anxious to politely borrow ideas (and in some cases, almost complete graphics) from a few other games too. Let's play, shall we?

Okay, so maybe it's a little bit of a stretch. I guess any action hero for a videogame inspired by 1980's popcorn flicks could look like that, but still, minus points for not stealing the Contra running animation too. Nova is just silly! SILLY!

Eh? Eh? Yeah, it's probably another bit of a stretch too...

Probably the most obvious offender. Only real difference is that other than being poopy brown, Power Blade's version of the hard hat speeds up when you're on the same horizontal level, but everything else is basically the same. They're invincible when their shield is down, they pop up, and shoot two bullets in the same type of spread.

This one's the most funny to me for some reason. THEY STOLE THE SUPER MARIO 3 POWER...WAFFLE THING... Power Blade's version only gets points because it actually is about the same color of a toasted waffle. My waffles are not that poopy brown though. In both games POWER WAFFLE operates in the same way, circling around platforms you have to jump on to create a distraction between that platform and another.

On an unrelated note, does anybody know what the hell those random red balls in Super Mario 3 fortresses are supposed to be? I've ALWAYS wondered what the hell those were for.

Now I'm betting that the reason the colors on these don't completely match up here is due to differences in the stage palettes.

There are quite a few more instances where Power Blade nicks something from another game, such as Castlevania's Medusa Heads and water serpents that like to pop out of pits and spit at you. There's even a few sections where the game borrows yet again from Mega Man and does the disappearing blocks sequence thing. I'm not damning them too much for all the copying, but it's kinda suprising how liberal they were willing to be with borrowing from other games.

Much like Mega Man you also start the game at a stage selection screen. You can play any of the six sectors in any order before you can tackle the super computer. However, unlike Mega Man, you really don't get anything for completing each stage. If you're gonna borrow from other games as much as this one does, why not take some of the neater ideas too? A new power suit, or some kinda awesome boomerag upgrades would have been a neat addition.

Power Blade's difficulty rarely ever approaches the hard level. Even on the Expert setting, it's a game that's quite happy to take it it easy on the player, offering the only new obstacle of stricter time limits. If you're already familiar with the stages from the Normal mode, you won't have many problems here. The only real challenge is that the game presents MANY of those insane jumps you have to make from the VERY LAST pixel of a ledge or you completely miss it. The stages are neat, if only for their length. Each one is a huge maze in which you must first find an NPC and obtain a keycard from before you can enter the exit and fight a boss. Boss battles are fairly easy affairs here as well. You can win almost all of them by simply going apeshit with your boomerang and paying minimal attention to your dodging.

Power Blade's not bad, it's just not that great either. The boomerang mechanic can only take it so far, and the throwbacks (or complete rips depending on how you see it) really show a lack of motivation on the part of the team to try and do their own thing. Not the worst way to spend an evening, but don't expect to be wowed or delude yourself into thinking you're having a great time.

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