Power Blade 2
by Polly

NOVA'S BACK BITCHES! Everybody's favorite unknown hero that once saved the world is back again with his mighty boomerang and some spiffy new power suits to get some alien invader heads-a-rollin'! Released only a year aftter the original Power Blade, with no lawsuits surprisingly, how does the sequel handle itself? Well let's just hope the story isn't any indication...

Story this time goes something like, there's a group called the Delta Foundation. On December 24th, 2200, they devoped the ultimate cyborg soldier capable of, what else, fucking up anything it gets its grubby little hands on. The Delta Foundation then decides that it's in the mood for a good ol' fashioned ball squeezin' and approaches the US Department of Defense to try and force them into buying the damn thing or else they're gonna take their toy and go elsewhere. So what do you do when you're getting your balls squeezed in such a manner? Well, of course you call a guy whose main weapon is a boomerang and send him off to engage in a little high-brow terrorist activity! Something about that just strikes me as funny for some reason. The intro cinema is dorky enough to show here.

On the graphics side, Power Blade 2 takes a bit of a step up from the original. The backgrounds all have a rather dark, almost Batman-ey feel to them, though still not quite as gritty, employing a good mix of dark and light colors. There's also a sizeable amount of animation going on in the background as well, and unlike the first game, none of it is distracting or hurts the eyes much. Enemies and even Nova look a ton better this time around and sport a lot more colors than poopy brown and feature a bit more animation. Unfortunately, Nova still runs like a gigantic dicktard. What is UP with this guy's running animations? Seriously? I really can't figure out what on earth they're trying to convey with the over-the-top run cycles other than "dick up my ass and running around bein' completely [REDACTED]ed about it."

Was it THAT hard to make a simple jogging animation? I mean it's kinda right, but doesn't it still see kinda... off?

Power Blade 2's music department is basically the same as the first in terms of style, but it feels like it's missing something. The Konami groove is still there, but none of the tunes really managed to stick with me afterward. They're still decent, but there's nothing there that'll get stuck in your head or any real stand out tunes for that matter. It's adequate enough to match the action and that's about it.

On the surface, not a whole lot has changed about the gameplay for this sequel. It's still a platformer at heart and still bears more than just a passing resemblance to everyone's favorite blue bomber. This time around, instead of the boomerang, the focus seems to lean more toward Nova's power suit, or rather FOUR power suits now! When you defeat a sub boss in the first four stages, you'll aquire a new power suit with MAGNIFICENT ABILITIES, a dandy feature that was sadly absent from the original. The Newt Suit (NEWT SUIT RIOT! (RIOT!) THROW BACK A BOTTLE OF BEER!) allows Nova to climb on walls and ceilings, making some hard to reach power-ups much easier to get and a boss or two a bit of a pushover. The Wet Suit allows Nova to swim and have greater maneuverability in water. The Rocket Suit allows Nova to fly, though the controls for it feel a tad wonky. Finally, the Patriot Suit provides defense from projectiles via two homing satellites, making a lot of normal fodder enemies MUCH easier to deal with. All of the suits run on a handy little energy meter that drains over time and is replenished by battery packs, which are fairly plentiful throughout the game and get used automatically when your Energy gauge is completely drained. The only drawback is that all suits have the same attack that was featured in the first game, but the new suits still show some effort and are integrated very well into all of the game's stages.

Level design has been moved from the huge mazes of the first game to straight linear paths to an exit. As with the original, you can play any of the initial four stages in any order, and each stage contains anywhere from 7 to 14 screens of varying length and variety plus a boss room giving you a decent amount of time spent in each area. Every few screens of a stage (and as often as every screen sometimes) you'll be presented with new challenges to overcome. The variety really stepped up here from the first game and it really plays into the game's favor.

There's a whole new variety of enemies to deal with now. There are a few remnants from the first game that blatantly nick ideas from Mega Man, but for the most part, they did a good job here and diversified enemy types enough so that you're not fighting against the same damn thing all the time. That's not to say that enemies don't repeat throughout levels, but overall I found enemies were placed in stages much better this time around asking more of the player and providing much more of a challenge...

Challenge...HOOOOOOO boy... Did I say challenge? Actually, this game might actually be some kind of sick excercise in masochism. It probably says a bit about the players who stick around and see this one through (read: me.) Power Blade 2 does NOT fuck around. If you don't like having your ass handed to you REPEATEDLY by the same obstacles until you've learned how to deal with them flawlessly, then this game is NOT for you. The level of difficulty can be almost maddening at times and with checkpoints so damn far apart, that one life lost may end up being the aneurysm you didn't see coming. You better PRAY you don't die on ANY of the 14 screens of the final stage, or you're doing the whole damn thing over.

The game's difficulty can be compared to that of Bucky O'Hare. The stages themselves are to be more feared than any boss the game can throw at you. Not only are enemy placements just downright EVIL at times, but the game simply LOVES relying on one hit kill pitfalls via spikes and other hazards to whittle every last bit of patience you have away. Throughout the game's six stages you'll get spiked in the face, dropped in pits by evil auto-scrolling stages with moving blocks, and get crushed by sadistically evil floors and ceilings until you learn to just fucking do it right. Bosses on the other hand are simple attack it till it dies affairs, featuring incredibly easy to read patterns. Fuck, after the absolute hell the final stage is, I was pretty pissed off that I took the final boss without so much as taking maybe three hits. The Patriot Suit makes boss encounters almost entirely too easy. Sucks that they couldn't have gotten the balance right, else things may have been a little more on the exciting side, rather than frustrating.

And your reward for finally seeing your way through the absolute HELL some of these stages offer?

The prettiest little rendition of "Silent Night" you ever did hear, you betcha! GET IT? 'Cause the game's story takes place in December 24th...GET IT? AHAHA! I still thought it was fairly odd.

With some better balancing, Power Blade 2 coulda had a really good chance at being one of those NES classics everyone talked about. The bottom line though, is that it's simply too frustrating at points and wimpy boss fights really don't make it feel worth the effort. The addition of the new power suits and how they're used in levels went a good way toward making the game more fun, but in the end it's still missing that certain something to carry it over the top. Good fun to be had here, but probably a stroke too.

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