Since it's October I'm feeling a little creepy and decided to haunt all of my ghoulish readers with horrifying looks at nightmarish games. To start off I'm going to look at Night Slashers. It's a beatemup by those guys over at Data East and it features a European vampire hunter, an American dude with cybernetic arms, and a Chinese woman who is a martial arts master. This crew is the only chance humanity has at surviving a joint-attack by both mutants AND zombies.
Since this is a beatemup the player must win by punching evil multiple times until they fall over and splatter their guts around the environment. Strangely enough the zombies and mutants respond in kind as they use all manner of melee attacks to take down the heroes. Joining the fight against humanity is a handful of popular monsters like the enigmatic Dracula, a bevy of Wolf-men, Death himself, and even a big nasty robot. There are even a handful of bosses who were apparently pro-wrestlers back when they weren't undead. It's strange how this works but picture a Zombie-Pharaoh performing suplexes.
The main appeal of this game is..well..the gore. Yeah I know I don't want to be that guy but Data East put a frightening amount of work into making all kinds of gruesome death animations for the bad-guys. Splitting a zombie in twain with a kick rarely gets old and for some reason many enemies are fond of melting in a completely disgusting manner whenever they die..again. It actually adds a bit to the fun as there's a bit of satisfaction in knowing that a zombie or mutant is truly dead as their intestines flop out like jelly worms.
As far as the game itself is concerned it's seven stages with the usual combination of regular enemies, mid & end-bosses, and a handful of power-ups that either give food, points, or something relatively useless like a weapon to throw. The level design is nothing spectacular but the pacing is solid and there's just enough variety in the regular encounters to keep things moving steadily.
Still the frustration will set in eventually because this game is very hard. I know what to expect considering this is an arcade beatemup but c'mon now. It's just unfair when enemies frequently gang up on the player and repeat moves that they have no hope of escaping. A number of foes are especially fond of sliding attacks and with no viable means of counterattack the player is stuck waiting for an opening. Even then enemies can drain the player's health very quickly and with only two lives that means a lot of continues are being used up. The bosses are usually pretty easy as they fall for the same tactics in most other beatemups. This means a lot of approaching from the sides to get easy combos/throws. Of course after awhile this is poorly balanced by the bosses spamming whatever attack that gives them invincibility. At least a friend can be taken along and it's most definitely recommended as that makes the enemies easier to manage. Plus you can do some silly combinations like irish whip mutants towards your friend so they can clothesline them.
Unfortunately a lot of the appeal in this game is in seeing a strange cast of characters throw down against a variety of monsters in a post-apocalyptic world. The engine is fine but lacking in finesse and getting good can be a real struggle as the player is faced with nothing but disadvantages. If the characters were a bit more maneuverable like having access to dodge-rolls or even a slightly better move-set, then maybe the game would have turned out really good. Otherwise it's the kind of thing you'll play through once to see everything and then move on. Still I won't say this game is a total waste. It can be a fun ride and at worse you're out less than thirty minutes.
Game Rating - 1.5 out of 5 stars
Arcade beatemups are a tough genre to review because a lot of things that might seem too hard and would count against the game tend to be alleviated through practice and memorization of what happens next. For this game however I just don't see it as the player just takes too much damage and there's really nothing in terms of balance. Otherwise it's built well enough as far as the genre is concerned.
My Rating - 3 out of 5 stars
Again it's worth a look just to take in the wonder of it all. The artwork is great as it has a lot of detail and the ability to perform maneuvers like DDTs and the like on the monsters adds a unique appeal that can't be found anywhere else in the genre. There are much better beatemups out there but none of them are quite the same as Night Slashers.