I recently acquired a Neo Geo CD console, fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was a wee glitch in the early 90s. The eBayer I purchased it from was also kind enough to include the game Crossed Swords to get me started.
At its core, Crossed Swords is a hack & slash with some RPG and fighting game elements thrown in. As far as I can tell, (most the text is in Japanese) you’re a knight from the land of Belkana, tasked with rescuing a somewhat rubenesque anime princess from the clutches of a big gray guy with a catcher’s mitt on his head. The action is viewed from behind your wire frame knight, a la Punch Out, as you engage in single combat with knights, skeletons, dragons, giant bugs, giant crabs, goat-men, rat-men, fish-men and frog-men.
The name of the game is defense and counter-attack: Pressing up and A swings your sword, while pressing down and A thrusts it. You launch a magic attack by pressing B, while pressing A and B together launches you into a classic anime flurry of blade swings. Pressing up or down on the D-pad by itself raises your shield to block high or low attacks. If you successfully anticipate his attack and deflect his blow with your shield, your enemy will be momentarily dazed, giving you a window to swing your sword or attack with magic. When the enemy is defeated, he explodes in a hail of armor chunks and drops gold, health or magic for you to collect. At the end of each stage, your score is tallied, and if you earned enough experience points, you level-up, gaining a longer life bar and presumably a stronger attack. You’ll also periodically encounter a traveling merchant who sells bigger, badder weapons as well as chunks of meat that replenish your health. A second player can jump in at any time too, and fight side-by-side with the first player against his own baddie.
Staying true to its arcade heritage, Crossed Swords gives you unlimited continues with no consequence for death beyond having to press start within 10 seconds. This is probably for the best since, unless you have the reflexes of a mongoose, you will die a whole lot before you reach the end boss, and then you will die a whole lot more. Despite the wide variety of enemies, the limited fighting mechanics means they all attack in much the same way. Some favor upper or lower attacks, while others occasionally jump out of harm’s way and shoot projectiles at you, but eventually they all fall victim to the same routine: Deflect their blows, strike back, repeat until dead. The repetitive combat and linear level progression limits Crossed Swords replay value, and since you can’t really lose the game, you’ll see everything it has to offer in about a half-hour or so.
In typical Neo Geo fashion, Crossed Swords has big, detailed, eye-searingly colorful characters and nicely-detailed scrolling backgrounds. The character animation isn’t bad, but it lacks the amazing, film-like fluidity of later Neo Geo games. Crossed Swords packs decent background tunes and loads of unique sound effects for each character, from the knights who chuckle at your misfortune while beating the tar out of you to the frog-men who vomit up deadly projectiles with a convincing *blurp!* If nothing else, it’s a fun game to watch and listen to, even if you play through it once, and then toss it on a shelf.
Thanks for reading my review! Next week, I’ll get to Guardian Legend. Really.