Games based on Berserk have come a long way since 1999, when the Dreamcast’s okay-for-its-time adaptation Sword of the Berserk was first released in Japan. For its relatively small enemy count and somewhat mediocre slash-em-up gameplay, Kentarō Miura’s brutal manga wasn’t – and really, couldn’t have been – represented all that well. But things have changed in 2016, as Koei Tecmo’s Omega Force is putting their patented Musou spin on the grim chronicles of the brooding mercenary Guts in Berserk and the Band of the Hawk.
From the small slice I played last week at Tokyo Game Show, it’s a beautiful match, and one that runs at 60 FPS on console, to boot. Not only is Omega going all out on fan service by making just about every character you’d want to be playable present, but even the small details of the game, like sound design and animation, feel authentic. Namely, as you swing Guts’s massive sword — a hulking stand-in member, if you will — through swaths of demons, its insane heft is palpable; cutting through the air likewise dispenses a satisfying “whumph.”
Similar to a finishing blow in Attack on Titan, the camera also tracks in for special moves, giving you a good look at the lust etched on Guts’s face, usually splattered with blood from the scores of recently dispatched enemies. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.
Even if you don’t know anything about Berserk, which follows the demon-branded Guts as he’s relentlessly hunted by monsters in a hostile medieval European world, just getting a glimpse of him in action is enough to get it. Omega’s musou style, made famous by their extremely long-running Dynasty Warriors series, has always been its own form of the hack-and-slash genre, with a particular emphasis on the number of enemies on screen.
As it happens, the addition of Berserk’s gore, which reportedly will be even more graphic in the west than its already bloody Japanese counterpart, makes for such an obvious combination, it’s a wonder they didn’t do it years ago. That said, including an option to turn off the mini-map would really add to the effect of the mesmerizingly badass imagery.
Of course, outside of the occasional One Piece, Gundam, or First of North Star, Omega hasn’t dabbled too much in licensed properties, but they’ve been on a roll since the release of the Zelda spin-off Hyrule Warriors in 2014. Not to mention Dragon Quest Heroes and Attack on Titan hitting all the right notes for their respective series (albeit best played in small doses). In any case, Berserk will be out this February for PS4, Vita, and Steam, and perhaps unlike the new anime, this one should be worth the wait.