Review by AnotherGamer
Reviewed: 04/21/02 | Updated: 04/21/02
It took SNK ages to create something that would match the quality of Final Fight and Streets Of Rage series...
...but they finally managed to create such a game. Made by Noise Factory, this is a game you're bound to love if you like good, old-fashioned forward scrolling fighters (hereon referred to as ''FSF''es).
FSF games don't really have that great of a story, but that's OK, since they don't usually need one. It's your usual ''save the world from a big bad demon'' story that's used in 95% of the games in one way or another, although it does have some very minor twists in it.
SNK-glish content: 2/10
Yup, you read right, 2/10. This, in plain English, means that Noise Factory couldn't really come up with hilarious ways to butcher the English found in the game (unlike what I'm doing here at the moment to the English found in this review), which is mostly a good thing. That, or I just wasn't paying attention. The only thing I found even remotely funny/weird was the graffiti found in the USA stage. Who the hell in real life names their gang ''Invaded Oriental Ghost''? Also, just calling the last boss ''Evil'' sounds, well, pretty weird.
One of the strongest points in the game. If there's a game that deserves the ''Best graphics in a 2-D FSF game'' award, this is it. Just about everything looks great and animates wonderfully, from the characters and enemies themselves to relatively minor things such as hitsparks and dust that raises up when you run. The character designs bear a strong resemblance to the ones found in Samurai Shodown series, but that's mostly just a good thing.
The characters aren't really a talkative bunch, but that's understandable, since FSF games never were a competition about who has the longest and hardest to pronounce special attack name. What little (attack grunts, death screams) is there is good, though.
Now this is more like it. Slashing enemies with a sword, smacking'em with a huge iron pole, punching'em, jumping, running...it all sounds good and exactly what it's supposed to sound like. The bad thing is that there's not many surprises here, and some of the sounds seem to be recycled from other SNK games (the sword-resheating ''click'' sounds especially guilty for this), but many game companies are known to do this often, so it's not a big deal.
There's not many flaws in this department either. All the music sounds fitting and none of it is straight-out bad. Unfortunately this department shares the same problem with the ''sound'' category: there's nothing that hasn't been done before.
Here's the main reason why people play action games in the first place, and Sengoku 3 doesn't disappoint in this department. It has a whole slew of cool features which I'm going to talk about next.
First of all, control. Unlike most FSF games, it uses all 4 buttons found on the Neo Geo controller: A attacks with your weapon, B is used for punches and kicks, C is jump, and D is used for throwing various projectiles, ranging from shurikens and kunais (ninja knives with a triangular blades) to bombs and plates(!), each of them having various properties, which I won't bother to describe here.
Running, which is done by tapping the controller left or right twice and then holding it (just tapping it twice without holding it results in a quick dash that does minor damage and knocks down if you hit an enemy with it, although it acts like a run as far as followup moves are concerned), enables you to either perform a powerful attack with your weapon (press A while running), knock the enemy up in the air, allowing you to hit them in any way you please (press B while running) or jump much farther than normally (press C while running). You may also grab the enemy by walking against them from any direction and press either A or B to throw them (all enemies, such as dogs, can't be grabbed). Finally, pressing A, B and C simultaneously will result in a classic ''escape'' attack where your ninja disappears momentarily and is replaced with a log which explodes and damages all enemies around it at a cost of some life.
All this might sound a bit much to someone who hasn't played any fighters in their lives, but you'll find that C and D aren't used all that often, and the rest of the moves are easy to learn with some practice.
Now, the main feature of Sengoku 3 is combos (short for combination attacks for those who have never played a single fighter game in their lives). Pressing either attack button (A or B) several times in a row will cause your character to combo his/her enemy for several hits with either his/her weapon or martial arts attacks, knocking down the enemy, but this is just the most basic combo attack you can do.
For example, you can switch attack buttons at any point of the combo, so if you were to tap B, say 4 times and then switch to A and tap it twice, your character would jab the enemy a few times, attack the enemy with a more powerful barehanded attack and then resume the combo by beating the enemy with his/her weapon. There's a great variety of different combos you can perform, and you can use just about any kind of attack in them. For a great example of what you can do, just watch the ''how to play'' demonstation when you start a new game.
To make the above statement (ie. that Sengoku 3's main feature is combos) seem even more apparent, the programmers decided to add a combo counter/meter in the game.
In addition to making the combo counter rise, each hit you make also increases the combo meter a certain amount (heavier hits increase it more than weak ones), which then quickly drains back to empty. If you can fill up the meter to full by comboing the enemy faster than the meter drains, it begins to flash and drain back to empty (although it's much slower this time). While it's flashing, any hit you make on any hittable object (be it a table, a crate or an enemy) will increase the combo counter and refill the draining combo meter a bit. If you fail to hit anything before the combo counter drains back to empty, the combo counter will reset as well.
What practical use does this feature have, then? Well, it gives you point multipliers once you reach certain hit counts and there's a highscore table for highest hitting combos, but it doesn't really offer any tangible gameplay benefit even if you can combo a screenfull of enemies to death. It's still a nice thing to have, though.
Another nice gameplay feature is the various special attacks you can perform. There's a blue bar right under your life meter which fills up with each hit you make. Once it's half full, you can perform a special attack by pressing down twice and either A or B (Kagetsura and Kongoh have a 3rd special attack that can be performed by first grabbing an enemy and then pressing down, up+B: both of these are extremely powerful). If performed by A, it results in a powerful close-ranged attack, and if performed by B, it results in a long-ranged attack that's slightly less powerful. Both of these attacks will make your ninja invincible while they're being performed, and of course, can be put in combos for some major damage. Finally, if you have a full meter (You can stock up to 3 meters: once you fill up a meter, it empties and one of the 2 spheres next to the meter turns blue, indicating you have 1 meter in stock), you can press down, up+A+B to make your ninja perform a powerful and graphically impressive attack that hits all the enemies in the screen.
All in all, there's quite a bit of different features found in Sengoku 3, making it a blast to play.
IMO, the game could be a tad easier: on the lowest difficulty level with 9 lives, I only made it as far as the halfway of the final stage, but then again, it was my first playthrough. Another thing that makes the game a bit too hard is the fact that single enemies can actually combo you, making you lose a large portion of your lifebar: this is especially apparent with the bosses of Italy and Japan stages. Thankfully, you can escape from being comboed by performing any of the special moves, and only a select few enemies are actually able to combo you by themselves.
There's several things that contribute to the replay value, including alternate routes, somewhat ''hidden'' characters and the ability to select the order in which you play the first 3 stages. Or, you can always see if you can break your old combo record (my current one is 41, which is pretty low)
Pro and con listing:
-Pleasing to both eyes and ears
-Many innovative features
-More than enough characters to choose from (don't believe the lying flier which claims this game has over 30 characters: that's only if you count the enemies)
-Nice replay value for this type of game
-A few extra stages would've been nice, and the ones that are there seem to vary greatly in length at times
-Although it's just a personal opinion, enemies bleed funny colors and there's no way to change it.
-Bosses can't be juggled at all: I know, if they could, you could probably infinite them to death, but I doubt a single hit would break the game much: the way it is now, you can't even connect an A after B, B, B, B, B.
-Fullscreen attacks do far too little damage, considering they use a full bar.
All in all, a great game in just about all aspects. Too bad the prequels weren't anything special and that this game wasn't released earlier.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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