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Title: Demon Sword
Author:Taito
Rom Player: NESticle
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie

Synopsis: First off, how many people have heard of this game? I hadnít heard of Demon Sword myself until I had glimpsed a few screenshots of it during one of my Internet explorations. Despite what anyone tells you, a game can be good without a big press release, or huge financial backing, or even a well-known publisher.

Now, it is possible to do so without a story as well, but I wouldnít recommend it. In this case, nothing about what drives the character to engage in his quest is ever really explained. However, from what I can gather from the end of the game, the plot seems to involve you rescuing a woman, possibly a princess of something or other, from the bad guys. Hey, if Mario can get away with it, why canítÖ well, it never really names the main character either.

There is one similarity between the two of you, though: Both you and Mario can jump much higher than the average human being. Mario is far too fat to stay airborne for long, however, and you can sail through the air as though you were a sort of ninja grasshopper. This, combined with your ability to climb trees, poles, and whatever else, lets you sail through much of the levels relatively unscathed simply by deftly leaping from one high point top another. I donít suggest doing this, mainly because you miss a whole mess of powerups when you donít kill things or look around on the ground, but also because you cannot see too far below you when you jump, and a leap of faith can sometimes send you reeling into a pitfall, just like the tragic hero, Mario.

Regardless, this in not the Mushroom Kingdom, and you are no bloated plumber jumping down pipes and turning into a raccoon. You are a warrior of sorts in what appears to be feudal Japan. With that in mind, your main weapons are a limitless supply of shurikens, and the sword after which the game is named. In the beginning, however, it will seem as though the game should have been called ďDemon Knife,Ē as the alleged sword is only a few inches long, and is far different from the mean-looking blade that you see on the title screen. As you complete the stages, the sword will lengthen and become more powerful. Again, why this happens is not explained, but you will appreciate it when it does so, as trying to kill dozens of furious people with a knife will get you hurt more often than not.

The shurikens, while they do not travel that far offhand, are still a valuable asset. A single shuriken will do roughly half the damage that the sword will do in the very beginning. You will come across powerups as you progress that will increase the damage and the range of your shurikens, but Iíll get into those later. While they may not be able to kill a foe as effectively as the sword, they can be used simply to stun the enemy so that you can get in close to finish them off with the sword, as when an enemy is hit by any of your attacks and does not die, they are frozen in place for a moment. Plus, bosses tend to be quite good at close quarters, and the shurikens allow you to take them out on your terms.

You sound well-prepared to take on whatever evil it is you have to face, and complete whatever task you need to do, donít you? Well, itís gets even better when you start grabbing powerups. Unfortunately, there is no sword-lengthening powerup to give you a boost before you complete a level, but youíll get enough to make due. Obtaining the items is tricky, however, as they only appear on occasion when you kill an enemy. Donít get me wrong, there is no shortage of enemies, but it can take a while to sift through dozens of them in order to find one or two powerups.

The first two, and perhaps the two most useful powerups, are the red and black circles. Once your life bar has drained completely, the red ones will restore you life and, depending on how many you have, lengthen your life bar. The life bar is composed of several little blocks of life, and each hit takes away a varying amount from it, ranging from a small fraction to several blocks. If your number of red circles is greater than your number of life blocks, then you life bar will be extended to equal the number of red circles you have. The black circles serve as a poor manís red circles, in that they do not refill your life bar when it is drained, but they do count as red ones when determining whether or not your life bar will be extended. The maximum length that your life bar can achieve is eight blocks, which is more than enough for dealing with the normal riffraff, and just enough to allow for you to make a few wrong moves when battling the tougher bosses.

The next powerup that you find is one of a more limited usefulness. It appears as a bird, a phoenix for simplicityís sake. The phoenix powerup will provide a large bird to grab you by the shoulders before you plunge into a pit and lose a life. Once it has grabbed you, you are granted invulnerability for a short time, and you can steer the bird around to drop you in a safer location. Just take care not to hit the wrong button early, or you may wind up falling into the very same pit. The usefulness of this powerup is limited, as I said, because few of the levels throughout the game actually feature pits that will cost you a life if you fall in them. Thankfully, this powerup does not appear very often, leaving room for more worthwhile powerups.

The next type of powerup is a key. Several places on the ground of each level have large doors. The keys unlock the doors. Each door you come across will open to one of two possible scenarios: the first is a room with a large statue, presenting a powerup of sorts in it. The second type is a sort of boss battle with one specific bad guy, depending on which level youíre in. In these scenes, you have to beat the guy before you can leave, or you can die, either way will get you out. Once you defeat them, they will leave behind some truly rare powerups that will really ease your burden.

The powerups presented in these ďkey roomsĒ, as I have dubbed them since I can find no documentation on this game, may prove to be the most useful. The mini-boss fight rooms will present you with one of three powerups, which I have also decided to name based upon their appearance: thunder, fireballs, and wave. The thunder powerups, when used, will wipe out everybody on the screen and do large amounts of damage to the bosses. The fireball powerup brings forth two fireballs that will orbit you for a few minutes, killing of weaker enemies and allowing you to focus on more persistent foes. The last one, wave, will fire a very deadly wall of something colorful from you that will carve a nice swath of destruction in front of you. The other powerup, as well as the previous three, is found in the room with the statue in it. It will raise the power of your shuriken, which is measured by a bar just beneath your life. This makes them deadlier and it increases their range, making them even more effective for taking out bosses.

The three final powerups that you will find in the game are found on the bodies of your enemies. Once again, Iíve named them, so bear with me. The first is haste, a little white arrow pointing to the right. This makes your little warrior guy run ridiculously fast for a long period of time. Of course, this increases the likelihood that you will collide with a dangerous enemy, or make a careless jump into a pit or some other kind of hazard. The next, a most interesting powerup, is invulnerability, which is shaped like the haste arrow, but with a red and black color palette. I donít think I need to tell you what it does, but it also leaves a few afterimages of you when you move, a very nifty effect. The other one I have dubbed four-way. It doesnít look like anything specific, more like a circle with a few lines and such running through it. Once you grab this, youíll be able to hurl shurikens in four directions at once for a short time (left, right, up-left, and up-right), thus allowing you to plug multiple bad guys at once.

Now, given all the abilities and all the stuff that is given to you, who in their right mind would try to oppose you? Well, itís hard to place them all in one category. Right off the bat, you fight guys who like some sort of skeleton ninjas. The later levels have zombies with swords, female ninjas, and even some Shaolin monks. What they all have in common, I donít know, but they do want you dead. The minibosses in the key rooms differ depending on which stage you are in, and since there are four stages with two levels each, Iím sure you can do the math. The first guy just numbly swings a club at you, while one of the later guys will use his sword and some weird fireball-type maneuver. The actual bosses operate on the same principle, but with more health. If you use the three powerful powerups that you get from the minibosses, you should be fine for the most part when you fight them.

If you should hang around in the level too long, possibly while killing lots of things to get a few powerups, you will be attack by swarms of things that look to be some sort of undead, skeleton tigers. The move quickly and bound across the screen quite readily, plus they can injure you simply by bumping into you, which is what makes them really deadly. They can be killed with elative ease, but they will were you down fairly quickly, and the only way to escape is to reach the end of the level or to die. It does take a while before they will actually appear, though, so donít be too hesitant to wait around for the right powerups.

In the background of all this ass-whomping, youíll be treated to some interesting music. I like it, as it has a reasonable amount of various and rhythm to it, but each song is relatively short and looped, so some people may be driven insane.

The music wonít drive you nuts as fast as some of the sound effect will, however. The most noticeable of such is the shrill ringing sound that your sword makes when you swing it, which you will be doing very often. In fact, many of the sound effects used to illustrate an attack of any sort in the game are just ringing sounds. The rest are just some fairly nondescript beeping noises that serve as welcome relief from the ringing.

This is first and foremost an action game. Since there is no intro video, and I canít find any manuals for the game, it seems that there is not plot except to rescue someone from something. Still, the action is fantastic. Do yourself a favor and try this game, and turn down the sound if the ringing sound persists even after you stop playing.

Best Cheats: Gain Password - When you get Game Over, hold Down then press B, A, B, A on the 1st Controller to gain a password.

Access Password Screen - At the title screen, press Up, A, B, A, B on the first controller to gain access to the Password Screen.

Game Play: 9
Graphics: 6
Music/Sound: 6
Originality: 9
Overall Rating: 8

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