Ninjas, frogs & magicians...
by Tibe (2018)
Having remained for twenty years an exclusive Neo Geo CD title, Crossed Swords II appears in 2015 for the first time on MVS and AES systems, unofficially. It's the sequel of Crossed Swords first of the name released in 1991, and also the third and last two-dimensional FPS/TPS (first / third person shooter) on Neo Geo machines. As a reminder, the view used here is a classic third-person one, but our heroes are "see-through" so the action can be more clear. Our warriors will fight with swords, katana, knives or even ax against an army of opponents, going through fix screens or slow-scrolling ones. Their moves are limited to the width of the screen (left and right), because unlike a 3D FPS or TPS, it's not possible to move freely in a 3D environment. It's about using the available weapons and the best fighting technique to terminate an army of infamous creatures and Naussiz, the Boss of the game. Controls has evolved since the first episode, so let's review the new range of possibilities.
The A button is still assigned to the attack. Pressing B triggers a jump, combining B + right or left allows you to dodge and dash - which can be converted into an attack with A. Finally C controls the magic, available in limited quantities. We move with the stick only from left to right on the screen, while the up and down directions are used for blocking (head and body). It's essential to learn how to protect yourself by anticipating the type of attack the opponent will perform. A successful parry allows you to counter and often hit the opponent with a combo. Depending on the direction of the stick, the blows with A are different. There's also a few special moves (half-circles, up-down, dragon punch, etc.), the "combo breakers" made with AB + up or down to get out of a bad pass, but also a quick attack with AB and hence now jumped attack. Gold and experience are gained in battles, providing more power and health on the one hand, and better weapons, experience points, magic, food and other naughty games with the lovely game merchant on the other hand.
We choose from three characters before starting hostilities. A classic knight in armor, powerful and having a good defense; a fast and magic female warrior; and finally a ninja (ADK could not help it!) balanced in all areas but weak in magic. Each of these three heroes have their own style and are played quite differently. Two gaming modes are proposed: Naussiz Counter-Attack, the classic quest, in which our fighters go back to save Belkana from the evil Naussiz and his fantastic bestiary; and the Karividu Arena, a survival mode in which one fights enemies one by one in two winning rounds. The interest of this mode is that it allows you to train and improve your fighting technique. The margin of progression is quite large in CS2, reflexes and combinations can be greatly improved. To get even better, you need to earn experience points during the adventure and collect as much gold as you can. When your character die, the gold is kept but the points of EXP fall back to zero (the last acquired level is saved). It's therefore interesting to improve so that you die the less possible and get an even more powerful character!
Jumping from 55 to 70 mega, the realization of this second episode got slightly better. The graphics, faithful to the ADK style, are reminiscent of some passages of World Heroes or Magician Lord. The backgrounds are numerous and the fantastic atmosphere they emit is successful. The enemies are large and a good use of the Neo Geo color palette was made. The decomposition of the movements is just ok, without more, with a dynamic action not too fast and beautiful effects during the fights. The soundtrack differs between versions. On Neo Geo CD, the quality is excellent, the sound effects and music are much better than in CS. On AES/MVS, almost everything is taken from the first game, so it's pretty decent, but it aged a little (four years have passed). An improved realization, three different characters, more comprehensive gameplay, two game modes: ADK did pretty good for Crossed Swords II, which does slightly better than its elder.
|The ADK style, you love it or you hate it! Anyway, improvement since the first game can be seen. Backgrounds and characters are more varied and betterly drawn.|
|The moves are decently decomposed with very big sprites and some nice effects.|
|SOUND||AES 79% / CD 86%|
|The CD version is excellent, with quality musics and great effects. The AES uses the first Crossed Swords' sountrack, which is good too, but aged a little.|
|Player will come back from time to time to CS2, thanks to the two game modes, cooperative play, three different characters and room for improvement. On the other hand, the game is a little shorter than CS1.|
|Basic attacks, dodges, jump, special moves, magic, leveling up, various weapons... The fighting system is pretty good. ADK did its best, touching the limits of this kind of game.|
|AES 73%/CD 74%|
|2D FPS/TPS is a gaming curiosity, but Crossed Swords II is a decent game, fun, having players coming back to it willingly.|
VALUE FOR MONEY (2018)
Crossed Swords 2 costs "only" 70 euros on the Neo Geo CD, which is correct for retro-gaming and you can go for it, but it's almost the triple for the AES or MVS, which is a bit too expensive. Except of course if you're a fan of rare birds.