1995 was the highlight year for the 3DO, with software releases flowing and cheaper hardware hitting the stores worldwide. True, it was shown to be outclassed by the newer Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, but there were solid plans for the future and all looked good. Games released that year included PO’ed, Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels and Blade Force, each title demonstrating in its own way that the 3DO could, in the right hands, hold its own in comparison to the newer consoles, at least in the short term, and it’s Blade Force I am reviewing here.
As with many CD-based titles of the mid-1990’s you get a 3D pre-rendered video to set the scene and the plot, such as it is. From the get go, you get a proper reminder that 1995 games presentation has not aged well at all. It’s not the modelling itself that is bad (it is pretty much par for the course and I think it has a certain nostalgic charm), but the voice over and script really do scream mid-90’s, with an overly serious WWF-style wrestling vibe cum nature documentary tone that clashes completely with the dark, gritty atmosphere the game is trying to present. It does, however, introduce the villains of the piece and the locale (Meggagrid City – too many G’s in there for me). There is Terence Pitt, looking like a cross between Archangel from Airwolf and the A-Team’s Hannibal in a bad disguise, Pyro Megaly(!), The Steel Medusa Sisters, Eddy Extasy (subtle, this is not), Ugly Two-Head (like Catchphrase, just say what you see…) and Reverend Bea Atch. Yes, Bea Atch! It couldn’t get more 90’s if it danced around an old warehouse in a shell suit sporting a coke can fringe! Having said that, I still chuckle everytime I watch the intro.
Onto the meat of the game and you begin with a training mission that lets you get to grips with the controls and style of play. The controls are quite simple but they do take a bit of practice to master and really, the developers did a good job within the limitations of the 3DO joypad. The Flightstick is highlighted in the manual and given the lack of analogue control on the pad, I’d say it’s worthwhile getting your hands on the stick if you can. Still, the normal controls are more than good enough and you’ll soon be zipping around the cityscape of Meggagrid (still too many G’s for me) like a good ‘un.
Graphically, I don’t want to be too harsh on Blade Force. For a 1995 title, I feel it’s as good as it could be and definitely shows off the 3DO in a good light. Not the smoothest by any means, you still get plenty of detail and my only real complaint is the ever present fog hiding a short draw distance and the associated pop-in. That does mean though that the “city” never really feels like a city, more like a shoe box. Flying enemies are a bit of a bother mind, with limited frames of animation (these are 2D sprites) which makes them feel like they pop in for a split second, only to have moved out of your field of vision by the time you can react. Still, your health bar holds up quite well so they don’t spoil the game too much. It must be noted that the 3DO was never designed to be a polygon powerhouse and it is testament to the game’s creators that they have wrung this much out of the hardware.
Sound wise, you have a guitar heavy soundtrack (it’s that ‘90’s presentation again) and the sound effects are functional but not much more. I have touched upon the voice acting in the narration but the in-game acting is decent enough and I have heard far worse in my time. The music does kind of suit the game and gives it a bit of a cheesy action film feel.
The gameplay is simple enough: fly around the city, destroying targets in a set order to make your job easier, collecting power ups and fuel whilst shooting the bad guys. It provides a good challenge and I really enjoyed making my way through the game. It’s never really unfair (unlike some sections of PO’ed I could mention) and whilst there could be a greater range of enemies, it’s fun nonetheless. As well as the training level, there are six main mission levels and a bonus level to keep you occupied and you’ll get a fair few hours of entertainment out of this game. You get used to the short draw distance and the slightly jerky controls provided by the pad and whilst you could never claim Blade Force is a classic, it definitely falls into the “recommended purchase” category. As an aside, there is also a developers mode that provides a bit of fun after you’ve finished the main game.
Blade Force then is one of those titles that the 3DO could have had a few more of. With (for the time) decent 3D graphics and fun core gameplay, I don’t think any 3DO owner would have been embarrassed to have had this title in their collection. It’s just a shame that by the time Blade Force was released, you could already see the fortunes of the 3DO waning and many would have ignored this title for that reason alone. Yet for what it is, it’s very good. As it is, this is a worthy shooter and one that deserves a bit of your time.
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Good graphics, engaging gameplay and a ’90’s cheese-tastic presentation, this is well worth your time!