It’s kind of weird that I own a copy of Sword of the Berserk: Guts’ Rage. It’s a Dreamcast game based on the manga and anime “Berserk”, which I’ve never read or seen. If I remember right, most of the coverage for the game before it was released focused on just how over the top the violence was. That’s probably why I ended up getting it. It’s actually kind of funny, because other than some blood splatter when you hit enemies, the level of violence on display doesn’t seem to be anything too spectacular.
The game opens with some traveling performers getting attacked by some raiders. The attack is interrupted when a woman who clearly isn’t all there wanders in to see the performers’ dog. The raiders go to her, only to be attacked by Guts, the main character. Guts is a large man with an even larger sword. It’s very reminiscent of Cloud’s buster sword in Final Fantasy VII. Guts tells the raiders to leave them alone, they don’t listen, and so a fight begins.
There’s no tutorial, you just kind of get thrown into the action. I had beaten this game before a few times when I was younger, so I had a general idea of what to do, but I still had to mash on the buttons to figure out what did what. The A and B buttons are your attacks, one doing horizontal strikes and the other vertical. X is jump, but you’ll almost never use it. Holding the right trigger enables you to use four different items, each mapped to the face buttons. And finally, the left trigger draws or sheaths your sword. This is useful when in tight spaces, where the sword swings might bounce off of walls.
The combat is fast and simple. For just about any fight, I found that the best strategy was just running straight towards the enemies and mashing on the A button. The enemies will occasionally gang up on you or shoot you from a distance, which does make things a little more frustrating, but nothing is too difficult.
After defeating the enemies, one of the victims of the attack, a girl named Rita, thanks us for helping out. She and the rest of the entertainers are headed to a nearby town to put on a show. Rita invites Guts, the woman whose name is Casca, and their annoying little elf friend (whose voiced by Liquid Snake from Metal Gear Solid) Puck to come see the show. Guts doesn’t want to, but ultimately decides to go because he’s hungry anyway.
In town, Guts and crew find the performers. They have a large masked man perform, but he trips and the mask falls off, revealing some kind of parasitic growth on his body. The crowd flips out, claiming he’s possessed by the “mandragora” and begin throwing rocks at him. This angers the man, who transforms into a monster with long stretchy arms. We fight him, and it plays out basically the same as the previous fight. Mash on the A button, maybe use an item, and soon the boss is defeated.
Rita is pretty mad at us, saying that we didn’t need to kill him, but she’s interrupted by the arrival of a carriage. Out of it steps a man with a ridiculous lion-like hairdo and the unfortunate name of “Balzak”. He invites you back to his castle to see his research on the Mandragora. I’m not going to go to deep into the story beyond this, but it does go places in a very short amount of time, and even for someone who doesn’t know the characters at all, it does a good job of keeping the player invested.
The game’s visuals land somewhere in the middle of the Dreamcast’s spectrum. The models are well detailed and the environments are appropriately dingy. Unfortunately, the animation leaves a lot to be desired. Characters move roboticly and can’t seem to stand still while talking. Their faces spasm during conversations in ways that will almost certainly distract anyone playing. But overall, it’s still a nice looking game.
My main concern with the game comes from its length. I played about an hour of it this morning before writing this, and I was pretty sure that I was close to the end of the game. I checked a walkthrough on GameFAQs, and sure enough, I was really close. I don’t necessarily think that short games are inherently bad, but this one seems to have more time spent in cutscenes than actual gameplay.
Overall, Sword of the Berserk: Guts’ Rage is a pretty alright hack and slash game. If you’re a fan of the manga and have a Dreamcast laying about, I’d say you should check it out. Just be aware that is very short and not particularly difficult.