Enter a dungeon, hack and slash your way through until you reach a mid level boss. Destroy. Hack and slash some more until you reach the end of level boss. At this point, pummel said boss into submission then move on to the next level. No Mensa level problem solving here then. It doesn’t sound like that much fun? That would be an error of judgement as there is much arcade goodness.
The gameplay mechanics have been very finely tuned to give that perfect arcade level balance between hard work and reward. It is satisfying to complete a level and fun to work your way through. When you attack the enemies, a gauge fills up, in much the same way super special moves work in the Street Fighter series. This allows you to unleash deadly special attacks on your foes. At the end of each level you are given a ranked assessment of your performance, based on clear time, technical skill and number of enemies KO’d.
Each selectable character has various attributes; speed, attack, defence and magic, shown on the select screen, pretty much a standard character select affair. Your chosen character has several different attack combos, a few special moves, and one super attack that hits all enemies on the screen, using the magic you’ve built up whilst fighting.
A set number of continues is available as you play through the levels. At first it seems rather generous, but they soon disappear as you progress through the game. Good tactics are required to get further through; simply hacking away will only work nearer the beginning. This is a good thing, far too many games offer infinite continues, removing the challenge and satisfaction of victory. You soon learn that taking out ranged attack enemies is a worthwhile approach and air combos are particularly effective at dispatching the adversary.
Graphically this game is impressive, with plenty of attention to detail. Even if the models don’t have a billion odd polygons each, it looks very sharp and the characters are very well animated. There is always a lot of action on screen, and the enemies are numerous and varied with no noticeable slowdown, both in level and from one level to the next, the atmospheric music urging you onwards like the hero you are.
The level design itself is imaginative and well crafted, ranging from grassy expanses to glass effect fortresses complete with the transparency and reflective effects you would expect. The camera angle sweeps about as you move around, but it never compromises your view of the action. Although levels linear in nature, it’s not something you really notice, as working through them never seems like a chore; indeed, some of the fighting areas are quite expansive. The “Alter of Ritual” is a prime example, fantastic ground misting effects as you walk through the vast field, hacking away at the enemy with the grass churning up around you.
There is a different story line for each character in the game, this takes you through a different level path, adding longevity to the title, should you desire more hack and slash adventure. In one given sitting, probably not, but the next visit to the game after a night at the pub, it is welcomed refreshment.
Non Japanese speaking importers will be happy to learn that the vast majority of this game, bar some memory card options before the game boots to the menus, is in English, even the expansive storyline of each character.
Your best mates are catered for too. Golden Axe allowed two players to work as a team to defeat the evil enemy, should you own a multitap, you’ll be able to enjoy four player goodness within Raging Bless, standard two player fare otherwise. Additional characters for the multiplayer game can be unlocked from the arcade mode, though really, the only difference is a graphical one.
This game doesn’t break any new boundaries or punch through the barrier of innovation, what it does deliver is enjoyable arcade fun (single and multiplayer), and does so with aplomb.