‘Crossed Swords ACA NEOGEO’ Review – Infinity Retro-Blade – TouchArcade

Look, I don’t know if Chair’s outstanding Infinity Blade (RIP) series was at all inspired by SNK’s Crossed Swords ($3.99) or if they just had similar ideas independent of each other a couple of decades apart, but revisiting this 1991 NEOGEO title via the ACA NEOGEO mobile port sure made me think about it. It’s obviously not a patch on Infinity Blade in terms of presentation, and it’s not up to in terms of mechanics either, but it’s close enough to make me remember the happy times when we had three whole Infinity Blades to enjoy. Sorry, I’ll shut up about Infinity Blade now for a bit. Let’s look at Crossed Swords and see what’s what, shall we?

Crossed Swords came in more or less at the tail end of the NEOGEO’s first year on the market. The system hadn’t had its Fatal Fury moment yet, though that would come scant months later. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior had already come out and was absolutely wreaking havoc on the make-up of most arcades, but the big shift to fighting games was still in the future. There was still room for something weird and interesting, and long-time SNK partner Alpha Denshi (ADK) was more than willing to provide. In these heady times, you still saw a lot of arcade games trying to bring in RPG elements to entice the Dragon Quest-addled minds of Japanese gamers, to varying degrees of success. So what happens if you take the success of SNK’s The Super Spy and try to smash some RPG into it? You get Crossed Swords, I think.

So here’s the deal with this: it’s Punch-Out!!. It’s even more Punch-Out!! than The Super Spy was, even going so far as to place your transparent character on the screen. You’re a brave warrior and you need to stop the demon warlord who threatens the peace of the realm with his army of nasty monsters. You start your journey with a simple sword and shield, but they’re more than up to the job at hand. Your shield can block strikes at two different angles, activated by pressing up or down on the stick. You’ve got two different buttons for your sword strikes, allowing you to slash and thrust, and you’ve even got a bit of magic you can use in emergencies. Blocking is usually better than dodging, but you’re also able to move left and right if you feel the need.

In general, the name of the game here is to guard your opponent’s attack and then counter with your own. The timing is tricky, but particular enemies will use particular patterns and you can take advantage of that with practice. The combat is surprisingly fun for how little there is to it, and while it can get a little repetitive over the course of the game, it holds on longer than you might think. The enemy variety helps with that, and so do the variety of stages you’ll traverse. This isn’t the flashiest NEOGEO game by any means, but it takes good advantage of the hardware and still has an appealing look and sound today. Enemies jump into and out of the background using scaling sprites, and you’ll also get various NPCs using that feature too.

Defeating enemies will reward you with various pick-ups, not the least of which being gold. You can use that gold to upgrade your sword via merchants between the stages, and each sword brings new magic abilities. You can’t buy your way to better shields, but you can find new ones along the way if you choose your routes well. This is about the sum of the game’s RPG elements beyond its fantasy trappings, but it’s more than enough for an experience like this. Finding the optimal route, learning the enemy and boss patterns, and seeing all there is to see makes for at least a handful of engaging playthroughs.

Crossed Swords isn’t quite as reliant on button combinations as The Super Spy, and that means it gets along better with touch controls if you find yourself depending on them. As usual, an external controller is going to work better. It’s what the game is designed for, after all. But if you have to play with touch controls, you’ll really only have a slight hassle with the tiny list of special moves that most players never use anyway. You would also need external controllers if you want to take advantage of the game’s two-player mode, which is probably the most enjoyable co-op Punch-Out!!-inspired game you can find. C’est la vie.

You get the usual array of ACA NEOGEO features here, including game options, display settings, ways to fiddle with the on-screen controls, and so on. You can play the Japanese or Overseas versions of the game, and the two typical extra modes are on offer here. I find this one a little too random for the score attack hustle except in the broadest of strokes, but the extras modes are still a solid addition thanks to the online leaderboards. The emulation is spot-on, as you would expect from Hamster. If you’ve been reading any of these reviews, you’ll know all of this already. But someone is reading this one first, so we have to mention it.

Crossed Swords isn’t a game you’re going to enjoy playing every day. It’s rather substantial for an arcade game from its time and place, but even with all of that its simple block-and-counter gameplay can wear out its welcome after a while. Still, if you find yourself missing that Punch-Out!!-with-swords experience that you used to quench by firing up Infinity Blade here and there, Crossed Swords might be a decent retro substitute. It’s not the first game you might think of when you think of SNK’s long-running console, but if you give it a shot you’ll find it to be a real NEOGEO-core game in all the best ways.

By admin

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