Co-Optimus – Editorial – Co-op Classics: Warrior Blade
The newly released Egret II Mini arcade cabinet includes rastan, the classic fantasy-themed action platformer from Taito. The game’s two sequels, however, were not made it. Fortunately, all three rastan the games are available on the iiRcade home arcade platform. In reality, Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III just released on iiRcade. Given that warrior blade is a beautiful 2-player co-op beat ’em up that has never been officially released in UK markets before, this release is the perfect excuse to kickstart our Co-op Classics column with an in-depth look at the game.
First, a series starter: the original rastan first appeared in arcades in 1987 before being ported to the Sega Master System and personal computers. The sequel, insignia titled “Nastar Warriorin North America hit the arcades in 1988 and Sega Genesis in 1991, adding 2-player co-op but losing quality in art and gameplay. Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III debuted exclusively in Japanese arcades in 1991, never having been ported to a home system until a Japanese Memories of Taito collection for PlayStation 2 in 2007. The iiRcade version is the first time that warrior blade has officially sold outside of Japan.
Abandoning the action-platforming gameplay of its predecessors, warrior blade is a beat ’em up. The arcade version used a 2-screen display to create an ultra-wide playing field (much like that of Dariusburst: Saviors of the Chronicle). The iiRcade letterboxed version of the image to retain the original aspect ratio. It’s not a perfect solution, but it works. Fighting through the game’s scenic environments is definitely a unique experience.
To start, one or two players will choose from three characters: Rastan the sword-swinging barbarian, Dewey the dagger-slicing “mercenary” (obviously a ninja), and Sophia the whip-wielding thief. Each character has different stats and slightly different moves, including a special move that drains health. Special moves don’t impress as much as Sega’s magic attacks Golden axehowever, the health depletion mechanic is not as distinctive and appropriate as consuming magic potions.
The actual gameplay is pretty typical for an arcade beat ’em up. All three heroes can slash, jump, and dash, though dash isn’t as useful as in Golden axe and other games. Some characters can throw enemies as part of their basic attack combos, but the game lacks a proper grappling hook system that would add depth. Breakable items sometimes contain point-granting treasures (which also grant small health bonuses at the end of the stage), health-filling items, and true bonuses. These bonuses give heroes the ability to cast fire or lightning and even summon a friendly wizard. The summoned NPC will cast random spells when players use their special moves, though it would be more immersive if they fought independently.
The game consists of six stages: a short prelude in the forest, four intermediate stages and a finale on the enemy island. The four intermediate stages can be tackled in any order, adding a touch of replayability. Each of these intermediate stages grants a permanent stat boost upon completion, such as increased health or speed. Stages begin and end with well-written cinematic displays that create atmosphere and establish the narrative of the heroes’ journey.
Speaking of scenes, their creativity and variety are among warrior blademost impressive features. Most stages begin with exciting, auto-scrolling segments with the heroes on horseback, flying on dragons, and more. These segments provide a break from typical beat ’em up gameplay while injecting adrenaline and urgency into the adventure.
Regular stages also include various elements like running up and down chains, jumping across chasms (luckily easy to do compared to some beat ’em ups), and even scrolling LEFT (!!!) instead of right. law. Not to mention the dazzling array of bosses, including a skeletal monstrosity, a multi-headed dragon, a gigantic carnivorous plant, and more. They all look fantastic, both gorgeous and perfectly suited for an epic fantasy adventure.
at Taito warrior blade may never reach the heights of the competition Golden Axe: Death’s Revenge Adder (the culmination of the arcade fantasy beat ’em ups, released in 1992), but it’s still an interesting genre entry. Rastan himself has always been a Conan the Barbarian impersonation, which this game’s ending makes abundantly clear. Conan was once asked: “What’s best in life?“Well, crushing your enemies and hearing their wives lament is all well and good, but the beautiful arcade beat ’em ups are surely up there on the greatness scale!
Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III sells for $12.99 on the iRcade home arcade rig. iiRcade is a home arcade machine with a 19-inch monitor, 100W stereo speakers, Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth, HDMI output and 11 pre-installed games, including classics cooperatives Dual Dragon and Gun. Other classic arcade games (including the entire rastan series) and modern indie games are also available for purchase.
A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher for this article.