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Berserk: Band of the Hawk

Berserk: Band of the Hawk

Written by Matt Mirkovich on 2/21/2017 for PS4  
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I don’t have much time to watch anime these days. It’s one of the reasons I appreciate the Koei Tecmo initiative to turn specific anime properties into games. Whether they be something relatively unknown like Arslan, or something huge like Attack on Titan. These games have allowed me to step into the role of the cool anime hero, and experience some pretty wild stuff, whether it be using 3D movement gear in Attack on Titan, or feeling totally awesome in their latest game, Berserk: Band of the Hawk. Once again aping the Dynasty Warriors series of action-adventure titles, we’re dropped into the messed up world of Guts, and his story that follows the movies from 2012, along with the anime series that aired just last year.

It’s been a minute since we’ve been dropped into the shoes of Guts. There was the Japan-only PS2 release, and the other game that players might be more familiar with, Sword of the Berserk: Guts’ Rage, which was released on the Sega Dreamcast (and chronologically, takes place after Band of the Hawk). If you’ve been following along with the manga, Band of the Hawk takes place over The Golden Age, The Black Swordsman, Conviction, and The Hawk of the Millennium Empire story arcs. So there’s plenty of story to cover, from how Guts wound up with the Band of the Hawk, to Griffith’s return, to the departure for Elfhelm. Although it curiously cuts off right at the departure, which seemed like a weird place to end the story, but it makes sense if the anime series continues, to give the game a potential for a sequel. Throughout the story you’ll also get a taste of that horrible CG that the animated series is known for, thanks to the inclusion of almost two hours' worth to intersperse between cutscenes. It’s a pleasant addition, but it doesn’t quite jive with this game for visuals. Another slight disappointment is the translation and editing work that went into this game. There’s a ton of areas where the text doesn’t fit the menu UI, there’s misspellings throughout the script, and even some wonky translations that just don’t work. It looks like a rush job, which is terribly unfortunate given that this game was already delayed from its 2016 release date. Hopefully in this era of patches, there will be one that goes through and cleans up the errors, because there are plenty of them.

When you’re not watching horrible cel-shaded anime, you’re going to be looking at one of the best transitions from anime to video game visuals out there. I know I praised Attack on Titan when it was released last year, but Berserk manages to take it a step further with amazing character models that are incredibly faithful to the source material. Albeit the one area that never seems to get much love in these games, the surrounding environments look as drab and dull as ever. Though there are some interesting looking locales, you’re going to find yourself fighting in a lot of similar looking places throughout the adventure. Playing this game on a PS4 Pro, one of my biggest complaints about playing a Dynasty Warriors-style game was partially alleviated, with the frame rate actually holding pretty steady from start to finish. Musically, there weren’t any standout tracks, though it remains faithful to the series given that it’s the same composer. The Japanese-only voice track is a bit of a let down, but isn’t a deal breaker in the slightest.

So, since you’re going to be wielding Guts’s sword, what exactly are you in for? A whole lot of killing, and it’s a bloody mess from the first mission all the way to the last. And after 40-plus missions, I’m a bit exhausted of it all. Guts is a freaking beast, and nothing really gave me a challenge on the default difficulty. There’s a few other characters that you get to play as, including Casca, Serpico, Schierke, Griffith, Zodd, and Judeau. They do a good job in providing some variety to the experience, especially Schierke, who casts spells and summons golems to do her dirty work. But a lot of this game is the same Square-Square-Triangle combos that plague these games and ultimately undermine them. They’re perfect if you want to turn off your brain and just cruise through the story, but if you want something a little more challenging, I suggest bumping up the difficulty.

There’s also the requisite Free Mode that lets you play through any of the story missions with the character of your choice, perfect for replaying missions to collect any Behelits that you might have missed. These collectibles unlock promotional art for the game. But let’s say you want something a little more substantial for a reward. Then might I direct you to the Endless Eclipse mode? Here you will delve into the world of the Eclipse, in a survival mode that also is filled with Desires, missions for characters that you need to complete. Doing so will unlock some new outfits along with other items to strengthen your character. The levels of your characters are also carried over from story mode, along with their equipment which will give you a good head start when you dive in. There’s also a gallery that lets you listen to musical tracks, read character bios, and see how much of the equipment you’ve unlocked.

Given the delay in releasing this game, I’m kind of disappointed with the translation that’s full of errors. The rest of the game plays like a typical Dynasty Warriors title, which is the modus operandi of this initiative within Koei Tecmo. Run around an open battlefield, slay peons, cut loose with your devastating attacks. This time around it’s a much bloodier affair, and it follows the source material incredibly well, telling Guts's story in a mostly uncensored way. Berserk was never a series known to hold back on the blood, guts, and gore, and it’s cool to see that Omega Force and Koei Tecmo’s formula works so well for this property.

Berserk: Band of the Hawk is a pretty good fit for the Dynasty Warriors formula. It keeps up the story's tension with a dramatic mission structure, and doesn't shy away from the source material's mature themes. 

Rating: 8 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers. Now I'm working for a record label, a small arm of casual games in a media company along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.


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