Your opponent drops down, maybe into a run, and you leap backwards. But it wasn't a run, and he was just psyching you out. So you send a taunt his way, then prove you're not scared by making your character sit his ass down on the ground.
Fundamentally, Bushido Blade was a fighting game which tried to remember why fighting was awesome in the first place. Instead of abstracting it with weirdly boring features like super-combos, or air juggling, or special abilities, or cancelling, Bushido Blade chose to simulate what was already beautiful about fighting. Unbearable tension. Moments of stillness, to exaggerate moments of action. Making a mockery of death by blocking a killing blow, and another, and another. Trying to lock your opponent into the weakness of his chosen weapon. The dilemma of whether to fight dirty, and throw handfuls of sand at your opponent. The chance to mess with the other guy, the chance to keep your cool, and the chance to run away.
God, that's another thing. Even the big arena fighting game of this generation, Ultimate Ninja Storm, doesn't come close to matching Bushido Blade's levels. These were huge areas where being backed up against a wall or knocked down a tier was just the start. In any match you were free to enforce a change of scene by running off into a nearby forest, say, where each missed sword-swipe would send enormous poles of bamboo tumbling to the ground. It was what kept those rare, epic five-minute duels interesting.
I remember one match where my friend and I traded cautious blows in six or seven different locales across three loading zones, until we ended up at the top of a ridge. It was there that we each went for a heavy attack and bounced off one another's weapons, sending us both tumbling off the ledge and into the mud fifteen feet below.
But neither of us stood back up. We just lay there, faces down. We waited for three seconds. Five seconds. We were so close our legs were touching. 10 seconds, with no movement, and no button presses. An eternity. I couldn't stand it anymore. In a heartbeat and in one movement my character scrambled to his feet and swung his hammer back down towards my opponent's prostrate form. In that instant the other man darted up towards me in an even quicker motion, and dug his sword into my chest. I watched the blood erupt from my muddied, broken character as he went stumbling backwards into the mud, his hammer falling harmlessly to one side.
Pretty sure it's one of the single coolest things I've ever seen a videogame do.
I bet they're having fun in the detestable alternate universe where Bushido Blade took off. I bet they're playing all kinds of fighting games with no health bars, which manage to look cool without the benefit of special moves choked with ethereal pyrotechnics or astonishingly detailed sprites. I bet they have at least a couple of fighting games each generation which make sense.
In closing, let me point out that I love Street Fighter IV as much as the next man. Which is to say I love it enough to decide to get good at it, find out that performing the cancels on a d-pad is like closing a hardback book on your testicles, look into buying an arcade stick, find out they're kind of expensive, and give up.
I guess I love Bushido Blade a little bit more than the next man. But you know what? I'm really okay with that. This game deserves a little bit more than what it got.
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