Power Blade 2
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Natsume
  • Publisher:
    • Taito
  • Released:
    • JP 09/29/1992
    • US October 1992
Score: 80%

This review was published on 12/10/2016.

Power Blade 2 is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Natsume and published by Taito Corporation for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on September 29, 1992, and North America in October 1992. As its title implies, this is the sequel to Power Blade, which came out on the NES in 1991. Originally, there was a Famicom game released in Japan in 1990 called Power Blazer. Taito made some serious modifications to Power Blazer and then released it in North America and Europe as Power Blade. Power Blade had many improvements over Power Blazer, and it also changed the protagonist to a fellow who strongly resembled Arnold Schwarzenegger. After Power Blade's success, Taito decided to take those improvements, along with the Arnold lookalike hero, and make Power Blade 2. Since Japan never got the original Power Blade and the game was too different from Power Blazer, Taito called it Captain Saver over there. So how is Power Blade 2? Well, it's better than Power Blazer, but not as good as the first Power Blade.

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A weapons research company known as the Delta Foundation has finished development of a new cyborg unit that represents the next generation of fighting robots. On December 24, 2200, Christmas Eve, the President of the United States of America received a chilling offer. The Delta Foundation threatened the President that they'd sell their newest cyborg creation to a foreign country if the Department of Defense didn't buy it within the week, which would pose a threat to national security if the cyborg fell in the hands of a hostile nation. Shortly after that, NOVA, the protagonist of the first Power Blade, is called in by the Department of Defense for a secret mission to destroy the Delta Foundation. Due to the secrecy of the mission, NOVA is informed that the U.S. government can't get involved in the event something should happen to him, so he's on his own. Once again, it's up to NOVA to solve this crisis with the delicacy of a supernova.

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If you've read this far, then it shouldn't come as a surprise that you control NOVA for the duration of this mission. Like before, pressing left or right on the d-pad causes NOVA to mosey on in those directions, up climbs ladders, and down ducks. The A button makes NOVA jump and the B button is used to throw a boomerang. Boomerangs can be thrown in any of the eight directions if the appropriate direction is held on the d-pad while pressing the B button. The select button uses a life refilling item if you have any, similar to the Energy Tanks from the Mega Man games. Speaking of, NOVA is now able to do like Mega Man and slide across the ground by holding down on the d-pad and pressing the A button. Sliding is faster than walking, plus it allows NOVA to squeeze into tight spaces. While painfully unoriginal, the slide is still a great addition.

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As with the last game, you've got something known as a power meter, but it's at the bottom of the screen instead of the top. This aptly named meter determines the throwing distance of your boomerang, but it empties every time you throw one, though it'll quickly refill. You can still throw boomerangs when the meter is low, but they won't go as far. Power-ups can increase the size of the meter, which in turn increases your throwing range. That's not all; there are also power-ups that increase the amount of boomerangs you can throw, eventually allowing you to throw three at a time. Additionally, there's a power-up that turns your boomerangs red, increasing their damage output. You do have to be careful, though, because you lose some of your power-ups every time you die. This is all mostly the same as it was in the last game.

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In the previous game, NOVA could find and equip a power suit to kick extra butt, but he'd lose it after taking a couple of hits. Power Blade 2 expands upon that concept by featuring multiple types of suits, plus NOVA gets to actually keep them this time around. Halfway through most stages, there'll be an optional door you can enter to fight a mini-boss. Upon wrecking that mini-boss, you'll be rewarded with a new power suit. You can freely switch between acquired suits at any time by pressing start and pushing up or down on the d-pad. Each power suit has different abilities, like one enables you to climb walls and ceilings, another allows you to swim, and there's even one that lets you fly. The catch is that you have an energy meter, and wearing power suits will slowly deplete this meter, though it can be replenished by picking up batteries. Regardless, the power suits are the best thing about Power Blade 2, because they add some strategic depth to the game and are fun to use.

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Like Power Blade and Mega Man before it, this game starts off with a stage select screen. Unlike those games, however, the stage select screen is awesome. Instead of being a map or whatever, you get a side-scrolling view of NOVA on a futuristic bike with buildings in the background, and he acts as the cursor as you select your destination. It's mostly a visual effect, but it looks darn good. The rest of the game doesn't look as good, graphically speaking. Gone are the vibrant colors of the first Power Blade, as this game elects to go with a much darker palette. A lot of the backgrounds are simply black screens, which comes off as lazy, especially this late into the NES' lifespan. Having said that, the game by no means looks bad, as there are still plenty of decently detailed backgrounds and foregrounds, plus the sprites still look nice. The music is still done by the legendary Castlevania composer, Kinuyo Yamashita, but it's not quite as catchy as the previous game. It's still good, though.

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Unlike the first Power Blade, the stages in this game are totally linear. You no longer have to search for secret agents or ID cards, as it's now simply a matter of cutting your way through a crowd of baddies until you reach the boss at the end. Most of the stages require heavy use of your new slide ability, often having tunnels and such that can only be traversed with it. On top of that, some stages are easier if you bring in specific suits, such as the swimming power suit being very helpful in stages with water. Sometimes having a specific suit also lets you explore bonus paths that lead to power-ups. The suits even help on some bosses, like this one guy that flies around as the room fills with water, so having either the suit that can swim or the one that lets you cling to ceilings is pretty handy here. This means that, unlike the last game, the order in which you do the stages actually makes a difference, further adding to the Mega Man similarities and slightly increasing replay value.

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A lot of design elements were borrowed from Mega Man, like a section with a raising and lowering ceiling thing inspired by the trash compactor from Dust Man's stage in Mega Man 4. Even the way the sideways doors open is distinctly Mega Man. There's a little of Super Mario World here, too, like an area with blocks you ride on that move in a snake-like pattern. Occasionally, there'll be some more original stuff, like a section with a platform that only moves while you're on it, and you have to get off every few seconds to avoid a sea of deadly fire that slowly rises up from below to kill you. Then there's another bit with fans that blow you around, and you must fly around them with the rocket suit while avoiding their deadly blades. Aside from the overabundance of things that kill you on contact, the stages are all decent. Unfortunately, there are fewer stages in this game compared to the first Power Blade, so the fun doesn't last as long. Also, the game gets way too hard near the end, but there are unlimited continues and a password system.

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This game may be a Mega Man clone, but it's a darn good one. It's got good graphics, nice music, solid controls, decent stages, and an awesome stage select screen. The biggest standout feature about this game is the different power suits, though. They're like the special weapons from the Mega Man series, but even cooler. There's really not much this game does wrong, other than all the instant death traps and the insane difficulty spike at the end. If you liked the previous game and hunger for more power, then you should play Power Blade 2.

Word Count: 1,485

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