Although it may be a fantastic Warriors game, the anime video game Berserk and the Band of the Hawk misses the mark in storytelling and tone.
Anyone who knows me well understands that I absolutely love Berserk. While I may not be much of avid manga reader, Berserk has been one of those series where I could easily binge dozens of volumes in under a week (I probably need to get out more, but still). From its compelling story, strong characters, and incredibly detailed illustrations, Berserk is a franchise that has become admired throughout manga communities, and has been used heavily to draw inspiration for titles such as Dark Souls.
So when I first heard the announcement that Koei Tecmo was going to be releasing a Berserk video game last year, I was so goddamn excited to hear the news I nearly did that thing when you’re so shocked you spit your drink out, except I wasn’t drinking at the time. Maybe it was fanboy rage getting the better of me, or perhaps my growing distaste for that atrocious 2016 anime, but this game was perhaps one of the few titles of 2017 that I was legitimately looking forward to.
If you’re a fan who is curious about this title, no doubt that you’ve stumbled across this review to determine whether Berserk and the Band of the Hawk holds up to its source material. Well, as a game, particularly a Dynasty Warriors game, I think that it’s incredible.
But as a Berserk game, it’s kind of disappointing.
As a Warriors game, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is everything you’d imagine. Enemies are in the thousands, and levels usually last no more than 10 minutes at a time. Combat is what you’d expect from a Warriors production, with attacks ranging from light and heavy, all of which can be used to carry out insane combo moves.
As players mow down hundreds of enemies, eventually they can activate special rage meters to enhance their attacks. After filling out another bar, players can then use a special attack, which can either be used to mow down hundreds of troops down or perform a devastating move against a boss. While the combat is incredibly fun, mission objectives are incredibly basic, and usually, range from ‘go kill this guy’ and ‘go to this checkpoint’.
So is Berserk and the Band of the Hawk a good anime game?
There are several modes within Berserk and the Band of the Hawk. Within story mode, players are given a rough adaptation of the Berserk manga series, which tells the story of most of the issues up until volume 31.
While there are story segments and characters missing, the game does a pretty good job at establishing the major plot points of the series. Between missions, there are the occasional dialogue segment in which players can listen in on conversations between characters. While most of them are told in simple dialogue exchanges, it was cool that the developers went the extra mile to at least provide players some added context.
As well as the story mode, players can enjoy a Free Mode option which allows for them to replay missions as one of their favorite characters. The other mode, Eclipse, allows for players to play through a series of levels while completing random objectives.
Visually, the game looks absolutely fantastic.
If you’re familiar with last year’s release of Attack on Titan, then you know what to expect from this engine. Graphics and design nail the source material, and the whole experience felt like I was playing through an anime. In regards to performance, the game holds up to a steady 60fps on the PlayStation 4. There were moments when I was traveling in the level and found the occasional enemy appear at random. Bit annoying, but understandable given at how many there are on the screen.
There were moments in the game where the game suffered from “too much shit going on at the screen” syndrome. In turn, this resulted in a few instances where the camera collided with walls and just made things crappy to see. These were usually present in tight/enclosed levels or occasions where I was battling against a big enemy. But with that, it’s nothing that’s common enough to completely ruin the game.
Does Berserk and the Band of the Hawk translates as an authentic Berserk anime video game? I’ve got some gripes.
First and foremost is the amount of playable characters. In total, there are only about eight playable fighters throughout this game, which is rather insulting considering the amount of interesting characters present in the series. The most glaring omission is definitely the Skull Knight, despite him being a reoccurring character throughout the duration of the game.
My next gripe is the cutscenes and the bizarre inclusion to have scenes from the movies play out. During the events of the Golden Age Arc, players are given snippets from the film series that was adapted.
While I did appreciate these segments, I did find it incredibly distracting once the arc was concluded. Transitioning cutscenes from a fully animated feature to an in-game engine is not something that is easily done, and the comparison between them both was a little jarring, to say the least. Honestly, I’d much rather prefer if the developers instead focused on adapting these scenes into the in-game engine, instead of pasting them in from the movie. To me, it felt a little out of place with the rest of the in-game visuals.
While I honestly feel that Koei Tecmo has done an excellent at adapting most of the key plot points, there are several jarring omissions that has been bothering me during the game. Anyone who has read Berserk knows that the story doesn’t revolve around Guts, but also supporting characters such as his old friend, Griffith.
Throughout the game, it only ever focuses on Guts and the characters surrounding his group.
Everything regarding Griffiths’ activities and the massive war that’s going on in the background is barely brought up at all. As someone who might be new to the series or only familiar with the recent anime adaption, you’re going to feel lost at the missing source material.
In summary, while Berserk and the Band of the Hawk may be an incredibly fun game, newcomers should not turn to this if they’re looking for an alternative to the manga. If you’re a fan of the series and just want to swing a big heavy sword at thousands of monsters, then you’re in luck. Otherwise, don’t rely on this if you’re looking for a full adaptation of the series.
My Rating: 7/10