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|A.P.I Review:||CARDINAL SYN|
|Developer:||Kronos Digital Entertainment||OPTIONS:||
No.1 No.2 No.3
|Game Type:||Beat-em-up||Memory Card|
|Review Date:||August 1998||Analog Compatible|
Setting the Scene
Many years ago when chaos reigned the world a mysterious cloaked man appeared and began walking the ravaged earth. This man was named the Wanderer and he carried with him a book of great and boundless secrets. Shortly after his arrival weapons were cast aside and gradually peace began to fall upon the land. After several years of harmony the Wanderer, believing his peaceful teachings were complete, gathered together his clan, transformed his book and disappeared. After a short time the remaining clan members returned to their practices of greed and brutality. Unity and alliance was lost and it was amidst a bloody battle where total annihilation was almost certain that a blinding flash suspended all fighting. As the clans gathered around the light, a figure of a cloaked woman appeared holding the symbol of unity. The clan leaders offered her their sacred scrolls which she magically transformed into the inscribed swords of the Trinity. This woman was Syn. Preparation began for a grand tournament. Each of the contestants fought to the death until only one remained. The triumphant warrior went to the temple of Syn to gain his reward and was never to be seen again. No one has cast eyes over Syn for decades but now, a generation later, the weapons of Trinity await a new champion.
Cardinal Syn is a weapons based 3D beat-em-up set in a medieval world featuring knights, thieves, barbarians, jesters and temptresses.
The game opens up with yet another stunning CG scene which explains the story behind the game. I tell you, these intro's just keep on improving and this more than matches those previously witnessed in blockbuster titles such as Tomb Raider 2. The fighting scenes are bloody, vicious and gory, that is until Dianna Ross look-a-like, Syn, turns up to calm things down by frying a few thugs with her finger of fire. Before the characters enters the battle arena they each have their own brief CG sequence explaining their side of the tale. Enough about the wrapping paper, what about the present? In-game the visuals are excellent, which surprised me considering how little interest Cardinal Syn had generated before it's launch. The characters can run anywhere within the 3D battle arena. That doesn't mean a simple sidestep or a sideways roll, but charging into and away from the camera is as easy as moving left and right. Furthermore, each of the fighting venues have their own distinct style and setting. These range from narrow rectangular castle courtyards to large spacious dungeons and caves. Each of the characters not only have an individual appearance but are armed to react in their very own fighting style. Finkster is a medieval thief who moves at a lightening speed before stabbing the enemy with his two trusty daggers. We also have Plague, a personal favorite of mine, the wooden legged zombie whose special move involves vomiting over his enemies. There is also McKrieg the beer bellied barbarian, Orion the sexy warrioress, Hecklar the tumbling jester, Mongoro the mutant who farts on his foe, Vanguard the dark knight and Nephra the Egyptian temptress. With the special effects switched on the effects can be quite awesome. With each strike blood spurts across the arena and the stains remain there until the match is over. Arms can be severed while special moves, if discovered, see your fighter completely decapitate your opponents head from his/her shoulders. Gruesome.
Sounds and Effects
Each bout is backed by a selection of extremely atmospheric medieval tunes that work perfectly. The sound effects are also satisfactory with every grunt, groan and scream of pain adding to the overall atmosphere of the game.
Before deciding on a mode of play a quick visit to the options menu allows you to finely tune the game. There are three difficulty levels, adjustable timer and the number of rounds may be set from 1-5. Controller configuration allows the use of the left Analog control stick to move your character around the set while face buttons activate various weapon blows and blocks. Shoulder buttons are used to jump, stun block, freely roam around the arena and a rather nice shove move. This allows you to unsteady your opponent before launching an attack by giving them a quick push. Similar to Bloody Roar blood effects may be switched off (which I very much doubt), while the all important hazards and pick-ups may be activated. Pick-ups appear in the form of small chests which are littered around the 3D arena. A slice of your trusty blade opens up the cask and then all you must do is walk over it before your opponent does to collect. You see, even against the CPU both characters have a chance to upgrade their weapons by revealing the mighty Sword of Trinity or replenish their health by sipping a revitalizing potion. Hazards are interactive elements that can seriously damage either of the fighters. The choice of hazard depends on whose arena you are fighting in. For instance, in the centre of the Jesters arena is a large spikey statue which, upon contact, knocks your character from their feet and stuns them for a few seconds. This brief period of unconsciousness allows the humorous one to leap on top of your character and slap you around a little more. Other hazards include electrified walls, spiked fences, moving mine trams, rolling boulders, volcanic flowing lava flames and (one straight out of the Tomb Raider book of Jeopardy) touch sensitive crossbow spears. When hazards are switched on they become a vital part of the gameplay and must be treated as both a danger and a weapon. On one level my opponent kept shoving me against an electrified wall until I died without a blow being struck. Next time around a neat sidestep put my enemy in the same position with a similar result. Game options include a Training mode that allows you to face any of the revealed opponents over eight levels of difficulty. Survival follows the usual format recording the number of consecutive wins. Team Battle offers a five against five contest with round winner staying on. There is also a two player Versus mode for those of you with mates. Tournament mode is basically the one player contest that appears in most games of this genre and shouldn't be confused with the excellent Tournament mode in Soul Blade. Select your fighter from the eight initial characters and prepare to face all seven rivals. Defeat them all and you will face the evil Cyn and her trusty dragon. Cyn is not the bitch she is made up to be but Kron the dragon can be a bit of a swine to defeat. His speed and size are remarkable and visually is far more stunning to look at than the final boss in Tekken 3. Playing on easy mode you will easily reveal all eighteen characters but medium setting offers a sterner challenge.
Value for Money
Visually, Cardinal Syn is a stunner but unfortunately this is one of those beat-em-ups that has a slight flaw in the one player gameplay. Trap your opponent in a tight corner and a single repeated move will eventually lead to victory. Of course if you stay out in the open then this will prove a fitting challenge to even the best players.
I loaded up Cardinal Syn for the first time I didn't even realize that
it was going to be a beat-em-up. Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was
when it turned out to be a rather good one at that.
As a two player beat-em-up it can be compared to the recent Bloody Roar on the blood Richter scale, even messier if you can find the moves.
It is also worth mentioning that the controls are slightly less responsive than you will find in the Namco's top of the range beat-em-ups.
If you can ignore the slight flaw in the single player mode that I mentioned above this could turn out to be a surprise hit for the Kronos development team. Just turn up the difficulty factor and stay clear of those corners.