First Impressions: Road to the Sword

June 11, 2002 11:30 PM PST

Oft-lauded as the SNK of China, IGS has a truly impressive lexicon of arcade titles under their belt. Well, impressive to the likes of you and I, if few others. Though they deal almost exclusively within the 2D fighting and beat-em-up arenas, they’ve also recently branched out a bit – something you can read about in Josh Hsieh’s Taipei Game Show interview. For a greater taste of their various fruit, behold Josh’s impressions of two dedicated IGS cabinets; Rock Fever EX Solo and Fighting Club.

I specifically requested that he inquire about a game by the name of Road to the Sword. They’d never heard of it in Taipei, but IGS was known to be developing the title at the time. Curious. Perhaps this is because they’ve changed the name to The Gladiator for the western markets?

Whatever the reason, the game I found and played in Ikebukuro was Road to the Sword, not The Gladiator. With Henry Moriarty at my right and Jaimie Nakae on camera duty, we ensconced ourselves in the dark corner of the arcade where IGS’ cabinets lived and breathed. The more shrouded the corner the better – I had just been reprimanded for filming Ketsui in the very same arcade not 20 minutes earlier. The two consoles were linked for four player simultaneous play…much more comfortable than the old Konami decks, with their elbow-bumping run of Turtles, Simpsons and Sunset Riders games.

We watched a bit of the intro, but in the interest of time, launched rather abruptly into the game, just as the ‘drama’ was building. Eh. I’ll watch it later. The character designs are always a little odd in these games, and the characters’ animation really has to be seen. The provided videos accomplish that as nicely as they can, given their brevity. The bravado of my choice (the red gal) is palpable. I get more emotion and character from that walk than from anything the cut scenes can show me.

The game works this way: you’ve got four buttons; attack, jump, block, special. The combos are on a sort of interrupted multi-linear path two-input system using the attack and direction buttons. You can run through normal combos, and at key moments a change of direction on the D-pad can act as an air launcher, limited magic attack, or various others. There’s also a rather useful attack from the air which knocks the enemies to the ground, effectively ending the combo, but clearing the area a bit.

It doesn’t seem as though you can combo into the magic attacks, which is a shame. But they work well enough regardless.

< Note: checking the website, it appears as though you can combo the magic attack. Well. I sure as hell couldn’t. That’s a shame. >

It’s pretty simple as beat-em-ups go. And yet, I didn’t advance far enough to see whether or not additional items and ‘vehicles’ (horses) would become available ala Knights of Valour, their seminal game in the genre. This is a title that needs a good deal more playtime before any sort of opinion can be shared. Check the movies and see what you think from that limited view.

If only IGS could get their games to consoles, they might not be as obscure as they currently are. Their work is very solid, if uninventive…I can’t help but feel that they deserve a bit more recognition. Perhaps if SNK gets enough money to become a publisher, some sort of a glorious deal could be worked out. And the wheel turns.

Brandon Sheffield


International Games System

"The Gladiator" Website


(0:15 - 1.89 MB)

(0:15 - 1.90 MB)