Bujingai: The Forsaken City is a strange animal in the realm of hack-and-slash titles. Originally released a while back in Japan, Bujingai tells the story of Lau, an agile and androgynous martial arts hero whose visual design is actually based on famed Japanese glam rocker Gackt (a fact the game is more than proud to point out through multiple examples in the opening credits and its unlockable interviews featuring Gackt talking about his involvement in the game). Filled with flashy, colorful visuals and frenetic combat, Bujingai can be quite an enjoyable experience--provided you don't pay too much attention to the near nonexistent storyline and the linear-to-a-fault level design. It isn't an especially standout hack-and-slash action game, but Bujingai: The Forsaken City is still pretty good regardless.
Yes, that's a man. No, really. It is.
As mentioned before, Bujingai puts you in the garish pants of Lau, martial arts master and demon hunter extraordinaire. The game itself takes place in something of a postapocalyptic future where, according to the back of the box, "the ancient technology that helped destroy much of humanity [we're assuming something of the nuclear variety] has inadvertently opened a gateway to hell, unleashing horrible monsters upon the population." We quote the back of the box because, honestly, this is the only time you'll be able to get any sort of bearing on what exactly is going on in the game. Bujingai's cutscenes and occasional moments of narrative transcend underdevelopment to the point of pure nonsensicalness. Lau himself never speaks, and the only real dialogue you'll encounter comes from the few other recurring characters, including Rei, a half-man, half-demon who is evidently a former friend of Lau's that has gone to the dark side; Naguri, the former teacher of Lau and Rei who only appears posthumously in flashbacks; and Yohfa, the apparent ex-girlfriend of Rei who occasionally shows up to help you. The connections between these characters, the overarching storyline, and any of the events the game puts in front of you are opaque and tenuous at best, and the fact that the narrative plays out about as coherently as a fever dream doesn't help matters. Fortunately, the story itself isn't especially important to your enjoyment of what Bujingai has to offer.
If you have ever had the opportunity to play last year's Otogi: Myth of Demons for the Xbox, Bujingai may seem pretty familiar to you. That's because Bujingai's style of action and combat is deeply rooted in the same sensibilities. As Lau, you'll wield a pair of swords, and by pressing one of the attack buttons, you'll begin what can ultimately become a very lengthy chain of slashes and strikes. Mechanically, you have a basic slash, a spin slash, and a jump/jump attack button to combine in any way you see fit to create your combos. A lot of the combo work is actually somewhat self-contained, in that just mashing the buttons together in any discernable pattern will almost always result in some heavy damage. However, there are better and more impressive moves available if you take the time to learn the specific combos.
Fans of last year's Otogi: Myth of Demons may find Bujingai almost a little too similar in execution for comfort.
Perhaps the coolest aspect of Bujingai's combat is the game's countering system. By timing your basic sword slash to counter an enemy's attack, the game will sometimes cut away to a posed, static shot of Lau countering the move, and then you'll be able to dish out some serious damage to a foe. Tougher enemies, such as some of the game's sub-bosses, are also adept at countering your attacks, so what this translates into is Bujingai's answer to the stylized and choreographed sword battles of modern kung fu cinema. Aside from some of the cool aerial moves associated with this mechanic, it actually adds quite a bit of depth to the fights with these characters, as you'll have to hammer your opponent until his defensive meter drops to nil before you can actually hurt him, and vice versa. Additionally, if an opponent's defense meter is too tough to eliminate with your standard attacks, you can often find alternate means and patterns to follow in order to finally nail him.
Lau can also perform a number of different magical spells. You'll start off the game with only one magical fireball attack, but as you progress you'll earn new spells, such as a flying, energy-driven sword slash, or a whirlwind attack. Your magic ability is chained to a meter that drains with each attack performed, though you can build that meter back up by collecting power-ups or even just by cutting up random enemies. The magic attacks vary in their effectiveness, but they can be upgraded to ascending levels thanks to the game's upgrade system.
As you play through Bujingai, you'll frequently find yourself collecting blue orbs that spill out of fallen enemies and assorted breakable crates. These blue orbs act as the game's form of currency, as you can trade them in before you start a new level to upgrade Lau and his attacks. His health meter, defense meter, magic meter, and some of his magical attacks can all be leveled up as you play, and you can earn bonuses depending on how you're graded at the end of each level. You can be graded on things like level-completion time, amount of damage taken, and the number of continues used. All of these translate into your final score at the end.