Crossed Swords II Neo Geo CD Overview/Review

Crossed Swords II Neo Geo CD Overview/Review 2021-04-07

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Crossed Swords II began life in cartridge format, having its public debut in late 1992 in the form of arcade location tests. After that, however, things went silent for the game. Considering that most arcade games still need more development time after location testing, an MVS release of Crossed Swords II would have been pushed out into early/mid 1993. By this time the fighting genre was exploding, and arcade operators worldwide were cashing in on this boom. Crossed Swords II didn’t fit the landscape of where the arcade climate was headed, so after the location tests the game was shelved until further notice. Fast forward to late 1994 with SNK needing exclusive titles to pair with the newly released Neo Geo CD, Crossed Swords II came back into development. With the style of game suiting the home market better at the time, it made more sense to pair this title with the home focused Neo Geo CD. After more development time Crossed Swords II was finally released on May 2nd, 1995. Was it really worth reviving the game, though, after the lackluster first offering in the series? In short, absolutely.

In Crossed Swords II the story is similar to the first. The evil warlord Nausizz is back from the underworld after his defeat in the first game. Your objective is simple: defeat Nausizz and his empire, bringing peace to the land once more. In the first Crossed Swords, the story was broken up into three main parts with each part being selectable upon the start of the game. Crossed Swords II no longer offers an option to select individual parts of the story, instead opting for a new mode select screen in its place. You’re given the option of two modes: Nausizz Counter Attack, the main story mode, and Karividu Arena, a brand new one on one battle mode where you can select your opponent and do battle in three rounds like a traditional fighting game.

Appearing before the mode select is another new addition: a character select screen with three brand new characters to pick from. First you have Ed, the old knight of Belkana. He has high attack and defense stats, but only average speed and magic abilities. Second is Liza, a female magician whose clan was killed by the Nausizz empire. She has the highest speed and magic stats, with the tradeoff of mediocre normal attacks and the weakest defense in the game. Lastly there’s Sakata, a swordsman from a distant land. He has the best balance of attack, defense, and speed, but it’s at the expense of his magic attacks which are the weakest. I will say, the differences in stats are not superficial. You can genuinely feel the differences between the characters when playing, so I recommend you try each one to get a feel for which one suits you best.

In the gameplay department Crossed Swords II builds upon the first game in all the right ways, leaving you with an experience that’s worth playing. Playing the two titles back-to-back, Crossed Swords feels claustrophobic and clunky. You couldn’t move your character to the edges of the screen, with the game restricting your range of motion. Gameplay mechanics were lacking, without a proper way to dodge enemy attacks. Crossed Swords II remedies the gripes I have when playing the first. Your range of motion has been opened up allowing your character to move across the entire screen. Jump and dash mechanics were added, giving you access to jump attacks, dashing across the screen to avoid enemies, and slashing your enemies while dashing left or right. These additions aren’t in vain, as they’re truly useful while playing the game. Some enemies are easier to take down using jumping attacks, and dashing attacks can hit enemies when they’re consistently blocking normal slashes.

Crossed Swords II is also a treat for your eyes and ears as well. The visuals in Crossed Swords looked drab, in need of a boost in contrast. Crossed Swords II delivers again with well-lit backgrounds and enemies compared to the first. User interface features have been touched up with an all-new shop interface for buying weapons, refilling health, magic, and leveling up. At the top of the screen, the enemy health gauge now displays the name of the enemy and can display the health of multiple enemies at the same time. Because Crossed Swords II was being officially released on the Neo Geo CD, ADK/SNK pulled out all the stops to record a fully unique CD quality soundtrack just for it. None of the music is shared from the first title which is an extremely good thing in my opinion. I personally find the music from Crossed Swords to be annoying, grating at times. Not only is the music quality better through the CDDA audio, but the tracks themselves are a league above what the original Crossed Swords featured. You get a mix of tracks which are faster, more tense, and some which are slower, more ominous. This new score of immersive music is much more effective in setting the mood for the game and is more fitting for the fantasy setting the game takes place in. In addition, all new sound effects were recorded for each of the three new characters and all of the different enemy types, keeping reused content to a bare minimum.

As loading is the norm on the Neo Geo CD, what can you expect in terms of loading times? Crossed Swords II has an initial load of 51 seconds to the main menu, 8 seconds to the character select, and another 10 seconds into the story mode, ready to play. If you select Karividu Arena instead of the story mode, you have a 9 second load from the character select to a point where you’re ready to play. Once the game is over you have a 34 second load to get back to the main menu from the “game over” splash screen. While the loading in Crossed Swords II is there, once you’re playing you get over 5 minutes of playtime in the story mode. When the game has to load next, it’s only a few seconds for another substantial amount of playtime. It’s hardly bad, nor close to the worst on the Neo Geo CD.

As I’ve said in this review, these additions and improvements are not in vain. All of them, when added together, makes Crossed Swords II a game which I actually want to play. I can’t say that about the first title. It feels complete over the first game, with more replay value to keep you coming back for more. Really, this is the game that Crossed Swords should have been. I believe that it shows that Alpha Denshi/ADK were onto something when they created the concept to begin with. If you are a Neo Geo CD owner, then this is a must own title. Price wise the game can vary quite a bit. I’ve seen copies sell for between $60 dollars and $130 dollars depending on condition and completeness. For whatever reason, the spine card and registration card are very difficult to find with this title, hence the variation in the value. It’s well worth the money in my opinion and is a genuine recommendation from me. Don’t miss it.
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