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Video Game / Soul of the Samurai

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Lin (Left) and Kotaro (Europe).

Soul of the Samurai is a 1999 Action-Adventure game released by Konami on the Sony PlayStation. You have two characters to select at the beginning of the game: a male character who is more or less good at both offense and defense and a female character who is faster, yet deals less damage. You fight enemies across pre-rendered backgrounds with fixed camera angles and do some puzzle-solving usually by picking up an object somewhere and inserting it elsewhere.

You may have seen that before: this game is clearly inspired by the Resident Evil series in their gameplay, yet they manage to stand-out in their own in some ways. The combat is sword-based here, where you press the attack button a number of times to perform the full sequence. Opponents are usually weapon-wielders as well who can block your attacks, so you must use the dodge and parry mechanisms to deal with them.

The game takes place during the era of Tokugawa Shogunate. The plot begins the two characters mentioned above who meet on a Dark and Stormy Night. When Lin is ambushed by some guards, Kotaro steps in to help her. Their paths then split: Kotaro has just returned to his hometown to pay his dead parents respect and Lin investigates the disappearance of her brother, Shin. However both will find themselves entangled in a plot involving the demonic plague known as the “Soul Bugs”.

Despite falling under the radar, it is still a game worth playing at least once. The graphics are not bad and the soundtrack is quite enjoyable, mixing rock, hip-hop and techno with traditional instruments. The combat is simple yet effective, but the game is a bit on the short side.

Tropes present in the game:

  • Action Girl: Lin. She fights with a ninjato and also has throwable weapons at her disposal.
  • Action Prologue: The game begins with a brief playable scene of Kotaro defeating some guards who were ambushing Lin. Then you get to choose your character and really begin the game.
  • Airborne Mook: In the Raven Forest area there is a flying bat-like creature who can poison your character.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Shin. Even in her flashback, he was noticeably cold towards Lin, though mostly in a Big Brother Mentor fashion.
  • Always Night: Averted. For some reason, it is always afternoon in the Ganryu Beach area. Also, if you look closely, you can see a cloudy afternoon sky in the graveyard area as well.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Later in the game, a tailor called Ito is cornered by two zombie swordsmen. Save him, and he will allow you to choose different outfits to wear.
  • Another Side, Another Story: Clearing the game as one character and restarting the game on same saved file allows you to play as the other one. The only real change in this new scenario is that you’ll get to face Infected Tohjo and the Infected Ryu Oda, which allows you to see the true ending to the game.
  • Ass Kicks You: Muga has this as a attack. If you manage to get behind him, he will resort to these to damage you.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Lord Tohjo is the ruler of the fiefdom and is a highly skilled spear fighter who will give you quite a challenge.
  • Badass Normal: Both Kotaro and Lin qualify, facing powerful and mostly supernatural opponents and coming out on top.
  • Bald of Evil: In Kotaro’s path, there’s the giant priest Muga. In Lin’s path, there’s Genzo (he’s a zombie though), and the Three Wolverines.
  • Battle in the Rain: The Action Prologue consists of Kotaro taking on some guards during a rainy night. It’s the only raining portion in the entire game.
  • Belly Flop Crushing: The boss Muga has this as one of his attacks.
  • BFS: Kotaro’s second sword, Monohoshizao, has a length of 6’. Also, Shin wields quite a big ninjato.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: As we see in Lin’s path, Ryu Oda is scheming together with Lord Gendo Tohjo to rule Japan.
  • Big Brother Instinct/Papa Wolf: This is what inspired Kotaro to help Lin in the opening scene. He refers to the guards ambushing her as grown men picking on a child.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Shin acts this way towards Lin during the flashback. He teaches her the mechanics of the game such as attacking, blocking and parrying.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the end of the game, while Kotaro loses his best friend and his hometown due to soul bug mass infection and Lin loses her comrades, her brother, and her reason to be a ninja, as she technically fails to retrieve Shogunate's gold, the post-credit scene—which is revealed after beating the game with both characters—shows that Kotaro and Lin manage to become closer and start a new life somewhere else.
  • The Blacksmith: Kurenai’s father is one. Bring him the Rusty Sword and he’ll make you the Nihon, Kotaro’s best weapon in the game. Only works if you successfully protects her in the graveyard.
  • Blood Knight: The Unknown Ronin who serves as Kotaro’s first boss seems to be one. After attacking the monk you just saved, he proclaims that his sword will also taste your blood.
  • The Brute: Muga fits this role among the bosses who work for Lord Tohjo, given that he is large and strong.
  • Co-Dragons: Yukinosuke and Shin arguably fit. Though they don't work together, both are the second-to-last human bosses in Kotaro and Lin's paths, respectively. Also, both each have a personal relationship with one of the protagonists.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Subverted. Kotaro kills one guard in the opening scene by slashing him in the back, but never does that again the game, always facing his opponents in fair fights.
  • Coup de Grâce Cutscene: After defeating the final boss, Ryu Oda, your character will finish him off with a standard piercing attack.
  • Dark Action Girl: Karasu, a boss in Lin’s path. She’s a ninja in the Raven Forest who attacks you with throwing kunai and dive kicks.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kotaro is shown to be one of these sometimes, whenever he remarks that today is not his day.
  • Derelict Graveyard: Ganryu Beach is one, as Lin finds there the disappeared ship that the Shogunate was investigating.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Karasu is the only female boss in the game and you get to fight her as Lin, not Kotaro.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Lin hits one after having to fight and kill her brother. She loses confidence in herself, stating that she has nothing left to fight for and accepting Kotaro’s assertion that she is Just a Kid. Thankfully, he is able to snap her out of it.
  • Desperation Attack: Kotaro’s Phoenix and Lin’s Cherry Blossoms, which you can obviously use only when their health is low. They kill all opponents on screen and deal heavy damage to bosses.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Urabe ends up talking about Tohjo’s plans to Kotaro but doesn’t mind too much having revealed information.
    Urabe: Ah, enlightenment! Lord Tohjo's plans cannot be stopped now.
    Kotaro: Tohjo's plans?
    Urabe : Fwohoho. A mere slip of my tongue. No matter. You shall soon be a particularly fine host to my bugs.
  • Dishing Out Dirt: One of Urabe’s attacks. He makes two copies of himself and then drops rocks on you.
  • Diving Kick: One of Karasu’s moves. She pauses in mid-air, targetting your direction, then dives with a kick.
  • Doomed Hometown: Eventually, roughly all citizens will be infected with the Soul Bugs and you’ll have to kill them. The town becomes deserted from there on.
  • Driven by Envy: Yukinosuke allowed himself to be infected by the Soul Bugs so he might become strong enough to defeat Kotaro, who he always felt was better than him.
  • Dual Boss: In Lin’s path you get to fight the Three Wolverines in Ganryu Beach and also two Soul Worms at the town square.
  • Dual Wielding: Musashi, an Optional Boss in Kotaro’s path, wields two swords called Kogarasumaru and Onimaru. Defeat him, and Kotaro can equip these as well.
  • Due to the Dead: In the true ending, you can see him pouring some sake on Yukinosuke's grave.
  • Duel to the Death: Musashi challenges Kotaro to one. It’s up to you to accept or decline.
    Musashi: I wish to challenge you to a duel. Honor and death are at stake.
  • Escort Mission: Chapter 2 of Kotaro's path, "Mystery". You spend all of the temple/graveyard section protecting a woman named Kurenai. Unlike most examples, you don't get a game over if she dies, but you lose the chance of getting the Infinity +1 Sword.
  • Evil Genius: Urabe is a sorcerer who contributes to the villains by creating the Soul Bugs for them.
  • Evil Old Folks: Urabe is an elderly sorcerer who sides with the villains. He is the creator of the Soul Bugs.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Urabe fights by floating around and casting magic spells on Kotaro: a ground projectile, flame pillars, thunders and falling rocks. He can also create two copies of himself at times. When defeated, he uses all of his power to morph into some demon.
  • Flechette Storm: Lin's Flame Lily and Night Queen techniques. Karasu also perform a move like this.
  • Foreshadowing: Some pieces of dialogue.
    • Yukinosuke complains about a headache an Oda says he will be rewarded with fantastical power should he endure. He is infected with a Soul Bug.
    • Some villagers complain about feeling cold and pain on their heads, foreshadowing the Soul Bug plague.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: Both Lin and Shin qualify. Their outfits are too bright and outlandish when compared to the actual ninja enemies.
  • Hub Level: The initial village connects most stages in the game, except for the caves.
  • Iaijutsu Practitioner: Kotaro becomes this with the "Muramasa" sword, which was taken from his fallen friend Yukinosuke, who uses iaijutsu techniques when low on health.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Kotaro has the Nihon and Lin has the Rakuyo.
  • Light Is Not Good: Ryu Oda hangs around in a white longcoat but is conspiring with Tohjo to take over Japan.
  • Lightning Reveal: Done in the title screen, showing silhouettes of Lin and Kotaro.
  • Malevolent Architecture: In Stage 3 of Kotaro's route, there is a key item located on a slippery slope, which can lead the hero to his death if the player is not careful.
  • Market-Based Title: The game's known as Ronin Blade throughout Europe while in Japan, it's known as Shin Jidaigeki Action: Rasetsu no Ken.
  • Me's a Crowd: Urabe does this in his boss fight, creating two copies of himself to attack you.
  • Multiple Endings: Three of them. One for Kotaro, one for Lin and the true ending.
  • Nightmare Face: Some characters display these. You know when it happens when you hear the Scare Chord.
  • Ninja: Lin and Shin are of the highly visible variety. They are also enemies in the game who fit the standard trope. Also, one of Kotaro's alternate outfits invoke this.
  • One-Winged Angel: Some of the bosses do this.
    • Urabe uses his powers to turn into some quadrupedal demon wreathed in flames.
    • Karasu grows wings and can conjure up a bigger flurry of projectiles.
    • Tohjo turns into a giant monstrosity with five arms, three of them being bladed.
    • Oda, as the real final boss, becomes the biggest of them all: a monster similar to Tohjo, but bigger and with a slug-like torso and multiple legs.
  • Optional Boss: Musashi, in Kotaro's path. He challenges him to a Duel to the Death at the beach, which you can accept or decline.
  • The Plague: The Soul Bugs are actual red slugs who causes a multitude of effects on their victims: it starts with colds and headaches and then it morphes them into zombies and other monsters.
  • Pretty Boy: Shin. Karasu even notes that he is a "good-looking boy".
  • Red Is Heroic: Lin is the lead female and wears a red outfit.
  • Rōnin: Kotaro Hiba, most prominently. There's also the first boss in his path, also referred to as "Ronin".
  • RPG Elements: Killing enemies will yield you experience points. Once you collected enough of them, you will "level up": gaining a new special move. There's also a MP bar that allows you perform these moves: it increases as your level goes up.
  • Scare Chord: One plays whenever something scary is shown onscreen, such as a Nightmare Face. Also used for Muga's reveal.
  • Storming the Castle: The final area in both characters' paths is Tohjo's castle. Kotaro attacks from the inside while Lin goes through the rooftops.
  • True Final Boss: Ryu Oda, faced in the special chapter "Ascendance".
  • Underground Level: Chapter 3 in Kotaro's path ("Soul Bugs") takes place in a cave.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: You can kill the innocent villagers at the beginning portions of the game, but you will lose experience points.
  • Will They or Won't They?: The game's post-credit scene shows Lin being shy when meeting Kotaro—which is a complete opposite to her usual blunt attitude—before she runs toward him, implying that she develops some kind of romantic feeling toward Kotaro. The game immediately ends there without revealing whether or not Kotaro has the same feeling, so it is up to personal interpretations.
  • Wolverine Claws: The aptly named Wolverine enemies. Their huge claws are pretty much the BFS version of this trope.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Said verbatim by Oda to Urabe after he fails to defeat Kotaro.