Review: Berserk and the Band of the Hawk – PS Vita (8/10)

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is based on the popular anime Berserk and tells the story of the legendary mercenary group with Dynasty Warriors Musou gameplay style. And although it’s not perfect, it’s quite entertaining on the PS Vita, but more on that a little bit later.

In the Story Mode, you mainly play as Guts, the Black Swordsman, and while you progress, you unlock new characters, but these can only be used in a few scenarios of the Story Mode or in Free or Endless Eclipse Mode. This means that the main focus of the Story Mode lies on Guts which isn’t a bad thing as he is one of the more appealing characters.

The story is told in scenarios where you have to battle against different enemies depending on the setting. Scenarios also have sub-missions which appear at various times during battles and successfully completing them allows you to progress more easily. When you fulfil certain mission conditions you also can acquire a Behelit which unlocks a piece of a picture panel.

The battle gameplay is in Musou style which basically means that you mainly use normal or charge attacks to fight against the hordes of enemies. Combos are also available and while you level-up, new combos will be unlocked. Each heroe also has sub-weapons like knives or arrows but generally these weapons deal less damage like the basic attacks. Only in later scenarios, new sub-weapons with stronger damage become available.

When attacking enemies or you are being attacked, the Frenzy Gauge fills up and once the gauge is full you can activate the Frenzy Mode. Depending on the character, attacks become more powerful or movement speed is increased until the gauge is empty again. While you fight in Frenzy Mode, the Death Blow Gauge fills up and once it is full you can unleash a powerful Death Blow. Some characters can also transform in Frenzy Mode for more powerful attacks.

A lock-on feature automatically activates when you fight against bigger enemies which is helpful when you want to unleash charged attacks or a Death Blow for instance. You also can deactivate the lock-on by touching the lower left touch screen if you want to concentrate on other enemies first. Generally, the camera is a bit quirky when you fight against big enemies as it can happen that the enemy disappears from your sight and you only can assume from the lock-on feature where the opponent is at the moment.

During battles you can collect items from defeated enemies and opened treasure chests like coins, pouches and elf dust. While elf dust and pouches recover vitality which basically is your life bar, coins can be used in the shop to buy accessories and materials to level up your Accessory stats and skills. In later scenarios, you also unlock the Amalgamate feature that you can combine accessories to combine their skills. Each character can also equip up to four recovery items or ability boosters before a battle.

As I already mentioned, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is quite entertaining on the PS Vita. Although it could be seen as just another Musou game, what makes it different is the game’s dark theme and its various environments. Each setting comes with new types of enemies that kept me motivated to progress the good story. I also liked the short or medium length scenarios which are ideal to play in short sessions.

The game is not very difficult when you play at normal which could be seen as a flaw but for me it was alright. Also boss battles seem to be a bit too easy as I had no problems with them except with Femto which gave me a hard time at first. But the boss battles add a welcome variety to the musou style gameplay. Lots of cutscenes from the anime accompany the narrative and there are also in-game cutscenes as well es CGI scenes, especially in the later part of the game.

While you progress the story, you unlock the Free and the Endless Eclipse Mode. The Free Mode lets you play the already completed scenarios with other characters than in the Story Mode, but only with those you already unlocked. In the Endless Eclispe Mode you play with the character of your choice until you’re out of Vitality. You also have to clear missions to move to next layers and you get a reward depending on the numbers of layers you have cleared.

Technically, the PS Vita version runs smooth but at the expense of a graphical downgrade. Compared to the PS4 version, environment textures are at lower resolution and many details are missing. Some of the huge environments feel empty and smaller enemies pop-in or pop-out sometimes. Character and enemy design looks better but of course nothing comparable to the PS4 version.

The game is very brutal with lots of blood and cut corpses to be seen. The displayed gore can be turned off in the settings if you should prefer to play a softer version. To complete the story mode it takes around 20 hours.

Conclusion

Overall, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is a good Musou style game, thanks to its dark setting and its good story. Although the PS Vita version is graphically quite downgraded, it is still enjoyable. You don’t need much strategy in this game as it’s mainly button smashing but if you are a fan of Musou games or the anime, this title is for you.

The review was written and provided by Michael. All screenshots are taken from the PS Vita version.


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