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Up from (Super) Obscurity

Here at GameWTFs.com, the games I review string together screenprints and text about are pretty much games that I've bought recently. And my Super Nintendo games-buying plan is to avoid these kinds of games:
  1. Platformers
  2. Traditional Sports Games
  3. Space Shooters
That leaves a lot of fun beat-em-ups, Street Fighter II knockoffs, incredibly bizarre alternative sports titles, and other less easily-categorizable stuff to slog through!
But sometimes I have to reach back to before this enlightened policy, and pick a game I bought a while ago. Why? Well, there are many reasons, and yet, in a way, there is only one reason: I couldn't think of another game to write about this week.
So, without further ado, I'll do my level best to try to hit the 500-word mark by typing a bunch of hooey about X-Kaliber 2097, the Super Nintendo's answer to Vice: Project Doom.
Every element of this game's title is wrong.
X-Kaliber 2097 is a runny-jumpy-slashy game in the mould of the NES Trojan: there are enemies, you hit them with a sword, and you run around crumbling metal infrastructures of a society gone mad (or at least fairly irked).
You take the role of an uncorruptible cop swordsman named "Slash," presumably because the names "Uncorruptible" and "Cop" were already taken. Actually, I believe "Cop" may be the name of Ron Marchini's character in the excellent movie, Karate Cop, but that's neither here nor there (in fact, it's in my box of movies, but that's not important right now!)
You can see "Slash" to your right. He clearly adheres to the The Highlander school of combat: GOOFY HAIR + TRENCH COAT = MODERN DAY SWORDSMAN. Though in fact, he's a POST-modern-day swordsman, given that this battle takes place in the year 2097* However, none of the action takes place in a flashback to Planet Zeist.
*: a brief history of time digression: Why that specific year? Some maintain that the game designers did it to "stick one" to all those MegaMan games set in "20XX," while others are certain that the year 2097 has some great significance, as if its the pivotal moment in the whole space-time continuum. Actually, the answer is probably because the game was released in 1997. Or, if it wasn't (and I certainly can't be bothered to check, I have 400 more words to type!), that's the only reason that really makes sense, so it SHOULD be the answer!
Neo New York: We know Kung Fu!
Anyway, the Neo New York of the future is very similar to modern-day New York City (and probably parts of up-state): everything is built of concrete with circuitry embedded in it, pipes and chain-link fences cover the landscape, and you must leap over huge bottomless pits so you poke a magical sword into mindless gun-toting goons in helmets that make them look like original-series Cylons.
Oh, and you can stab weird floating devices to receive refreshing soda cans or hamburgers:
All in all, it's a pretty passable jump/slash game: you have an health meter (so you don't die in one hit), and you can use 3 different levels of slashing attacks which vary in power, range, and recovery time. The highest-level attack even sends a huge shockwave of energy out in front of you across about 80% of the screen, making it basically a projectile weapon...
But after doing that, you end up posing with your trench coat dramatically flapping in the wind for quite a noticeable amount of time before you can attack again. I'm all for game balance, but the animation around the aftermath of this move doesn't give the impression of "I am so drained from focusing my chiee-tos that I can take no action for a little while." Instead it makes you think that Slash has just decided to stand there for a while in case someone wants to take his picture for an AWESOME heavy metal album cover.
Hey, they're expressing their pain through the majesty of song!
Speaking of which, the opening credits include this weird tidbit...
Yes, before Trent Reznor wrote some charming melodies to nail-gun zombies by for Quake, TVT records was looking to pimp out their hot properties to anyone with half a production budget.
I just can't see this cutting mustard back in the '80s...can you imagine if the soundtrack to Ninja Gaiden was crafted by AC/DC?
Oh, wait a minute...that would be friggin' AMAZINGFUL!
Holy crap, I broke the 500-word mark without even reviewing the INTRODUCTORY MOVIE!
I was originally going to pad out most of this review by going through the opening cut-scene frame by goofy frame, but now I guess I should just review the "edited highlights" version of the game's introductory movie, because it's Fantastico:
NOOOOO, NOT THE PARKS!!!

Just a spoonful of mercy helps the oppression go down!

X-KALIBER'S ONLY WEAKNESS: FRESH BUTTER!

Raptor has to get in touch with his feelings.

Huh.

The co-dependent supervillain/henchman relationship.

Well then...
Pro Tip: as you play X-Kaliber 2097, you'll notice that THIS happens with disturbing regularity:
And after seeing that, I think there's only ONE way to wrap this one up: Ryu, if you please...?
— carlmarksguy, 2012-04-06
1
The nerve of that mutant scientist, sticking his shoulder blades out at me!
2
Yeah, I guess when you mutate into a red killing machine, your shoulder blades get really pumped up! (Also, those are the only shoulder blades which scare me. And I hate him for it)
3
Jonny2x4
The Japanese version, Sword Maniac, is better by virtue of the fact that it has a better soundtrack composed by Hayato Matsuo and Hitoshi Sakimoto. For some stupid reason, Activision replaced the music with loops from some flavor-of-the-month techno band named Psykosonik. The storyline is also different, but it doesn't really matter as much since the plot is pretty generic too in the Japanese version.
4
Hi Jonny2x4, I didn't know that about the Japanese version! Also, the name "Sword Maniac" is infinitely better than "X-Kaliber 2097", and the US plot is pretty bad (how could he even CHOOSE to be a corrupt cop? His entire beat is robodrones and gunmen!). SWORD MANIAC definitely describes what's happening better.
5
Jonny2x4
Most of the characters have different names (the hero Slash is named Gear for example), the story is set in 2047 (not 2097), Cynthia (the chick) is Gear's fiancee (not his partner) and Gear was actually ordered by the U.S. Government to assassinate Zieg Dyne (the bad guy), who controls Neo NY with "cyberdynes" and mutants. It's pretty generic stuff if you've seen enough cyberpunk OVAs, but I get the impression that Activision didn't actually translate the game's text, but rather they just second-guessed the story based on the imagery shown.
6
OH NOES NOT "cyberdynes"! (I'd like to imagine those are diners run by cyborgs). I have the impression that many SNES games, when ported for english-speaking audiences, just made up whatever story they felt like within the limitations of the game art--I'm pretty sure most of the RUSHING BEAT games suffered that indignity (but I can't remember where I read it)!
7
Jonny2x4
The Rushing Beat games definitely have a different plots for their Japanese versions. The first game even has an opening intro that was removed from the American version. The final boss was Rick Norton's dad by the way.
8
Anon
I'm going to write "chi" like that in my daily life from now on.
9
Indeed; it's the inner-life-essence that goes CRUNCH, and is also cheese-y. My work here is done :) I believe there were also 2-3 SNES games based around Chester Cheetah...which, by #-of-SNES-games, implies he was as popular as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
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