Wulverblade is a historical beat-em up that would fit perfectly in a Neo-Geo, right next to Golden Axe or maybe Streets of Rage. The game has a host of moves, both defensively and offensively, and Wulverblade successfully updates the beat-em-up genre, and looks amazing doing it. Wulverblade is polished, pretty, and very satisfying to play, with a 300 style story that makes your rage feel justified and delicious.
The Story & Flow
The story of the game is a nice change of pace from the usual “someone punched my girlfriend and carried her away” tropes that plague almost every beat-em-up in history. You play one of three members of the Wulver clan, revolting against the Roman Empire which is driving you out of your lands, conquering your clansmen, and just generally subjugating your people. While other clans make deals or crumble, the Wulvers aren’t having it, and they start marching in the Roman’s direction to personally let them know they aren't going down without a fight.
That is more or less the entirety of the plot, but there are some surprisingly emotional touches, from the death of a beloved wolf-companion to the sting of betrayal as you realize that a fellow clansman has decided to bow to the Romans. The whole thing has a Braveheart feel to it, and it fits perfectly with the gore-soaked battlefields and brutal combat. The team also did their homework, with extra content littering the battlefield, like hand-taken photos of historical locations, information about the place and time period, and a kind of journal from the team, detailing why they chose the locations and settings they picked.
The three playable heroes have pretty standard skill-sets; there’s the swift but weak Guinevere, the middle of the road, balanced fighter Caradoc and the hulking, slow but powerful Brennus. Each character has a unique feel and playstyle, with the same core-moves but unique abilities, like Guinevere’s swift aerial attacks and Brennus’ ability to ground and pound downed foes.
You have offensive moves like an uppercut that sets up air-juggling, a dodge roll you can execute both forwards and backwards, a blocking ability, brittle but powerful large weapons that you can strap to your back, a life-draining super attack, grappling grabs and throws and a dash/run that can segue into a charging attack. You can also pick up a surprising variety of objects to throw at your foes, from barrels and rocks to severed heads and arms. When things get too tense, you can call on your wolf companions once per level and have a pack charge in, doing damage to all on-screen enemies, and you also have a rage meter that fills slowly as you attack. Once you unleash it, you are faster, stronger, invulnerable and you recover a little life for every attack you land.
There is a definite skill to playing Wulverblade, and button-mashing will often get you killed. You’ll need to use knock-back attacks to rid armored enemies of their shields, a double jump that will carry you out of harm’s way, and using your rage and wolves is a strategic decision, since using your rage helps to both clear the screen and regain lost life. This is not an easy game, and with three lives per level, you have to think on your feet as a bevvy of foes close in from every direction.
Boss battles are especially tough but not impossible, since a lot of these matches mainly require paying attention to the bosses when they telegraph certain charged moves and attacks. Most boss fights throw in regular henchmen that harry and distract you, leaving you overwhelmed and open to getting smashed in the face by the boss attacks if you aren’t cautious and observant. Each boss is well constructed and unique, from swift archers to lumbering fighters that look as if they walked straight out of Gladiator.
Graphics & Sound
The graphics are gorgeous, with a cel-shaded style highlighting the gore and carnage that surrounds every battlefield you march across. There are some great, 2-D style moments here, with enemies in the background racing into combat or taking potshots at you with bows and arrows. Everything about the game is vibrant and polished, and the environments are packed with little touches like dead soldiers, pools of blood and smoldering campfires that really sell the visual experience.The sound is also on point, with great voice acting throughout; all the characters sound how you would expect them to, and nothing sounds out of place. The weapons and violence are similarly well done, from the swish of a blade through the air to the clank of a shovel smashing against armor, or a great-axe slamming into a Roman’s chest. The music is appropriate and fitting, and every sound works together in tandem with the graphics to provide a great, immersive experience.