First off, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is a stupid title that makes no sense. There is no character, place or item in the story called Berserk, and in Japan it’s called Berserk Musou, marking it as an installment in the Dynasty Warriors series. Odd title aside, the game is a surprisingly faithful (with the exceptions of some cut arcs and characters) adaptation of a pretty massive chunk of the original manga draped over the framework of Dynasty Warriors, which is to say large, sparse environments filled with hordes of enemies that are easily cutdown by the literal hundreds. The story is told primarily through optional dialogue sections accessed between missions, dialogue thrown in over the top of fights and, for the duration of the Golden Age arc, scenes from the trilogy of film adaptations. Despite how this might sound, the game does a solid job of adapting the story of the manga; apart from the aforementioned cuts (characters not absolutely essential to Guts and his journey, and unfortunately the Lost Children Arc) it fits in a whole lot in surprising detail; the Golden Age, the Snake Baron and the Count, Mozgus, The Berserker armour among other things; even the Eclipse gets a level. The game has a fair bit of filler in the form of short levels populated entirely with non-description enemies but personally I think they work well for reasons I’ll elaborate on later, and there’s enough gold here to even it out. If you know the story this is a good adaptation of it, if you’re new to Berserk then there’s enough here told well enough for you to get something out of it, and hopefully make you read the manga. For those who haven’t; the story revolves around Guts, a young man who’s had a horrible life but adjusts to it by being the baddest man on the planet.
Gameplay wise it’s all murdering hordes all the time. Soldiers during the Golden Age, assorted monsters, spirits and apostles during every arc post-Golden Age. It’s your classic combination of light and heavy attacks- ending a series of lights with a heavy to make combos, a dodge move that’s only necessary for bosses, and an assortment of sub weapons. The canon and little hedgehog bombs are effective, the repeating crossbow has been severely nerfed in its transition from page to screen. There are other characters available, but the most effective ones are much of a muchness, and the most unique among them, Schierke, isn’t suited to mowing down hordes like the others are. Hordes is almost an understatement- you kill hundred and hundreds of enemies in every level, often breaching a thousand. Personally however, I never had a problem with it for two main reasons; firstly I always had fun playing as Guts, cutting people down with the Dragonslayer and secondly constantly having to swing your sword suits the tone of the story. During the Golden Age you’re the Hundred Man Slayer, wading into a Hundred Years War to mow people down. After the Eclipse you’re the Branded Black Swordsman, constantly hounded by insatiable spirits and demons; levels will often be interrupted by night descending and bringing monsters along with it. Things go a step further when you obtain the Berserker Armour, using “Frenzy Mode” (normally giving you increased strength, speed an a super move) to give yourself over to the Beast of Darkness and turning Guts into the world’s angriest, most lethal tornado. The only real complaint I have is that on normal difficulty the game is almost trivial in terms of actual difficulty. With the exception of the two levels dedicated to fighting Nosferatu Zodd every fight is a breeze; normal enemies can’t tough you, and a combination of frenzy mode, equippable gear that boosts stats and levelling up practically once every level mean that bosses are more of a speed bump than anything else. This wasn’t a problem for me, but I can see it maybe rubbing some people the wrong way; you can increase the difficulty, but I haven’t tried that yet. The game actually suggests you select easy right at the start, I can’t imagine what that’d be like.
There is one point with a co-ordinated increase in difficulty and decrease in quality however, and that’s a shoehorned in boss fight with Femto. Given the use of film scenes there’s really need for this fight to exist, and the actual battle is a frustrating slog in which Femto slows your movement and whenever you get close he knocks you back with hard to dodge tornadoes. It’s remarkable in how much worse than the rest of the game it is. Apart from that the game’s of a consistent level of quality, though that’s largely due to its one style of gameplay from which it never deviates.
Overall I had a really good time with Berserk and the Band of the Hawk: it’s a very simple, repetitive experience, but it commits to being an adaptation of a manga I adore, and let me spend hours playing as Guts, fighting monsters from the manga and reliving a large part of the story. Whether or not you’ll get a kick out of it depends on how much you like Berserk and/or the Dynasty Warriors style of gameplay, but personally I enjoyed it a lot,mane I recommend it.
By James Lambert