Plasma? I like Ectoplasm better...
Ah yes, yet another Dreamcast fighting game. Capcom, king of the beat 'em ups, makes another venture into the realm of weapons based fighting with Plasma Sword, the follow-up to the Playstation game Star Gladiator. I guess it's just another day in the land of super heroes. A really bad man named Bilstein has returned from the original game and seems to be causing a ruckus over on planet Zeta. Not to worry, of course, since the Plasma Sword crew of super dudes and dudettes are on the job.
This cast of characters is just about as bizarre as they come. The only 'normal' character you'll find is the typical Ryu-type hero, Hayato. From there on out, the characters get progressively weirder and weirder. Take Saturn, the cone-headed alien with the vicious yo-yo's and breakdance moves. Then there's Gore, the freaky wizard who can grow to three times his normal size. And Gamof, the hairy super-Ewok with the burly ax. Seems like a Capcom version of Mystery Men. We're not your average heroes. We're the other guys!
Strangeness aside, there's actually another problem with Plasma Sword's wacky characters. For every hero, there's a virtually identical villain with the exact same fighting style and a similar weapon thrown together into a different body. This means that only half of the fighters are actually original. So instead of a whopping 22 different characters, you're really only talking about 11. For example, there's Hayato and 'Black' Hayato (Hayato's evil twin), Bilstein and 'Ghost' Bilstein (Hmm... Bilstein's ghost, perhaps?), and the two robots Vector and Omega (Vector's prototype). Taking the cheap way out, eh Capcom?
Unlike most of Capcom's other fighting games, Plasma Sword is a 3D weapons-based fighter. Well, mostly 3D. While the characters are 3D, the backgrounds are set up in 2D. Unfortunately, these graphics just can't touch the Dreamcast's already impressive list of uber-fighting games. Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive 2 have pushed fighting games to the next level, a level that Plasma Sword doesn't come close to reaching..
The fighters in Plasma Sword are a bit rough around the edges and the backgrounds present uninspired, generic locations. The only background that's even worth mentioning is Bilstein's stage, littered with giant capsules encasing human and dinosaur embryos. Peculiar, ain't it? I guess it just goes along with the bizarre nature of the entire game.
Plasma Sword plays just like any other Capcom fighter, so getting the hang of the controls doesn't take very long. Vertical slash, horizontal slash, and kick occupy the main attack buttons. Also added is the sidestep button, which gives the 3D nature of the game a boost from its 2D backgrounds.
Another feature is the 'plasma' meter. As you perform your attacks, power builds up in your plasma meter, and the plasma power gives you the ability to unleash special plasma attacks. You've got your plasma revenge, plasma reflect, and even your plasma strike. On top of that, there's the plasma field. Basically, a successful plasma field attack will draw your opponent into your plasma space where you can proceed to unleash the biggest can of plasma whoop ass in your arsenal. Whew... I don't think I've ever said "plasma" so many times in one breath before. (For fun, try replacing every instance of the word 'plasma' with 'smurf.' - Ed.)
Mode wise, Plasma Sword is as plain as they come. Arcade, Versus, Group, and Training modes are all that you have to look forward to. As soon as you've seen all the endings, the game just loses what little luster it has. After Soul Calibur's treasure chest of extras, this kind of one-dimensionality is just unacceptable.
All other aspects of Plasma Sword are pretty average. Decent sound effects and music tracks fill the void - barely.
The bottom line is that Plasma Sword is just another Capcom fighter. It's a completely unexceptional game in every sense. There's absolutely nothing special about it unless you happen to be a fan of the original Star Gladiator, and even then we're pushing it. I'd stick with Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive 2.