This just goes to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Just as it seemed that the martial arts games were dying out, EA steps forward and pokes you in they eye with a bo stick. Budokan is one of the best kick 'em where you can games yet.
Instead of limiting you to a single form of combat, Budokan offers you four different ways to bruise your opponents; Kendo, Bo, Nunchaku or Karate. But the final aim of the game is to complete the Budokan - a test of your arts against all manner of opponents and their weapons.
You begin in the courtyard, and from here you can enter the training dojo and the combat mat, where you try out your skills against differently aimed opponents, and these can be either computer or human controlled.
Each dojo offers you the opportunity to practise alone, getting used to the feel of each weapon and its moves, or spar with a computer opponent of a set difficulty. Spending time learning the moves is vitally important, as some of them require more than a straightforward joystick flick. In some cases, as many as three joystick moves are required, but only for the really vicious attacks, such as the twirl triple strike (a very fast spinning nunchaku that hits your opponent hard three times in a row if performed successfully!).
After sparring with a computer opponent, you are given a description of your fighting prowess, telling you in which areas you need to improve, be it in speed of attack, precision or in the use of Ki (pronounced 'Key').
Ki tells you how mentally focused you are when attacking. The longer you leave between strikes, the more your Ki improves, strengthening your next strike. If you get hit, or you miss an attack, your Ki will drop fifty percent, which can be quite damaging to your success rate.
Once you have mastered each art you are ready for the Budokan tournament, where you face twelve masters of different arts. Defeat them and you have reached true enlightenment.
The graphics are wonderful. The sprites themselves are smoothly animated and the moves 'look right'. I recoiled in some horror when you see exactly where a crouch spin strike with a bo hits an opponent. The sound does the trick too, with lots of FX that sound like they;ve been taken from one of the worst Kung Fu movies. The theme tune's a bit slow though.
This is very much a game you can just pick up and play, providing you don't want to boost your Karman. But with so much to learn, winning a fight brings areal feeling of accomplishment. Extremely violent and mindlessly destructive. Just perfect.