CROSSED SWORDS / ADK / Arcade
Crossed Swords is basically a simplified version of Punch-Out!! set in medieval times, fighting knights and monsters instead of ethnic stereotype boxers, and with the possibility of two players fighting together simultaneously. Rather than long fights against one powerful character, you scroll through a multitude of different backgrounds, fighting a score of weaker enemies who keep coming at you in waves.
Obviously the hook here was the over-the-shoulder perspective combined with the very large (for the time) monster sprites. This strength is in itself also a weakness, however, as the game relies on using the same enemies and same (mostly lifeless) backgrounds over and over and over again throughout the course of the game. You get the requisite palette swaps, and they take more hits and dish out more pain in later levels, but it all has a very samey feel and gets tiresome pretty fast.
The crux of the gameplay is blocking enemy swings, which is pretty simple in concept. They come at you with blows to either your head or body, and you push up or down respectively to protect yourself. In practice, however, it's a finicky system that doesn't work all that well. It's often hard to tell from the monster's arm motion what kind of a blow is coming, so you basically just have to end up memorizing how each monster type attacks to get anywhere. And if they catch you with the first hit they often bust a four to six hit combo on you that's hard to interrupt once it starts. Technically, you can dodge, but the game really limits your movement when a foe closes in, making it ineffective in most cases.
You follow a mostly linear track for most of the game, with only the occasional choice of path within the levels (all ending up in the same place.) You can skip the first two of the six levels if you care to, but you set yourself at a disadvantage as there's a rudimentary experience system that builds your health bar gradually, and you also get gold which can be used between levels to purchase health refills and upgraded weapons that do more damage and cast more powerful spells.
What the game basically boils down to is a repetitive hack-fest that relied more on "wow" factor to draw quarters than anything else, and that graphical "wow" hasn't held up well over time at all. I guess the gameplay is basically solid, but the parry system is too finicky for something that the whole game is based around, especially with the end-game monsters who swing at you really fast.
* Gameplay Video