After the hubby and I revisited both the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel series, watching them all the way through for the first time in over a decade, I couldn’t get enough, so I dug out my old game systems to replay the two games based off the Buffy show. I must say, playing the games is the perfect way to get further immersed in the Buffyverse, even if I didn’t always feel as infallible and invincible as Buffy always turned out to be.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (2002)
In the 2002 video game simply titled Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you play as Buffy, fighting your way through vamps, zombies, and other hellish creatures. You visit familiar locations like the high school and The Bronze, but eventually move on to more gothic locations as you take on Spike, evil (again) Angel, and The Master. There’s even a secret code you can punch in to unlock a 2-player co-op game!
You’ll definitely feel at home if you’re a fan of the show. There are numerous references to specific episodes, so if you’ve recently re-watched the entire series as I just did, you’ll even better appreciate the dialogue. Speaking of, Giles, Angel, Spike, Cordelia, Willow, and Xander are all voiced by the actual actors. Only Sarah Michelle Gellar is absent. However, her replacement manages to sound very much like her, especially when grunting and tossing off one-liners during fight scenes. While it’s sad not to have the Scooby Gang actually helping you fight, you get to visit them between levels…in the school library! You can talk to each of them several times, and if you give willow crystals you find during the level, she ups your life bar and power bar. Giles gives you new moves to learn, and Xander will sometimes hook you up with a new weapon.
The graphics are pretty good for an Xbox game, but I forgot how much closer to PS1 video game quality this generation was than everything from 360/PS3 on. There are noticeable graphic glitches, including characters floating and even going through doors and walls. It made me nostalgic, to say the least. What is sadly missing, which is unusual for the time this game came out, is the ability to save. This is an autosave game, and the worst part is—there are NO saves throughout the course of a level. If you fuck up anywhere in the level, you have to start all over again. Infuriating.
While there are various tasks to perform in the game, like pushing buttons to open doors, saving victims to score some goodies, and finding secrets hidden throughout the level, this is mostly a hack n’ slash game with lots of backtracking and no map. Buffy’s combo attacks build as the game progresses, but for the most part, you pretty much button mash to get the desired effects of kicking ass, and it feels sooooo good. You have stakes, but each enemy has a life bar, so you have to beat them down all the way before you can finish them off with the stake. You can use items you’ll find lying around as well, including brooms and shovels.
You score shooting weapons later on in the game, including a crossbow—but equipping it and targeting it in a reasonable time is pretty much impossible unless you’re hoping to snipe vamps from afar. However, I noticed that whenever I whipped out the crossbow, the vamps far off would actually disappear from sight, as if the game didn’t want me to have the upper hand! WTF? There’s also a gun that shoots holy water or hellfire when you fill it up at water and fire fountains around the locations. You’ll pretty much use the water ammo just to remove curses blocking doors, and the fire ammo to burn down spider webs blocking passages. And finally, there are items you can throw at enemies, like vials of holy water, but again, good luck trying to switch to them or even toss them with any success before getting your ass kicked. The “quick key” situation for changing weapons with the D-pad is anything but quick.
Some vamps are more skilled than others, especially the female vamps. There are several other types of enemies, and each one you kill feeds your health and power meters. There are zombies that need their heads cut off. But when these bitches get dismembered and drop to the ground, they are relentless, bashing you with their heads! This can end up getting you stuck in a loop if you don’t get away from them. There are spitting zombie women as well, and spitting spiders later in the game. There are big, stampeding gargoyle monsters that take a lot of damage before dying. Eventually, you encounter demons that spin like Taz, and later, teleport. Fun. You also fight Spike a few times, which is kind of pointless, since you can’t kill him because, you know, he’s Spike. There’s even a big guy you actually can’t kill the first few times you encounter him—you just have to run. Eventually, he becomes an enemy you can take out. You have to listen carefully to the dialogue to know whether it’s flight or fight time.
While things are mostly manageable with your health (you can find elixirs around to heal), there is one huge, problematic issue. PLATFORMING. There are very few jumping moments for most of the game, but when there are, they are in very dark areas that make it hard to even see where you’re jumping. Also, the jumping controls aren’t tight—you can easily take an average leap and somehow over-jump and fall off the other side of a platform. There are also annoying fricking obstacles that trip up your leaps. For instance, you might be required to hug a wall to reach a beam over a chasm, but when you jump, your damn shoulder will hit a pipe on the wall, knocking you down too early…which means plummeting to your death. So naturally, you get sent all the way back to the beginning of the mission, which means re-fighting enemies over and over.
My apologies for the oxymoron, but YEAH, NO.
As bad as those few platforming sections are, they are nothing compared to the number of times you’ll be hopping to your death in the last few levels. All of a sudden, it’s like a fucking Super Mario game. You have to leap endless numbers of platforms that break apart, move up and down, rotate, spin, and sink. The levels also get more like a maze, so you can turn a corner and just fall right into a pit. There’s a point when you even open a door that’s a damn cliff! And if you encounter enemies on platforms, things get really challenging. Fuck this shit. I don’t know how I completed the final platform level years ago, but after 3 tries this time, I was ready to give up when I noticed I had old saves on my hard drive…including the one that begins the very next level. That’s right, bitches. I skipped the platforming shit completely this time. Yes, it’s that bad.
Finally, we come to the bosses. While most major battles aren’t so bad, the camera chooses to go wonky only when it’s time to take on a boss! Grrr…argh…. This is also one of those games that doesn’t have one final boss, but a series of them. The second to last boss is easy in his first form; you can take him out with the mystical gun. However, his second form would be impossible without the good old punch button invincibility code. Remember those days? I had to do it. This guy is in a spinning sphere, and every time you get near him to give him a hit, his invulnerability shield goes on, and then he swoops in and whacks you. OR, you try to approach him, and he shoots stuff at you that paralyzes you! Before long, you’ll decide the only thing to do is stay away from him completely, which kind of defeats the purpose of fighting a boss. If you’re lucky, you can get in a few projectile shots here and there from far away, but that’s easier said than done since zombies are attacking you at the same time. I finally discovered that eventually, the center section of the arena goes up like steps, and the boss waits up there without his shield on, allowing you to jump up and get in a few shots. So essentially, this is one of those “battles” that is nothing more than dodging for five minutes then getting in a couple of swings before starting the cycle all over again.
The FINAL boss is The Master, yet he’s fricking easier. There’s a big stake you can throw him on, but grabbing him at just the right time and actually aiming him at the damn stake seems impossible. I thought that was never going to happen, so I just kept staking him with my regular weapon…and it killed him! Yep. Never had to use the damn impaling method. The only thing to really watch out for with the fight is that The Master knocks tiles out of the already limited platform on which you’re fighting. So I’ll say it again. Grrr…argh….
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE: CHAOS BLEEDS (2003)
The sequel is pretty much more of the same, which makes it easy to jump right in. Even the controls don’t change much. The only challenge for me was that I have this game for the Gamecube, so the button mapping was a little different thanks to the weird GC controller layout.
One major difference this time is that you get to play as various characters throughout the game—Buffy, Willow, Spike, Xander, and Faith. The game takes place after the Scooby Gang has already moved to The Magic Box—and Angel moved to L.A., so he’s not in it. Tara and Anya are present, and there are references to Wesley and Dawn, but they’re not in the game. As for the voices, most of the actual actors do the job, but Buffy is once again voiced by the chick from the first game. She’s mastered SMG’s tone even better, but unfortunately, she also voices Anya, so Anya sounds almost exactly like Buffy. Alyson Hannigan does not reprise her role as Willow (probably off auditioning for How I Met Your Mother). The chick doing her voice sounds a lot like her, however, she says every single line in the Willow baby talk voice. SO ANNOYING.
The differences from the first game are a mixed bag of better and worse. The graphics are tighter here, but the camera is worse, and not only during boss battles. You find better weapons from the start, and jumping is much tighter, so of course there’s a lot less of it, and no platform-focused levels at all. Most of the enemies are the same, and the good news when fighting them now is that you don’t have to completely take down their lifebars—once they hit the ground, you can stake them into dust. On the down side, the lock-on feature is a mess. If you start swinging at an enemy and they either move or you dust them, you get trapped in an attack sequence, swinging, kicking, and grunting at walls and air while an enemy is behind you beating the fuck out of you!
As for playing as different characters, most of their controls and combat abilities are the same, which is comforting. Willow is unable to kick, but she does have magic powers, and they increase as the game progresses. In fact, at times, it feels like your invulnerable when you play as her because you can smoke guys simply by pressing what’s usually the kick button! When I was playing as Faith, the vamp fuckers would taunt me, saying shit like, “Oh, you’re that other slayer,” and it was like Faith was in my head! I’d start cursing up a storm and beating those bitches to a pulp!
Eat my other slayer ass, motherfuckers!
As Spike, I felt pretty damn powerful heading into The Initiative, where he can kill soldiers just by beating their asses—no stakes necessary, and apparently, he doesn’t have the chip in his head.
While it’s a pleasure that the platforming levels have been done away with, Chaos Bleeds made sure to introduce some new frustrations:
- When you play as Spike, you encounter cyborgs. Initially, you can’t fight them or it’s game over, so you have to avoid them completely. Later on, you can hit them but you still can’t kill them, so you have to throw stun bombs at them so you can finish your objective in peace. The challenge is throwing the bomb effectively. Otherwise, you’ll be trying to work on a computer and those bitches will start pounding you from behind. As for Spike’s boss, it’s fricking Adam! The challenge here is that you have to avoid him and his projectiles while fighting off enemies, all the while keeping an eye on Adam for the moment when he lifts a barrel over his head to throw at you. At that moment, you need to throw one of those stun bombs at him so he’ll drop the barrel on himself, a challenge you need to accomplish several times before he’s dead. If you can’t fight off enemies in time to nail him with a bomb, expect a barrel to the head.
- At one point as Buffy, you have a mission to protect Sid. Remember Sid, the living puppet from one episode? You need to follow him, and you begin the level without a stake. You have to fend off enemies and find stakes, and all the while, Sid is running ahead on his own, becoming wood chips in another room! You then have to play as Sid! Good news is, you do have a special attack and stakes to fight the big guys. It’s a laugh riot seeing Sid fight.
- One annoying challenge requires you to place bunnies from a magic hat into several pentagrams spread around a building in order to open a force field. Thing is, there are these little demon critter bastards that come out to eat the bunnies! You need to seriously make sure there are no critters remaining alive in an area before leaving your bunnies behind.
- In the realm of infuriating bosses, there are plenty. One battle requires running around the arena beating up three orbs until they finally all break. Only then can you hurt the boss. But in the meantime, he and his zombie minions have been pummeling you. Joy.
- Willow’s boss is…an evil Tara! Here, the horrible magic combos are the issue. You’re on balconies across from each other, so you can’t fight her directly. She sends vamps to attack you. The goal is to use a homing spell that’s supposed to possess the vamps so they will go back and beat her up for you. Problem is, the 3 buttons you need to press in a particular sequence to cast the spell are also used for single button press spells, so basically, every time you try to hit all the buttons for the homing spell, you instead simply fry the vamp you’re trying to possess when you press the first button in the sequence. WTF? I ended up having to hurl fire magic across the way whenever there was an opening (which wasn’t often) to kill Tara myself. If that hadn’t worked, I would have quit the game for sure.
- Surprisingly, the final boss isn’t all that hard. Plus, it’s a familiar face! Remember Giles’s nemesis Ethan? The guy who had the costume shop that caused everyone to turn into the costumes they were wearing for Halloween? Yeah, it’s him.
Overall, the biggest difference between the first game and Chaos Bleeds is that you will absolutely need a walkthrough for this sequel. The areas get more and more maze-like as the game progresses, and many of the levels require a lot of object finding and backtracking in order to move forward. Not to mention, not knowing where to go means missing a whole lot of goodies. And naturally, the game pretty much gives no hints as to what might be the best move. On top of that, enemies respawned every time I left an area and came back to it because I made a wrong turn. Grrr…argh…. However, overall, Chaos Bleeds is not as grrr…argh as the first game, so I found it a much more enjoyable game.