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by Nick Zverloff - January 22nd, 2011

Blandia (ブランディア) / Blandia 98 (ブランディア 98) - Arcade, FM Towns, PC98, Windows (1992)

Japanese Arcade Flyer

Japanese PC98 Cover

In 1984, a Taito subsidiary called Allumer developed a game called Great Swordsman, one of the first one-on-one fighting games ever made. Compared to its contemporaries like Karate Champ and Urban Champion, it focused on weapon-based combat rather than hand-to-hand karate. It had three different settings - a modern day sparring tournament, a Japanese kendo tournament, and a Roman-style gladiatorial arena.

Great Swordsman

Apparently Allumer liked the gladiator levels so much that they refined them and turned them into its own game. Dubbed Gladiator (and known as Great Gurianos in European territories), it featured larger characters but kept the same basic fighting mechanics. Neither games had life meters, but Gladiator introduced armor to protect your fighters from blows. Hit an area once and the piece of armor would fly off. Hit the same area again, and the fighter would lose.

Gladiator

Five years after Gladiator, Capcom took the gaming world by storm with Street Fighter II. After seeing the incredible success and realizing that, technically, they were there first, Allumer dug up their little known IP out of the closet to try to mimic its success. It hasn't aged well, at all, but it introduced some important mechanics - namely, it was one of the first weapons-based fighters, predating SNK's Samurai Shodown by about a year. There are many original ideas to be found in Blandia, and many problems, as well.

Like Gladiator, Blandia uses three buttons for attacking - high, low, and straight. Like other fighters at the time, Blandia introduces life meters so there are no longer single hit kills. But the armor system makes a return too, meaning that you have to break high, low, or middle armor to do any damage. This only affects some characters, though. The fighters without armors generally have some kind of glaring advantage over the armored fighters, an attempt to balance the game a bit, although ultimately it doesn't work.

Blandia also has variable attacks based on the distance from your opponent. If your character is close, you will do a different attack than if you would have used the same move far away. A great example of this is Diokles' shield. Normally, it would only be used for blocking, but if up close, he uses it as a weapon. Likewise, where Jurane would normally use her spear, in close combat she puts up a force field or pulls out a knife. Close and far attacks are completely different and do completely different amounts of damage. This puts emphasis on zoning. It is very important to keep your opponent where you want them to be, as it can be key to winning.

The storyline involves the world being taken over by Gildus, the "Mad Gold King". The six playable characters all have their own personal reasons to defeat Gildus, of course. After choosing a character, you fight the five other playable characters and then enter the gold castle for a boss rush. There are ten characters in total.

Characters

While it can be fun to play with a friend, the AI in Blandia ranges from buggy to to flat-out unfair. Sometimes enemies will go into a loop and start using the same move over and over again and be unable to stop until hit. This is especially apparent with Imageo. Also, recall how Guile, Blanka or E. Honda when controlled by the computer, would never have to charge his attacks in Street Fighter II? Blandia is even worse about this. Many of Jurane's attacks take at least four seconds to charge, and attacking is not allowed during that time. The computer can somehow spam the "pillar of fire" attack, even though such a cheap strategy is impossible for human players.

The buggy AI is the least of its problems. The hit boxes are eccentric at best, and the special moves are often harder to execute than they should be. Furthermore, while the gigantic sprites and colorful backgrounds were impressive back in 1992, the extraordinary glut of fighting games during the decade have rendered it almost entirely obsolete, with little of note beyond the mechanics it borrowed from Gladiator. If you can get beyond the flaws, Blandia can actually be very fun to play, but let's just say that the title is not entirely inappropriate and leave it at that.

Blandia was never ported to any the major consoles, and only ended up on the FM Towns Marty, PC 98 and Windows. The FM Towns version looks pretty decent at first glance, but unfortunately, sacrifices had to be made in order for the game to fit. The arena backgrounds do not look as good as the arcade version and the action can get choppy sometimes. The NEC PC 98 and Windows 98 versions are called Blandia 98, and while they suffers from some slight graphical downgrades, it also has some improvements. The speed has been increased so the game feels a bit better, each character has their own theme music, and the ending cinemas have been redrawn to look much, much nicer.

Thanks to Trickless and this site for the info on Blandia 98.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Allumer (Arcade)
Ving (Ports)

Publisher:

Allumer (Arcade)
Ving (Ports)

Genre:

Fighting

Themes:

Fantasy: Historical Fantasy


Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)

Blandia (Arcade)


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Comparison Screenshots



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