Contextualizing this review with the more than a decade since it's release; Bushido Blade is still one of my all time favorite games. Amongst the throngs of fighting games from that time period Bushido Blade stood out as a breath of fresh air. Most fighting games had progressed down the route of complex combos and required much dedication to master and compete against others. This wasn't the case with Bushido Blade, while there are some complex combos you can use, trying to memorize them carries a certain futility when you can be cut down with a single slice from a new comer.
The game is based of a "realistic" sword fighting engine, one well timed attack could easily kill or maim your opponent. While one hit kills are common it's not the rule of combat, more often then not there is a fair interplay between combatants that seems much more mature than any arcade style fighter. The absence of health meters, frantically animated backgrounds and excessive GUI elements all add to the poetic nature of the game. The paired down design and interface elements allowed more exposure to the sophistication of the game's mechanics and allowed the combat to continue in a fluid motion. It would be easy to go through 20 matches in about 5 minutes, each match has less pre-amble and endurance than a match of Street Fighter (or the ilk), and from that the matches were quick and easy… perhaps like a real sword fight.
The single player wasn't very well developed or evolved compared to other story based games from the time. Slash mode was a great way to practice (or blow some steam) as you'd be attacked by 100 offending ninjas one by one; even though they were simple bots that progressively became better you could make it as challenging as you wanted. The real meat comes from the multiplayer fights, where you could really start to channel the essence of a battle (more than any other fighting game). This game has been left so unrivaled that friends and I will still get together to play on occasion.
There are 6 characters to choose from that each represent a balance between speed and power, you then have a choice of 8 weapons that act differently in the hands of each character. While it's fun to play with the combinations, some of the weapons are less balanced than others and make the attacks rather one-note. Often the most enjoyable matches were performed between two katana wielding ninja, which seemed like the most balanced and developed weapon of the lot. Which makes sense, what better way to capture a gaming moment akin to a sword fight from a Kurosawa movie?