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The bulk of the gameplay in Bushido Blade revolves around one-on-one third-person battles between two opponents. Unlike most fighting games, however, no time limit or health gauge is present during combat. Most hits will cause instant death, while traditional fighting games require many hits to deplete an opponent's health gauge. It is possible to wound an opponent without killing them. With the game's "Body Damage System," opponents are able to physically disable each other in increments with hits from an equipped weapon, slowing their attacking and running speed, or crippling their legs forcing them to crawl. Notably, the North American release of Bushido Blade had one minor graphical change: blood was added, replacing the yellow flash that appears during a fatal blow. The game features eight weapons to choose from in many of its modes, including katana, nodachi, long sword, saber, broadsword, naginata, rapier, and sledgehammer. Each weapon has a realistic weight and length, giving each one fixed power, speed, and an ability to block. A variety of attack combinations can be executed by the player using button sequences with the game's "Motion Shift System," where one swing of a weapon is followed through with another. Many of these attacks are only available in one of three stances, switched using the shoulder buttons or axis controls depending on controller layout: high, neutral, and low. The player also has a choice of one out of six playable characters. Similar to the weapons, each one has a different level of strength and speed, and a number of unique special attacks. Some characters have a subweapon that can be thrown as well. All the characters have differing levels of proficiency with the selectable weapons and have a single preferred weapon. Characters in Bushido Blade also have the ability to run, jump, and climb within the 3D environments. Because battles are not limited to small arenas, the player is encouraged to freely explore during battle. The castle compound which most of the game takes place in acts as a large hub area of interconnected smaller areas including a cherry blossom grove, a moat, and a bridge labyrinth. Some areas, such as the bamboo thicket, allow some interaction. The story mode of Bushido Blade adds another gameplay mechanic: the Bushido code. Certain moves and tactics are considered dishonorable, such as striking a foe in the back, throwing dust in their eyes, or attacking while they bow at the start of fights. Acting dishonorably will abruptly end the player's playthrough after a certain point in the story, displaying a message berating them on their behavior. In addition to the game's single player story mode, Bushido Blade contains a two-player versus mode and a link mode that supports the PlayStation Link Cable. Other single player options include a practice mode and a first person mode. Slash mode pits the player's katana-wielding character against a long string of 100 enemies, one after the other.
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