Fighting games have remained pretty much unchanged ever since they broke through in the early 90’s with the success of titles like Street Fighter II. Two combatants chip each other’s health bars away blow by blow and kick by kick, until one of them falls. Some games have tried to shake the things up, but so far, the basic formula has been an undisputed champion. Weapon-based Slice, Dice and Rice is the latest beat ’em up getting rid of health bars and complex move lists. Much like Bushido Blade games on the original PlayStation, the fight can be over after only one masterful strike.
Slice, Dice and Rice has eight fighters, unlocked by progressing in the story mode. They each have only four moves; horizontal and vertical slashes, heavy attack and parry. It’s imperative to dash forward and back, biting the opponent to make their move, and then strike swiftly back. The gameplay is effortless and responsive. No dozens of moves to memorize or complex special attacks to pull off. Just you, your opponent and the tension between. The fight is over in a matter of seconds.
"Slice" and "dice" are self-explanatory, but why there’s “rice” in the title? Well, the story mode is centered on a golden bowl of rice. It’s actually one continuous tale, divided into eight chapters, one for each combatant. They all have shuffled their mortal coil and entered underworld. Undead warrior Kojiro, birdman Tengu, warrior woman Yoketsu, bare-fisted monk Benkei, fast ninja girl Tomoe, grim reaper Shinigami, ronin Yojimbo and the Monkey King all have their reasons to fight over the bowl rice. All characters have dark kami-versions to avoid awkward mirror matches. There are no fancy cutscenes. The story is carried over in brief speech bubbles and few lines of text.
The story mode can be easily beaten in a one sitting, and along it, most of the single player content is already exhausted. There’s a dojo for practicing and versus against AI or local human opponents, but nothing else for lonesome warriors. Luckily, the PS4 version has a slight advantage over PC original by adding a rudimentary online play. There are duel or player matches to choose from. Even so, the core game content is so thin there’s no real incentive to play online. Indeed, it was arduous to find or host games even with all the parameters, like region and connection quality, set wide open. Clearly, there’s not much buzz in this scene.
Slice, Dice and Rice isn’t a bad game by any means. The controls are fast and slick, and it’s visually pleasing. The graphics may be technically a bit crude up-close, but the stylish art design and smooth animation make up for it. The blood gushes bright over grey-shaded backdrops, depicting hellish arenas for fighters’ immortal struggle. Too bad there aren’t individual victory screens for the characters. It’s just the same dull “congratulations” against a drab and pixelated landscape. Music and sound effects are minimal and mimic East Asian soundscapes.
Slice, Dice and Rice is a shadowy flight into the possible future of beat ‘em ups where the health bars don’t exist. As it is, it’s just a lone crusader. The idea is executed effectively, but the game is consumed too fast, leaving you wanting for more from this bowl of rice. These kind of gameplay mechanics need to be implemented on a larger scale to make a real impact. Imagine if a heavy-hitter like Soul Calibur adopted having no health bars and one-hit mentality. It’s only then would we have a fighting game evolution at hands.
Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.