This is easily the most intense and in-depth sword-fighting game ever produced.
The main selling point for me was the fact that the characters respond realistically to being smashed over the head weith a huge sword - i.e. they bleed a lot, then die. Another excellent factor is the ability to run anywhere in the playing field. Whilst many other 'beat 'em ups' advertise their 3D playing fields, you can rarely run away from your opponent, let alone climb above them, then thrust a katana through their brain when they try to follow you, or jump down on them with a deadly swipe.
This style of play makes for incredibly tense battles, the like of which I have not found in any other game. Battles have lasted, for me, up to tens of minutes in which neither competitor makes a lunge, but instead sizes the other player up. One false move and it could all be over. In (less than) a second.
To counter the incredibly delicate nature of your character, the one-player game can only be adequately completed by following the 'Bushido Code' - that is, no stabbing in the back, whilst someone is talking, or whilst on the ground. This is much, MUCH harder than it sounds, especially when fighting a boss who is running around with a gun.
The one-player game is hindered slightly by some hilariously cliched narration by the voice actors, but it doesn't ruin it by any means.
The Bushido code takes a whole new masochistic dimension in survival mode, in which a hundred evil samurai attempt to kill you one after another. It takes a lot of will power not to simply stab them all in the back. To this day, I still haven't met a soul who has completed it.
Each character can use any of the eight weapons (ranging from a normal-sized Katana to the heavy-duty sledgehammer) but is generally a specialist in one alone, which allows special moves. One downside to the the gameplay is that it is very hard to get into. Countless people I have shown the game to have been turned off by the controls (e.g. it is a complex two-button combination merely to jump).
Despite these minor qualms, this is a must-have game for anyone who a) likes samurai games; b) is bored by regular beat 'em ups; c) likes witnessing blood spurting out of people's torsos. Two thumbs up!