There's been numerous attempts to create melee-based fighting games in Second Life, but up to now, they've been fairly chaotic and gameplay-weak, with limited control and combat moves, turning them into wacky "crash your avatar into the other guy more" demolition derbies. The combat action of Samurai Island (direct link here), by contrast, is the first credible melee game I've seen in action, swordplay and hand-to-hand fighting with an intuitive interface, an elegant heads-up display, and a wealth of offensive and defensive manuevers to choose from. Though a tad darker than I'd like, the above video hopefully conveys the variety of that gameplay. Second Life's lower frame rate actually seems to work to the game's advantage, slowing down the action just enough to give the players time to create and execute strategies-- and perhaps just as crucial, for an audience to enjoyably follow the fight.
In the YouTube demo, for example, you can clearly do a post-game analysis of the duel between purple-clad warrior Draconis Neurocam and black-caped ninja Ishmael Ren. In it, Ren constantly manuevers around (and over) Neurocam, waiting for an opening. Until, that is, Neurocam over-commits with a red-flame power attack-- which Ren dodges with a flying leap, wheeling around on his now-exposed opponent, going in for the quick kill.
Samurai Island's combat is the brainchild of Esprite Xavier, Ayame Musashi, and Archanox Underthorn, who've created a complete gaming experience. (After you purchase the equipment, for example, you're given a laquered sword case, with a glass door that opens dramatically, when you're ready to begin your warrior's journey.) Unsurprisingly, the Island boasts hundreds of players, with clans based around competing dojos with different martial philosophies. (The game even boasts its own official website, here.)
All of which suits KatanaBlade Anubis, the island's statuesque co-owner, who generally lets the three developers go wild with their swordplay games. "I'm just the Hostess that has some say in the problem areas about the land," she tells me humbly, with a touch of den mother affection. "I just let them be creative and have fun-- as long as it doesn't kill the sim."
Note: Sound effects from the video all generated in-world by the Samurai Island combat system. Music soundtrack generously provided, of course and as usual, by Torley, from her fittingly entitled track, "Action Sequence". Torley posted an extended Beta preview of the game on her blog here.