First off let me say that I was not excited about this game at all. I had seen the game video, heard that Samuel L. Jackson was doing a lot of voice work, and I had read the previews. To me the game seemed like it was going to be a little cheesy. In all honesty, the only reason I even bought it is because well there was nothing else really good out. This is what you could call a dry month as far as the gaming industry with the only other title worth mentioning that came out this month being Skate 2. With all that said, Afro Samurai was a pleasant surprise.
Afro Samurai is based on the manga and anime series of the same name. A major component that makes this a great title is it is very well produced and the voice work is amazing. All of the main characters are voiced by the same actors as in the anime: Samuel L. Jackson as Afro & Ninja Ninja, Ron Perlman as Justice, Kelly Hu as Okiku, and John DiMaggio as Brother 2. The soundtrack, scored by Wutang Clan’s “The RZA”, is excellent and exactly what this game needed. It is a combination of great rap and subtle oriental undertones.
You are Afro Samurai and your are in search of the “Number Two” and the “Number One”, Justice. The game revolves around your quest for not only these people but the sacred headbands they possess. Justice is the “Number One” and he killed your father, however the only rule in this world is that only the “Number Two” (also designated by a sacred headband) is allowed to challenge the “Number One.” In the world of Afro Samurai, it is said that the one who becomes “Number One” will rule the world, wielding powers akin to a god. The downside of this is that anyone (and typically everyone) can challenge and try to kill the Number Two, to gain the right to move forward and challenge Number One.
The current “Number One” Justice severed your father’s head right in front of you and now you will become the Number Two and a master swordsman. Lengthy flashbacks interspersed throughout the story detail how Afro rose from frightened boy fleeing the death of his father, to master swordsman, and eventually to become the current “Number Two”, while the story in the present deals with the adult Afro making his way to the mountain top keep of the “Number One” to duel Justice, while at the same time the mysterious cult known as the “Empty Seven Clan” sends various agents to kill Afro and take his Number Two headband.
Tell them to come and get some!!
This game is just as I said in the title an old school hack and slash. The game has tons of different combos that you can use to maim and dismember your opponents. There are only 3 main attack buttons, square is for light slash, triangle is for heavy slash, and circle is for kick though to be honest its more of an afterthought in my opinion and could have been left out altogether as I doubt you will use it that much because I didn’t. Most of the really cool combos are done by pressing any number of combination’s of triangle and square. As Afro, most of the time you will find yourself ridiculously outnumbered, but the combos you have at your disposal will more than allow you to dispatch them. The regular battles are an intense button smashing affair that usually sees you having to dispatch anywhere between 5 and oh I don’t know say 15. These battles are about playing smart, knowing when to block or even if blocking is possible and then trying to damage multiple numbers of enemies in one blow. The enemies will respond by rolling, ducking and hopping over your sword and occasionally using body orifices to catch the weapons (yeah they are committed).
Bet that hurts!!
The bosses are another story, none of them are extremely difficult to beat though many of them do require more brain than brawn to beat. This is as good a time as any to mention, your pseudo sidekick, Ninja Ninja (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson). Ninja Ninja is always around to give you direction when your lost, allow you to play an interesting card game called “body poker”, you gotta play it for yourself. Besides that he will give you tips on how to beat certain bosses so listen when you are battling, most of the time he holds the key to victory but for the most part he just talks a lot of s%! but he is funny. In the end Afro finds out that sometimes the real enemy is closer than you think.
While the gameplay is excellent and the story simple and clear my biggest issue was the way the story was told. As you play through the game, you are never in doubt as to what the end goal is but the way it is told it just feels choppy and incongruent. The failure to tell the story in a fluid manner is the most disappointing part of the game. I have to say that Afro Samurai is definitely a solid title that does not fall into the trap that other more anticipated titles have fallen into in recent months, the trap of trying to do to much. The game is a two button hack and slash, it doesn’t have any timed button finishers and no complicated puzzles and for that I commend them. This seems to be exactly the game that the folks at Namco and Surge intended to make, a game that knows what it is and today that’s rare. For all of that and minus the shaky storytelling, I give Afro Samurai a solid 4 out of 5 stars. It is definitely fun to play but because it is rather short, I would say this is a rent not a buy.