If you read this review and haven’t seen Afro Samurai, the anime, then now immediately go to the story or surf to your online shop as you can’t see much cooler stuff on your flatscreen! The incredible action, the adult atmosphere, the overdose of bloody kills, the incredibly inspired characters and overwhelming inspired visual style are only a couple of reasons why this series is on the top of my wishlist. And then I haven’t spoken about the brilliant voice work by Samuel L. Jackson and Ron Perlman, and the unequalled hip-hop sound by RZA. In other words: an unseen combination of Japanese and American talent that makes for an explosive mix, an experience the title for once covers. An appetiser.
You won’t be surprised to hear I was eager to slam this game in my 360! And I wasn’t disappointed, all strong points of the series were transfered to the game in a remarkable way and you’ll lick thumbs and fingers once you see the graphics (cartoon realistic, a word just invented by me), experience the unequalled action, taste the adult atmosphere (“Did you tap her? You did, didn’t you? Come on, admit it!”) and enjoy the sweaping beats of rapper RZA and the accompanying smartass remarks from Samuel L. Jackson who constantly comments on your actions.
The story is about headband number 1 and headband number 2. Who wears the first is the absolute ruler of the globe, the God of fighting. Only those with number 2 can challenge him and try to get number 1. However, anyone can challenge number 2 and you can believe me when I say this results in quite a lot of chopped off limbs. It will be no surprise that you’re number 2 and want to kill number 1 who murdered your dad in a fight for headband number 1 a long time ago.
On the story, the setting and the way everything is put on your screen we’re overly enthusiastic. Unfortunately there are also plenty of downpoints to downgrade that feeling. The gameplay itself isn’t of the same high levle. A first problem is that it’s never clear how the fighting (as in the end this is a third person adventure with the necessary platforming here and there) works.
Throughout the game you get new moves and you’ll ofen level up, but rarely you get an explanation on how quickly you rise in levle or which new moves are available, let alone how to perform them. Very unfortunate as the combat looks spectacular and solid and a limbs minigame brings forth hilarious fun. There’s more depth in the game than you would think when you don’t have a FAQ at hand.
Once you’ve memorized some moves and control the Focus Time (slow-mo but easier to kick ass) it’s great fun. There’s also some tactics present with the necessary defense and possibility to split bullets. Disturbing factor at times is a sudden increase of difficulty or having to reply pieces of the platforming before you can again try to defeat a boss. And it’s especially the jumping (and replaying those sections) that can frustrate. The camera isn’t always equally handy and also the reaction to your input is sometimes slow. In short: if this game had the gameplay of Ninja Gaiden I would now be writing an orgasmic review.
These problems are all the more regrettable if you look at how original the environments and opponents, especially during the boss fights, sometimes are, with as absolute height a fight that takes place while falling from the sky. Without a doubt one of the most memorable moments of the year! This also gets enhanced by the strong script and the dark atmosphere of the game. Unfortunately on the other hand there are also some boring parts with too many equal opponents after each other and a single boss fight that’s frustratingly difficult to beat and drags on too long to try again quickly.
As I hopefully made clear I’m totally in love with the style and presentation of Afro Samurai. The cartoon movie style is unseen beautiful and the adult story and atmosphere unique in the genre. Team Ninja can learn a trick or two from this and for this alone already you have to buy this game. The gameplay itself falls short a bit and you’ll need a FAQ to really enjoy it but even then there are frustrating pieces to wrestle yourself through. Luckily the rest is so brilliant that you’ll easily forgive these issues. To stay in the style of the game: a bit more practise necessary before the makers can challenge Number 1. A sequel please?