From legendary game creator Yoshiki Okamoto (who gave us Onimusha, Devil May Cry and Resident Evil) comes a tale of brutal violence and beautiful legend set against the historical backdrop of the Samurai genesis… With this sentence, the promo talk on the back of Genji’s cover starts and for once it does not lie.
Although both critics and consumers were looking at this title with a lot of suspicion, it has convinced friend and foe of its qualities. The story focuses on Yoshitsune, a Japanese warrior on the run for the Heishi clan and Benkei a warrior monk who joins Yoshitsune’s side early in the game. Together they decide to fight the evil Heishi and whether they are successful or not lies completely in your hands as both characters are playable. Yoshitsune is relatively small and very fast but also a lot less powerful than Benkei, an enormous giant carrying a weapon made out of two sequoia trees.
Not only is the future of Japan but also the Amahagane at stake in the battle between the Heishi and our two heroes. The Amahagane are rare gems who give its possessor various magical powers. By beating the bosses, you can collect these gems and use them to upgrade your characters. Upgrading your characters is also possible by collecting the needed amount of experience points by fighting and killing the enemies that will cross your path. The gameplay features a very accessible hack ‘n slash base, but already from the start it is made clear that it goes a lot deeper than just button bashing. If you analyze the whole situation first, before going in swords blazing, you can make several combos and pull of some beautiful moves which will instantly fill your Kamui gauge.
Kamui is basically your bullet time in this game. It’s a feature that comes a lot in handy once you master it. If you trigger your Kamui when you’re in a fight, you’ll go in some sort of trance and a button will appear at the bottom of your screen if you need to perform your attack. If you do this right, you can keep this Kamui state for quite a time and take down enemy after enemy in slow motion. Kamui is also needed in the battles with the bosses because if you pull off a successful Kamui move here, the enemy’s life gauge will drop dramatically and most of the time he will drop a secret item. This item can be used to order special weapons at the blacksmith. Apart from weapons, you can also buy herbs, power stones and all sorts of things that restore your life or protect you from different spells. Don’t forget to use both characters in every location to search for these items, because one can go where the other can not. Because if you find something out in the wild, you don’t have to buy it. It’s a lot cheaper that way and you have time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the wonderful graphics. Cause this game is beautiful. Together with the sound effects and the very good background music, the bright colours create a wonderful atmosphere that kind of resembles House of Flying Daggers or Hero.
The gameplay, the graphics and the atmosphere are all more than okay. Does this mean this game has no downsides whatsoever? Unfortunately not: Genji too follows the new trend to make games more and more cinematic and this means that sometimes camera POV’s are chosen primarily for their dramatic purposes than for increasing the game’s ‘playability’. Although it will happen seldom, you will curse more than once because you didn’t see that one enemy coming or you couldn’t position yourself to do that one big Kamui attack on a boss. It’s a small point of criticism but one that could have been avoided. The game is also very short. In less than 6 hours, you will have already finished it and then the game loses a lot of its attractiveness. The replay value of this game is rather low, even with the presence of a continue mode and some unlockables.
Every person who likes action games but wants a bit more than just some mindless hack ’n slash can not go wrong with this title. Genji is one of the most beautiful games on the PS2 and has a stunning look ‘n feel, which was more appealing to me than the dark gothic atmosphere in Devil May Cry 3. The gameplay is very accessible but also very layered which will give Average Joe the ability to perform some really cool moves from the beginning. The big question is however, whether you want to spend your hard-earned cash on a game this short.