Saturday, June 6, 2009

Afro Samurai

Game: Afro Samurai

System: Xbox 360, PS3

Released: January 2009

Afro Samurai is a hack and slash adventure game based on the popular anime mini-series staring Samuel Jackson. The game features a beautiful cell shaped art style and a simplistic yet satisfying combat system. The focus ability is fun, and the soundtrack is fantastic. Unfortunately the story feels chopped and incomplete, and I am on the fence about the games short length due to its repetitive nature.

Let us begin with the plot. The game takes Afro on a journey of redemption and revenge in his pursuit for the Number One Headband. Apparently there is a number system in this universe that depicts how badass you are. They say that whoever wears the Number One Headband will become a god. The reason for Afro wanting this headband is very personal. At a young age he saw his father die at the hands of Justice (the main antagonist). He was pursuing the Number One who just so happened to be Afro Sr. Of course Justice told the young Afro Jr. that he could challenge him one day when he was ready.

Afro grows up and gets trained in the ways of the badass samurai. He plays killer detective while slaughtering his friends and foes. He acquires the Number Two Headband, and then kills some more friends and foes. Finally he finds a dead Justice on top of a vast mountain. Faced now with only his inner demons Afro must clear his conscious, which will eventually lead to the destruction of the two headbands.

This story isn’t bad, but I can understand why fans of the series were disappointed. The game does not follow key plot points of the anime. I don’t want to go into detail, but a quick look at will satisfy your curiosity. The modified story, however, does work for the video game.

Enough with this story stuff. Let us move on to gameplay. Afro is granted the basic hack and slash moves. There is a light and heavy attack, kick, block, dodge, and jump. All can be thrown together in a variety of combos. Players can also counter an enemies attack and then perform a gloriously satisfying instant kill. The one unique ability in this game is the focus attack. Engaging focus will turn the screen black and white, and slow down everything around Afro. While in this state Afro can perform a precise vertical or horizontal slash as well as a host of acrobatic maneuvers. Landing a successful sword swing will slice of limbs, heads, feet, and can even deflect bullets.

What makes this combat so satisfying is the visual presentation and audio soundtrack. Each focus attack will send limbs and blood everywhere. When an enemy is cut in half you will see their gory insides and slowing down time is a blast. This all blends beautifully with the music. The cell shaped environments and characters also meld well together. Previous games seem to create bold outlines for character models that detach them from their environment but not Afro Samurai. The sheer excellence of this games presentation warrants at least one play through.

Afro Samurai is a good game. There isn’t anything truly great, but it is fun. Some will be turned off by the repetitive gameplay and butchered story. Others will enjoy a solid hack and slash adventure with stunning style. Snerts Snazzy Score grants this title a 3.5 out of 5.

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