Why do you want the headband? – Bad Guy
For revenge – Afro Samurai
Made by Surge for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Afro Samurai is a third person action adventure game released in February this year, and is one of the best hacking and slashing titles this reviewer has played in the last couple of years. Based upon Afro Samurai the Japanese manga created by Takashi Okazaki and made into an animated movie voiced and co produced by the original BMF Samuel L Jackson is where Surge got their inspiration. The question lingers though how well do they translate that source material into a game?
The world of Afro Samurai is set in a futuristic feudal Japan, there exists 2 magical headbands held by only the strongest men/samurai in the world, legend has it that who wears the number 1 headband controls the world and granted the powers of a god. Since man is power hungry there exists the number 2 headband it is for those who wish to challenge the number 1 but can be challenged at anytime by anyone who chooses to take up the fight with the number 2.
This is where we start the story, as a child our hero Afro (named for his hair style) is forced to watch his father the current number 1 beheaded in a battle for the mysterious number 1 headband by the evil Justice the current number 2. So after seeing his fathers headband taken by Justice and having his fathers head tossed to his feet. Justice casts away the number two headband and tells Afro that if he wants his revenge, he better go train so he can get the number 2 headband and come back and avenge his father’s death. This is where the story of the video game kicks off.
You play as the lovable killing machine that is Afro Samurai and as the website claims “Blood is beautiful” so if you’re looking for a game to play with, or get the kids, as this game is rated Mature by the ESRB, and contains gallons of blood, lots of swearing, innuendo, nudity (polygons, not real nudity) and minor drug use (smoking). If it didn’t contain any of all that good stuff then it wouldn’t do this series justice, as it is definitely made for adults and those fans of samurais, hip-hop, blood and the original material.
Surge was definitely on the ball when they decided to make this title; the art style of this game really sets it apart as far as graphics are concerned. Using a comic book cell shaded style you will be amazed at how good this game looks especially in HD. The environments and main characters are beautifully rendered with the crisp brush strokes making you think you’re almost playing a comic book.
The only sad thing about the art is that there are only 4 types of henchmen: the Ronin, Ninjas, Samurais and Robots, so expect to see the same 4 types during the game with the occasional big bad dude. This was probably a design decision to keep the standard bad guys because they are the fodder that you literally slice through during the game, and stays true to the overall look and style of the movie and comic.
As far as game play is concerned you have three different attacks in your repertoire, your vertical slice which can be done top to bottom or bottom to top, horizontal slice which goes from left to right and right to left and your kicks and the mandatory jump button. These all can be chained into combination moves that will help make you really feel as if you’re the number 2 samurai in the world, cutting anyone down who challenges you in your quest for the number 1 position.
The gallons of blood that spew from your enemies is really a focal point in this hack and slash. As you play through the game, the higher the combo count, the more blood will come from person you just dispatched, as well as the pieces on the floor of said person and some blood splatters will be on your screen to show you just how well you’re doing. The blood and combos are also used to gauge your progress. The more skillful the kill, the more experience your character will gain to unlock new skills as you progress, giving you the ability to use more powerful moves in the game, such as the focus slice and overkill mode so if you’re into blood, you’ll be overflowing with joy from this game.
Once you have mastered the basic commands and get some combos down, Surge ups the ante by allowing you to perform focus strikes. When you have built up enough blood energy you can use these amazing moves. Using the focus mode strikes with your left bumper (Xbox360) or L1 (PS3) will tint the screen black and white and slows time down so you can perfectly slice your opponents in half using the vertical slice, or right across the body using your horizontal slice. It’s also not a static system so you can call your shot by moving your control stick, allowing you to choose where your slice will hit, with lots of blood and appendages flying everywhere.
This is taken further as you advance, with a layer added on top by your imaginary friend, comic relief and map guide Ninja Ninja, also voiced by Samuel Jackson in a mini game called body part poker. Your goal in the mini-game is to get the best three card hand before time runs out by cutting off arms, legs or heads using your focus strikes. The best possible hand is a straight flush which is accomplished by getting one of each, which makes for some nice achievement points (Xbox 360) or trophies (PS3) for your collection – all for some good old fashioned, well placed slicing and dicing. The one caveat is that it makes you want more of these opportunities as you play through the game but they are few and far between. In my opinion this should have been a main mechanic or an option to turn on or off when facing off against the endless stream of attackers.
The overkill mode is a longer lasting version of the focus mode which allows you to dispatch multiple enemies in quick fashion, and should be used when finding yourself outnumbered. You might start feeling like you’re a blender with your swords with all the blood and body parts that come from this attack.
The level design is linear but is perfect for this game, so if you get lost its best to call Ninja Ninja for help. Most of the jumping puzzles – yes, jumping puzzles are pretty easy to figure out and accomplish without too much frustration. Although there were times in this game where it looks like you could go one way, as you lay dying, you realize that you were meant to go the other way. Thankfully the jumping puzzles don’t get in the way too much and are a nice change from the hack and slash game play. The boss fights are mostly standard boss fights, and a few are puzzles themselves. Some of the boss puzzles can be challenging, but most are quite easy to figure out.
The music and sound in this game are excellent, with voice work from Samuel L Jackson, Ron Perlman, Kelly Hu, Phil “Mad TV” LaMarr, John “Marcus Fenix” DiMaggio and other voices from the original movie it really brings you into the world of Afro. The other great thing is the music is composed by RZA from the Wu Tang Clan, adding that final layer of depth with some amazing hip-hop tracks as you play and into the cut scenes. In fact, it’s so good I got the soundtrack after playing the game.
Overall I quite enjoyed playing Afro Samurai with its short playtime of only around 8 hours on the number 2 headband difficulty. It will be easy for most gamers to beat and unlock the much harder number 1 headband mode, where you have less health and more challenging A.I. and also allows you to continue to gain skills from where the game ended with your first play through and get new combos and ways to dispatch your challengers. Something most games don’t think about is replay value and this single player game has it.
So does Surge accomplish what it set out to do? I believe that this is one of the better games to come out so far and is a nice change to see in the movie video game genre. It is actually just as good and keeps the story together from its original source material.
I recommend this as a rental for those looking for some great adventure hack and slash game play, and a must buy for fans of the comic and movie.
’til the next time we cross paths,