Genji: Dawn of the Samurai
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Game Republic
|FIMP: Genji: Dawn of the Samurai [PS2]|
What's easily noticed, before diving into the action, is the absolute polish of the game's presentation. The visuals, in full polygonal 3D, show the gamer a beautiful moving world full of bright colors and relatively sharp detail. Vistas range from deep green forests with swaying foliage and bubbling brooks to richly constructed temples bathed in the orange glow of dusk to the spooky, green glow of the insides of said temples. All of your protagonist's and enemies' animations are silky smooth and believable.
What's even better is the lovely aural presentation. It couples great ambient, mood-setting music with a few theme tracks and - bless the hearts of the developers at Game Republic - authentic Japanese voice acting. I really do mean authentic. While the option to listen to the original Japanese voicework is there - and it sounds awesome - even the English voice acting done by what seems to be a Japanese cast. What I mean is, when you listen to the English voice track, you can hear the distinct Japanese accents of the voice actors - and they sound genuine, as opposed to caricatures. The voice actors for the English track also pronounce original Japanese words absolutely perfectly. If these guys aren't Japanese, they're freaking good voice actors or at least have a great grasp on the Japanese accent. Regardless of which voice track you choose, it sounds way cool through and through.
So, the meat - the combat - the slicing, dicing and julienne fry creation. The combat is a fast-paced button-mash fest that's easy to pick up such that you'll be pulling off combos instantly. This is coupled with a continuing combo counter that eggs you on to keep hitting the b@stards that are after you. If you can manage to keep hitting enemies while the number counter is on the screen (it stays there a good couple of seconds after your last hit) and not get hit yourself, you can rack up 20, 30, and more hits. It's quite a bit more lenient than God of War's combo system, though, which sometimes saps the challenge out of things. I haven't been able to yet determine whether or not higher combos give you any benefits, but considering you're rated on your combos with a conspicuous little window that pops up calling you a "MASTER!", I'd assume that something comes out of it.
Unique to this game is the gimmicky but fun "Kamui" system. As you fight, a special meter fills up. When this meter is full, you can hit L1 to put your warrior into "Kamui" mode. The screen is suddenly bathed in a light glow, and things around you slow down a bit. The enemies around you take a step back and move into a battle formation of sorts, and come after you. But an icon of the PS2 controller's square button appears at your feet; press this at that instant, and you'll automatically counter-attack the incoming hostile. These prompts come quickly in succession as the enemies attack one after the other, and it provides an almost rhythm game approach to the button presses. Again it's mildly reminiscent of God of War and even Resident Evil 4, though so far it's not as deep or challenging as either of those two games' systems. This is because you're always pressing square and the window of opportunity to press is much wider than that of the other games.
You're given experience "stones" to upgrade your character's life, defense and strength; three stones raise a rating. These stones are accumulated throughout the game world and by performing successful Kamui attacks that clear entire sets of enemies each time you execute it, so there is incentive to be quicker at responding to your Kamui button press prompts.
So far I enjoy Genji, though I do feel that the combat lacks a bit of variety. Further, it's not overly deep or challenging either - this goes for Kamui as well. The challenge of Onimusha's Issen attack system and the sheer combo variety of God of War, games with similar-feeling combat, are what helped to keep those games' fighting deep, and I fear that the lack of similar depth in this game may lead it to be monotonous. Of course, I'll reserve that judgment for after I beat it, and only if it deserves such a verdict. Thus far, I get a kick out of this game. I hope this rings true til the end.
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