The game is a adaptation of the manga and tv show Afro Samurai by Takashi Ozaki and is the only game made by the western label of Namco Bandai Surge. It follows the story of a samurai named “Afro” and his imaginary friend “Ninja Ninja” as they travel across a futuristic, yet feudal styled Japan, to kill the man who killed Afro’s father “Justice”. In the lore of the show, Afro’s father was killed for his headband, “the number one”. The only who could challenge the one wearing the number one headband is number two. The number one headband represents the wearer has achieved a mastery of combat and has godlike abilities beyond the normal warrior.
Afro Samurai loosely follows the manga and the anime but is mostly faithful to the original. The game also adds new story elements that were not in the original works and this works to its advantage. It has a fairly long storyline with each one based off an episode/chapter from the series. The game’s atmosphere is very grim. It has a bleak visual style and the highly detailed world looks great. The mixture of Feudal Japan in a futuristic setting blends superbly with the overall ambiance of the game. The CEL shaded graphics of the game looks a lot like the anime. The dialogue is both humorous and profane. But it can be distracting at times especially in the middle of combat.
I like the comic book styled cutscenes and the anime art style of the game. The use of the comic book cutscenes in particular is also a way to show you key events such as enemies appearing, or going to attack you on the screen which was very creative.
The voice cast from the show reprises their roles. Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman and Kelly Hu are all great as their respective characters. The characters were also very likable and interesting. Afro hardly speaks in the story yet his actions are what makes him a compelling. Justice is a very sick and twisted villain who holds nothing in regard but power and he is a very dangerous antagonist to Afro. Ninja Ninja does most of the talking and he serves as the guide throughout the journey to seek vengeance. He is also the major source of humor in the game. He can even be used as a compass to direct to the right area in case you are lost but don’t use him too much or else, he will curse you out in humorous one liners.
The game plays similar to a RPG where you can level up and earn more health and increase the meter for focus attacks. Combat in the game is straightforward you have heavy attacks, kicks, blocking and light attacks. The combat system was developed by Monty Oum of the RWBY fame before he passed away. There are a variety of combos to perform before you can progress through the game, but it has a lot of button mashing to do. Another way to unlock combos is through finding “mementos” which are represented by a group of crows. By collecting 5 of each “mementos” you unlock a brand-new combos which are more powerful than the regular ones.
Like in the anime, combat is very gory and stylized and at certain parts of the game the fighting can feel like you are in the anime. The moment where you fight a robot in the sky with your sword is really fun and it breaks away from much of the monotony you go through. It’s pretty fun to sever any limb in the game since you can cut in multiple different directions. To restore health, you hit teddy bears that are scattered across the map.
The animation is generally good as enemies can dodge and block attacks instead of just attacking. Strategies have to be devised in order to defeat the enemies. it does give strategy for ways to defeating them. Sometimes though, the animation of the game can be sluggish.
An interesting feature of the game is Bodypart poker. During combat, if you slash off a certain body part like a leg or arm, you can earn a bonus like a new move. It takes up to 3 decapitations to win the mini game and it does provide some variety to the combat.
There are also a wide variety of enemies from the anime to fight. You fight a variety of bosses from the show with each having their own fighting style and various methods to defeat them. Focus feature is where you slow down time and charge your sword to unleash a powerful attack when you release it at the right time. Ultra focus is where after you perform a large number of combos, you unleash an even more powerful version of the focus feature. This feature comes in handy in sticky situations. Loading screens are pretty quick.
The music is a mixture of Eastern Asian feudal and Hip-Hop as the show’s creator wanted to used hip hop as a major influence to the story. The composer of the show and WU-TANG-Clan artist RZA composes the score. Fans of the show and hip-hop music will be glad to hear it. But keep in mind the soundtrack uses much of the same songs over and over again. The sound effects in the game are great especially during intense combat. The game lacks the HUD on screen user interface as the creator wants it to be a cinematic experience from start to finish. The game however has a lot of shortcomings into it.
Repetition is the major flaw in a lot of the aspects in the game. Combat can very repetitive and boring because of the amount of button mashing you have to do.
The objectives are also repetitive as well you have to go through several multiple parts through the same area just to get into the next area. The main reason why is to pad out the length of the game. Enemies often look the same with little variation and say the same taunts over and over again despite the variety of them. There is more variety of ways of death then there are types of enemies.
Platforming in this game is pretty annoying especially with the camera you have to time the jumps carefully or else you will fall over and over again. While the environment and world design look like the anime and is highly detailed for its time, the game recycles a lot of the same areas over and over again. The camera is another issue as well. It sometimes does go into directions you don’t want it to go and the movement can be sluggish.
You cannot skip the cutscenes in the game and head straight to the gameplay as most of them are unskippable, especially if you keep dying in certain parts.
The game is also glitchy so you best play it on the latest patched version. Fortunately, there is a camera inversion setting so you can alter the camera settings to make the game seem less repetitive. Lip-synching is a bit off at times.
After beating the game, there is not much content left to encourage re-playability so you might as well move onto something else. If you played this on the PS3 version like I have there is not going to be any trophies in the game unlike the Xbox 360 version.
The checkpoint system appears a few times in the game so if you die by either a mistake or inexperience then you are going to have to replay the entire section again.
Despite its shortcomings Afro Samurai still an ok game.
It gets 3 stars.
If you enjoy Afro Samurai the series, then you could give this a chance.