Afro Samurai is one of the most mixed reviewed games I have ever played. At its surface, it’s an entertaining brawler combined with a unique narrative that will definitely please fans of the show and newcomers alike. However, the overall experience is severely flawed by nuisances that have no place in 2009 next gen gaming.
With games like God of War and Ninja Gaiden before it, Afro Samurai problems are so crystal clear, Helen Keller could see them. The game’s biggest problem is the camera control…or I should say, the lack thereof. Jumping around like a beached fish, the camera will swing, sway and tilt in every direction except the one you want. Why preset camera angles, like in God of War, were not used is perhaps the biggest question of all. Making matters worse, the player can only access the game’s option menu from the main menu. From this menu screen, the player has the option to select an inverted camera or not inverted. However, there is absolutely no option to separate the vertical invert from the horizontal invert. I am one of those players that like to invert my vertical axis but keep my horizontal controls not inverted. Because I could not change the camera to suit my play style, this game literally became unplayable.
Because I am required to review this game, I had to force myself to keep playing. If I was playing this game for my leisure, you can bet any amount of money that I would have stopped playing after five minutes and traded this game into Gamestop simply for the lack of camera control options.
Suffering through the horrendous camera, this game has a lot of similarities to God of War’s gameplay. There is a light attack, a heavy attack, a jump button, a block button and even an experience point system. If the camera actually worked, then the combat system could prove to be entertaining although it really involves nothing more than button mashing. Strangely enough, the game highlights combos through the Start menu, but the player will never have to memorize these special moves as randomly combining both attack buttons usually deliver favorable results.
The experience point system is absolutely worthless too. Why? Because there is no way to keep track of it and you couldn’t level grind even if you wanted too. In fact, the game lacks any type of HUD which makes keeping track of your health a complete mystery. The only indication that the player will know that Afro’s health is low is when the screen starts fade to a red color. It is like the game doesn’t want you to know how well or how poorly you are performing.
Afro Samurai has many more small flaws that add up to make the game that much more unplayable and frustrating. Here are some more examples: blocking is performed by holding R1 instead of L1 which makes it difficult to balance the controller in your hands, the screen splits apart and reconnects for dramatic effect at certain times during combat but is cumbersome to gameplay, invisible walls are everywhere, loading screens display text and story information but get cut off at random, Sam Jackson does a great job voice acting but basically voices everyone in the game so it is like he is having a conversation with himself, sometimes the subtitles pop up but the game skips the dialog track and no sound is played, and this PS3 game has no Trophy features even though the game keeps track of how you kill your enemies (couldn’t they just use the 360’s Achievements?). The list goes on and on.
The emphasis of this game is definitely based around combat, but the developers thought it was necessary to throw in horrible platforming mechanics that try to mimic Prince of Persia and Mario. Sure, wall jumping is cool, but only when you can actually see where you are jumping. Combat is nifty with its slicing and dicing slow-mo and blood drenched effects, but platforming is more of a chore than anything and probably should have been eliminated from the game altogether.
This game has way more negative than positive, but there are still some positives. Even though combat revolves around slamming two buttons, it is still entertaining simply due to the fact that all the game’s fighting is based around an absurd level of violence. Limbs and heads will be rolling after every battle with baddies and blood will even stain the screen. Using a unique style of cel-shading, the game blends into the anime’s visual style while still offering detail. The game’s audio soundtrack is especially noteworthy as fans of the show should recognize. Unfortunately, the game’s positives are completely hidden behinds the well apparent flaws.
If you play Afro Samurai, you are going to want to like the game. Your heart is going to tell you that you are enjoying this game, but your brain is going to argue against that notion the entire time the controller is in your hand. The game’s flaws and inconsistencies are so apparent that the overall game experience is really nothing but a suffering mess. Because there are so many problems, there is no way I can recommend this game. Fans of the show will appreciate this title more, but I cannot even recommend playing past level 1 for even the hardcore. Be warned. Be very warned.