STAFF REVIEW of Afro Samurai (Xbox 360)

Thursday, April 2, 2009.
by John Torrice

Afro Samurai Box art For many people the Afro Samurai cartoon has been a series they have gotten into and enjoyed through it?s journey with Afro. Now from Surge in conjunction with Namco Bandai Games America have released the vengeance of Afro Samurai bringing to the 360 in a third person Hack & Slasher. Namco Bandai has brought us such titles as Eternal Sonata, Ace Combat 6 and Soul Calibur IV to name a few, each different in there own right. Afro Samurai has been done upbeat like the cartoon but adds comic styling to the action that?s about to take place around you adding a different feel to the gameplay.

As you start your journey as Afro you meet your alter ego Ninja-Ninja who is your hype man famous for antagonizing and instigating you along the way. He also tends to cuss worse then a sailor just as he does in the series, so prepare yourself for an ear full when Ninja-Ninja speaks up. You learn the basic attacks first with Light hit-X, Heavy hit-Y, kick-B, Block-RT and Jump-A. Control wise it?s very easy to learn and get used to, but then again many button smashing games have an easy learning curve. Moving in to encounter your first fight the music, by The RZA, really sets the tone and does so throughout the game whenever you get into a battle, slicing and dicing the enemy to the beat. The music is the highlight, but some of the repetitive sounds from the enemies can get annoying. I remember during one fight a guy that just kept making sounds like he had serious mental issues.

The first enemies that confront you are Ronin Assassin?s, Ninja?s & Female Ninja?s, Gunners, Android ninja?s and later on Giants with clubs and Large Swordsmen trying to keep you, the No.2 headband wearer, from your path to revenge. Many of the enemies attacks come in groups to get you off guard, hitting you from the front and back, but working your combos will get you out of the trouble and some breathing room. Combos will give you Focus, engaging it slows down time, for more precise destruction and allowing some moves only available in that state. Taking out your foes gives you Focus but Experience allowing Afro to Level Up unlocking new skills, you will know the experience is gained as the Pendant on Afro?s sword glows Red, it also glows white when Focus is gained.

Afro gains a lot more moves as your Experience is obtained giving more tools in your arsenal to inflict damage on the enemies. When in the game you can stop the action and hit the Back button and bring up your list of available moves that you can unleash. This definitely can come in useful not to mention it?s nice to know what button combination's will perform what special attack. Especially since someone is always looking to take you out being the one who possesses the No. 2 Headband.

At certain times when confronted by the enemy Ninja-Ninja will offer for you to play a Body-part Poker challege. Once your engage if you get near Ninja-Ninja he will disappear and 3 cards will show on the bottom left of the screen with a cigarette light representing your time limit, 40-90secend, to create a playable hand. Depending on the opponent and the body part you slice will determine your hand or Lightning pounce and remove their heads. Experience, health and Focus are gained in winning a hand, but don't let time run out or bust!

Unfolding the story you learn that Afro had witnessed the tragic death of his father to Justice, beheading him as he watched wide eyed and in disbelief. ?This moment will always haunt you you?ll be consumed for hatred for me, Challenge me when you are ready to duel a God, hahahahaha? as Justice laughs and walks away after taking the No.1 headband from his father. So as you progress through the story you go back to when Afro fought for the No. 2 Headband and what he encountered along the way. Each level offering more insight into Afro?s past and the demon that haunts him.

Throughout the levels as you fight you?ll find Otsuru Bears that will give you full health and focus, but they are a reminder to Afro of the bloodshed on the way to claim the No. 2 headband, a time that haunts him. When your focus is maxed out your pendant will glow, upon entering Over Focus you will decapitate or dismember any enemies with one slice. Momentos are also located on each level, well 5 exactly, which are a group of crows unlocking memory fragments to new skills. The fifth of each momento found a quick flash of Afro's father's face is noticed, finding all will achieve fathers legacy. Some of each can be easily found in your journey and others not so easy making it a little more of a challenge to look around, but keep in mind if you die before a save point you?ve got to go back and get any bears or momentos that were acquired. I didn?t pick them all up on my first play through so I?ll have to be mindful and explore everything when playing back through on hard.

As I just mentioning the difficulty you start on is Normal but upon completion and returning to the Main Menu you can choose a New Game selecting Hard. When doing so you then get the option to carryover your previous skills, so select ?Yes?. In playing back through on Hard it makes the enemies attack a bit more fierce and the only way to regain health is from the Otsuru Bears, perfect slicing off a head or down between the eyes. Try not to get hit!!

The majority of the Boss battles you can find a rinse and repeat method that can work in taking them out. Some can be a little tricky in finding what it takes in completely eliminating them. One boss in particular will quickly learn your combo attacks so using a perfect slice and Dash attacks will work him over. Another key move, like any other fighting game, is the usage of the Block button to throw off the Boss in many cases leaving them vulnerable for your sword.

Graphically the scenery is very similar to the cartoon, with a great comic style cinematic when an enemy would be jumping in or making their presence into a battle. That added a different element as opposed to stopping the gameplay to see a cinematic of what?s getting ready to happen or go on. Although when the game was loading the next Chapter/Level it would be some of the same scenes and most of the time what?s being said was cut short. Besides that it was cool to looking around at the Dojo?s with there rice paper screens, stone oriental statues and spectacular views from the different areas you fight at.

I really enjoyed playing through the game and Leveling up Afro to learn his new skills and unleash the fury on my enemies, but sometimes found myself getting frustrated with the camera when having to wall run and crisscross jump and occasionally in a fight. The music laid down from The RZA definitely helps to get you psyched up when working your swordsmanship. Overall it was fun to play through and looking forward to facing the more difficult foes on hard adding that much more of a challenge to the second go round. AFRO!!!!!

It would be nice if some of the little camera issues could be worked out in an update and possibly some sort of DLC in the way of an additional mission or some sort of mass enemy, horde type, mode and see how many waves Afro can go through.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.9 / 10


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