Afro Samurai – hands-on

Why has it taken so long to put Samuel L. Jackson in a videogame?

Within seconds of picking up the pad we’d sliced a man’s head like a pineapple, heard more swearing in one minute than you’d see in an afternoon of Sunday League football and Samuel L. Jackson had turned up as jive-talking mentor, Ninja Ninja. All against the backdrop of a thumping new tune by Wu Tang Clan’s RZA. Good? Afro Samurai looks damned amazing.

Deep breath, calm down. Let’s look at this logically. It’s a by-the-book action adventure where you get to roam around various feudal Japanese villages accepting missions, defending characters against hoodlums and the like, with the ultimate aim of finding and slaying the legendary fighter, Justice. Afro Samurai is – cough – seeking Justice. All right then. It’s a fairly run-of-the-mill set-up, only as soon as we picked up the pad the game exploded in color: the cel-shaded, Okami look to the action grabs you by the throat. The animation is top draw and everything about Afro Samurai feels right. There’s a clear determination to adhere to the style and attitude of the manga by Takashi Okazaki that the game is based on.

For a visually arresting ‘comic’ game like this, Afro Samurai is massively gory. We’re not just writing this to grab your interest - the game really drips with blood. The combat system enables you to enter Focus time, which then means you can target each limb, body area, finger, foot or ear with your sword strikes. Get a clean hit and Afro will slice his enemies’ bits off. It gives a new meaning to ‘sword play’.

Not in a pre-determined, pre-animated God of War way, but in a slice-any-part-of-the-body-you-hit way. You can cut off slivers of a man’s head or take off an arm a strip at a time like you’re slicing salami. It’s a unique kind of combat system, which, married to the arresting visual style, feels incredibly fresh. Whether Afro Samurai is style over substance remains to be seen.

The swordplay looks pretty awesome and the visuals are incredibly cool, but if that’s all there really is to the game then it’ll quickly begin to bore you to tears. After all, we’ve been burnt before by games that promised gameplay to match the swish visuals but failed to deliver. We’ve got a sneaking suspicion that Afro Samurai could be the same. We hope we’re wrong, as an original and quirky take on swordplay is exactly what we haven’t seen lately.

Dec 19, 2008

We recommend