Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked

Hungry samurai and hip-hop beats make for a truly original slash-'em-up

Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked is unequivocally the weirdest slash-'em-up we've ever seen. Created by the mad geniuses behind Killer 7, it follows the adventures of Mugen and Jin, two wandering samurai charged with protecting a young woman named Fuu, whose hobbies include eating and being kidnapped. Throwing historical accuracy to the wind, the game (like the anime series it's based on) is a hyperstylized, hip-hop-saturated romp through 19th-century Japan. And man is it ever bizarre.

We've spent some time with an unfinished version of the game, and while there are still some rough edges (like, say, the lack of a pause feature), we can say that Sidetracked takes an innovative approach to hacking and slashing. The action is simple, with nigh-invincible heroes who automatically lock onto their nearest enemies -but the way it's presented turns an otherwise unremarkable game into something unique.

First, there's the role that music plays. As they battle through the game, players will be able to buy background-music tracks, which can then be "carried" two at a time. The trick is that each one activates a different fighting style, and switching between them lets players bust out a wide assortment of slashing combos as blasts of color pop up all over the screen. This also enables you to enter "hyper" mode; once you've cut your way through enough enemy samurai, monkey ninjas or whatever, pulling off a certain combo will briefly turn you into a superfast slashing machine.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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