Genji: Days of the Blade - updated hands-on

No matter how hard it tries, Genji: Days of the Blade will never, ever shake the stigma of its giant enemy crabs. One of the beasts was revealed during the E3 expo in May, and ever since, Genji has been the stuff of thousands of internet in-jokes. But behind those humongous crustaceans lurks a fast-paced,hauntingly pretty samurai epic that's finally looking ready for prime time.

While we haven't been too impressed with it in the past, Genji has rapidly shaped up since the last time we saw it. It's still not a graphical tour-de-force like some of the other PS3 launch games, but it has turned into a respectable hack-and-slasher (unlike the still dismal-looking Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, which is really going to have to pull it together to avoid the "pretty, but boring" tag).

The most notable addition this time around was the long-hidden fourth character, a spearman named Buson. We don't have any screenshots of Buson yet, but if you've played Genji: Dawn of the Samurai on PS2, you'll notice he looks suspiciously like that game's recurring (and final) boss, Kagekiyo Taira.

Above: No, that's not Buson. Didn't you read the paragraph above?

That's because he is Kagekiyo Taira, more or less. In fact, Buson is a god of war who inhabits Kagekiyo's corpse (which still has the twin slash wounds from hero Yoshitsune's killing blow), because it was the strongest body available when the god needed to be reincarnated.

Elaborate backstory aside, however, he kicks tremendous levels of ass, and his weaving, superfast spear strikesare almost as much fun to watch as they are to perform. With a few quick button presses, we unleashed twirling combos that devastated everything around us, and Buson's juggle move - which launches enemies into the air, after which he jumps up and slashes them a few dozen times on the way down - is awesome. He's also extremely quick on his feet, and using his fast dodge-and-strike combos served us well in carving a swath through enemy lines. His secondary weapon - a weird, Darth Maul-style staff with big oval blades at either end - wasn't quite as poetic, but it still got the job done nicely.