A Samurai You Can Dig
April 28, 2008 – After so many games like Samurai Warriors and its cousin, Dynasty Warriors, it is hard not to have a rigid archetype in your mind about what a samurai looks and acts like. From what these games have told us, samurais are proud, tall, and pale. They have a calm demeanor, but will behead you without a moment’s notice. However, Afro Samurai is one series that is challenging these pre-conceived notions.
Afro Samurai first debuted in the US in 2007 to somewhat mixed reviews. It had a rather formulaic plot in which the titular Afro Samurai was out for revenge on the man who killed his father. There was a “No More Heroes” type of battle system in place, where there were different rankings of fighters, and a samurai’s goal was to be “Number One.” But in order to achieve this title you had to fight the current Number One. And you could not fight Number One without having a ranking of Number Two, and so on. But the anime (and the manga for that matter) did not necessarily hinge on the story per se. What was more interesting about this series was its style and its willingness to shy away from the beaten path.
This game also looks to go for a more non-traditional approach. The storyline will encompass the events of the first season of Afro Samurai (a whopping five episodes), as well as some relevant back-story that will help flesh out Afro’s legacy for fans of the series. The way the game handles these two components is fairly interesting, because instead of playing through the game and then having intermittent “flashback” levels, Afro Samurai lets you experience Afro’s history at your own pace by making the different flashbacks selectable at any time via the pause screen. So if you want to relive Afro’s past all at one time, you can knock it out all at once, or if you are the type who likes to savor the story, then you can gradually experience the back-story.
The story and the way it functions within the game are definitely cool aspects of Afro Samurai, but it is the overall look of the game most people will notice first. It sports an almost Okami-like hand drawn look and features a very dark color palette. And surprisingly enough, there is not too much cell shading in screenshots we have seen so far. Of course the cell shading is still there, but it seems that the game’s visual style uses dramatic lines and textures more than other anime stylized games in the past.
Another interesting difference between Afro Samurai and other anime-based games is that this title will feature a lot of blood and gore. This definitely won’t be akin to Naruto: Life of a Ninja or One Piece or any other anime-inspired brawler. Afro Samurai is a very dark and mature game, and the game definitely reflects this through some pretty grizzly moves. Particularly unpleasant is Afro’s ability to slice people in half and literally cut them to pieces. And while the development of the fighting mechanics is still underway, we’ve been told there will be rivers of blood coming out of this title. So while gore enthusiasts might rejoice at this news, fans of tamer anime brawlers might want to think twice before getting into this one.
A further unexpected facet of Afro Samurai comes in the form of what it does not include. Afro Samurai will be one of the first anime-inspired games I’ve ever seen that will not feature a health bar. Instead there will be a focus system, which will cause your moves to become wavering and unsteady when you are near death. Conversely, if you are doing an awesome job, your focus will become more acute and you will be able to dispatch your enemies faster and with greater (and bloodier) accuracy.
Afro Samurai is one of those games I feel will definitely supersede the anime upon which it is based. Although the original was never really that compelling, the game looks incredibly stylistic and has enough interesting elements to warrant a solid blip on the proverbial radar. Oh, and did I mention Samuel L. Jackson is going to reprise his role as the voice of Afro Samurai?