This is a pretty straightforward third-person hack-’em-up and contains little or nothing in the way of surprises. That said the presence of Samuel L Jackson’s voice talent and the sheer bloodiness of the game lifts it quite a bit while the irritating difficulty of some of the sections does knock it down.
You play the hero of the title, the Afro Samurai, star of Manga, Anime and videogame. Afro is the orphaned sun of a great samurai who was killed by a strange, undead-looking cowboy called ‘Justice’. Consumed by a bitter desire for revenge Afro takes up his sword and the mystical number two headband and pursues Justice, guided by the mysterious Ninja Ninja.
Essentially this is an excuse for a lot of bloody swordplay, cloven limbs, sarcastic blaxploitation banter and peculiar steampunkish elements all combined together into an anime witch’s brew of potential awesomeness, that doesn’t quite get all the way to being awesome.
You run around in third person, jumping and running, triggering events, cleaving your way through hordes of lesser badguys and learning tactics to deal with the more powerful and effective badguys. The bosses take a lot of timing and care to defeat with the later ones becoming so irritating I couldn’t be arsed to complete the second to last boss and attack the main boss, it was that irritating.
Combat is alright, you can enter a turbo mode where time slows down and you can hack through dozens of bandits, ronin and so forth and there are special moves which temporarily slow things down just for the execution of that move. You can block and counterattack – more timed moves – and overall the combat does have the feel of a movie or anime swordfight, stylistic and bloody. That doesn’t save the gameplay from feeling extremely repetetive and the constant cutscenes and dialogue on loading screens (which almost always gets cut off as the game loads before it finishes) getting boring.
The game is largely bleak and empty, it doesn’t feel like a world but, rather, set pieces. The cel-shaded graphics are some of the better graphics of that type found in any game but the game still feels rather empty, flat and emotionless despite its rich background as a comic and an anime. It’s hard to buy into the characters or the story in order to enjoy it and there’s little or no depth to dig into.
The cel-shaded graphics are mentioned above as they enhance the atmosphere, but they are some of the better ones used in games anywhere that I’ve seen thus far. The stylistic design is good though the women (stripper ninjas and the short-term love interest) look… odd. Even more so than usual for games.
All mouth and no trousers.