Afro Samurai is both uninteresting to play and also really impressive to look at. Not having seen the anime series or the movie, I'm going to assume that they're both similar in this regard.
I wasn't sure what I thought about Afro Samurai until an hour ago, when I decided to play it a bit more to finalize my thoughts. As I sat in my chair playing the game, I zoned out and just kinda pressed buttons to attack. There was no thought behind it, and there really wasn't any feedback (more on this later). The strange thing was that this trance was nothing like the Zen-type state one gets in when playing Geometry Wars, when they block out everything else and focus on the game, making time slow down and all the right paths appear in front of you. This zoned-out trance lasted a good ten minutes before I realized that I was getting no enjoyment whatsoever from the game. Then it struck me: I hadn't really had fun the entire time.
That's not to say that Afro Samurai is a bad game. I can find a bunch of tiny things to nitpick, like how none of your hits feel like they're actually connecting, or how the camera can sometimes get in the way, but on the whole, there's not a lot bad with what's there. The biggest problem with Afro Samurai seems to be what's not there, which is fun. I hate to cut this game down, but the entire time I was playing it, I kept wondering why I wasn't playing something like Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry, similar games in the same genre that each do something really well.
I'm not against swearing by any means, but seriously, characters in Afro Samurai say "fuck" or "mothafuckas" like it's going out of style, and it very quickly gets to the point where it's no longer shocking and carries no weight. The entire point of "fuck" as an expletive is that it's the worst of the worst, and only to be used for special occasions. When three-quarters of the characters say it, you realize that the game wants to be vulgar for the sake of vulgarity. Speaking of reasons it's rated M, in the first level you fight naked ninja women for no apparent reason. You just walk into this room, and they say something like "We'll fucking kill you" and then they try to.
There's really not a lot to talk about gameplay-wise when it comes to Afro Samurai. If you've ever played a 3rd-person ninja game, chances are you're familiar with what you can do; slash, slash some more, jump, run up walls, run along walls, jump off the top of walls onto other parts, etc. When attacking your enemies, you never get the feeling that you've actually hit them. No matter how long I played this game, combat was just an uninteresting button mash fest. Enemies are polite in that they turns to attack you, letting each person have his alone time with you.
The one thing that I really enjoyed with Afro Samurai was the presentation. The game looks like an anime, as is the trend in gaming right now (Prince of Persia comes to mind for a comparison), and there's no HUD. Literally, there's no head's up display. No health gauge, no mini-map, no experience bars. The only way to tell how hurt you are is how red Afro's clothes get; the redder they are, the closer to death you are, likewise for the enemies. It's refreshing to be presented with a screen that's not clustered up with a thousand bars, maps, and score tickers. Watching the game in motion really does look like the anime.
There's just not a lot to Afro Samurai. If the game was bad, I'd be able to complain for a thousand words about everything, but instead, I just rambled about the game. Which, coincidentally, is how the game feels. Afro Samurai is the video game equivalent of rambling about anything and everything that comes to your mind; while it may sound interesting, there's not a lot of substance to it.
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
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