Afro Samurai (Xbox 360) review
"Afro Samurai is at its best when it just wants to be a simple, 3D hack 'n slash title. The game will try to convince you that it's deeper by giving you such abilities as a parry move, but it's completely useless when you're up against more than two opponents. When you're fighting five or six foes at a time, parrying is completely out of the question, and you'll simply have to hack 'n slash like crazy, stringing together combos with the light slash, heavy slash, and kick buttons. If the si..."
Afro Samurai is at its best when it just wants to be a simple, 3D hack 'n slash title. The game will try to convince you that it's deeper by giving you such abilities as a parry move, but it's completely useless when you're up against more than two opponents. When you're fighting five or six foes at a time, parrying is completely out of the question, and you'll simply have to hack 'n slash like crazy, stringing together combos with the light slash, heavy slash, and kick buttons. If the situation gets too out of hand, you can rely on your special attacks, which you activate by holding down the LT button. The screen then suddenly turns black and white, and everything slow downs, giving you the opportunity to charge up your attack and slice any nearby, unfortunate enemy into several pieces. If you're willing to wait out a little longer, though, you can unleash an even deadlier attack that can instant-kill every standard foe in the area.
However, with such a simple formula, the game can easily fall into the trap of becoming repetitive. The developers probably thought about this too, which is why Afro Samurai has a bit of variety injected into it. Though, in their attempt to mix things up, they only made things worse.
They decided to include platforming segments. Now, this is always a tricky thing to implement into a 3D game, and if not handled carefully, you can easily have a mess to deal with. Afro Samurai's platform segments are a mess you'll have to deal with. To start off, your character's jumps feel more like hops, which can be problematic, especially since the edges of platforms are half-assedly programmed. Some of them prevent you from falling off when you walk to a side, and some of them, you guessed it, don't. This puts you in the uncomfortable position of either choosing to jump early or possibly fall off when you get close. Thankfully, there isn't a single moving platform in Afro Samurai you have to suffer with. This whole ordeal would have been one hell of a nightmare if they thought to include them.
Add in the ability to run on walls... and you have something sloppy. The bad thing about this is that you can't run on every wall in this game, so, again, you're stuck having to guess how to reach the next platform; in almost every platforming situation that involves a possible death, you'll have a 50/50 chance of getting it right the first time. Now, if a certain segment involves running on the side of a wall, get ready to struggle with a connection. The walls in these moments are sensitive bastards, letting you fall to your death if you don't jump on them juuuuuuuuuuust right. It's a good thing Afro Samurai is pretty laid back when it comes to its checkpoint system: every time you die, you normally respawn close to your death. I can't even fathom the frustration this game would've been like with checkpoints far apart from one another.
Another issue I found irritating is how unclear the game becomes when you're figuring out what to do next. The best example is an infamous moment known to everyone that has played Afro Samurai, which occurs at the start of the fifth chapter: the rope incident. Samuel L. Jackson, the main voice talent of the game, simply tells you to cut the rope. When I took a stab at it... I took a stab at it for 20 minutes, while Samuel L. Jackson continued to tell me to cut it every ten seconds. I never thought in my life that I would dream of wanting to ripe his vocal cords out, because his voice was pissing me off so much. Truly an absurd video game moment I wasn't expecting... Eventually, I caved in and decided to seek out some advice on this particular moment. Turns out I had to cut the rope in a specific manner, using a specific move, at a specific angle. Of course, the developers obviously thought I could figure all that out with the simple phrase they gave me.
I should also mention that Afro Samurai can get glitchy, as I've run into instances where I was stuck in one place, due to a certain element disappearing (like an enemy) or something that's been triggered before it was supposed to (a lever being pulled). However, they weren't game-breaking, and thanks again to the lax checkpoint system, I was able to repeat the process quickly, with the problem not being present anymore. I know I'm just repeating what I've said before, but, it scares me to imagine how bad this game could have turned out if it weren't for the fun hack 'n slash segments and its merciful stance on dying. I commend the developers for attempting to spice up the gameplay, but considering how the finished product turned out, they should have just stuck with the swordplay, trying to improve on that, instead.
Community review by pickhut (August 15, 2009)
Alternative tagline: Hit the Road, Jack.
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