Developer: Namco-Bandai Games
Release Date: 1/27/2009
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The Good: Great graphics, voice acting, characters, and story, fun and gory combat
The Bad: Monotonous combat, very short, broken platforming, tough boss battles
Afro Samurai is just one of those comic/cartoons that you never really hear of until it’s a video game. Afro Samurai is about a ummm…samurai named…Afro…who is trying to find the #1 headband from the person who killed his father. Anyone who holds the #1 headband becomes a god and only the #2 bearer can challenge #1. While the story has interesting developments and great characters the game is mainly focused on combat. Afro, and Ninja Ninja, are voiced by Samual L. Jackson (you may have heard him as Officer Tenpenny in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) along with Justice being voice by Ron Perlman (Hellboy fame).
There are a lot of elements to the combat in AS, but the whole thing becomes very monotonous after a few levels. You have three basic attacks: Light, Heavy, and Kick (along with jump). You also have Focus attacks (which slow down time) and if you hold either heavy or light you with instantly slice in enemy to bits. Not all enemies can be easily succumbed to the Focus so some will have to be weakened before using this. There is also a Parry technique in which you can “mount” an enemy and slice their head off. Parry is essential to most boss fights (more on those later) and to staying alive.
While the combat is very satisfying only because of the sheer amounts of gore that are spilled it does become very repetitive. There are combos you can learn but they aren’t really necessary since you can just button mash most of the time. I particularly loved the gore since it isn’t canned and any part you slice off WILL come off. If you slice just the toe that comes off, slice a piece of a guys’ skin it comes off. The whole theme is very mature with lots of cussing, sexual innuendos, and nude polecats. Yes, nude female samurais…nothing’s hotter than that. Anyways, there are some platforming sections, but this part of the game is somewhat flawed since Afro likes to stick to things a lot and the controls for this can be somewhat unresponsive. Controls for combat are spot on, but they seem to become sluggish and sticky when your platforming.
Another great aspect (that I’m glad more developers are doing) is there is no HUD. Just like games such as Dead Space everything is on your main character to tell what’s going on. The more Afro glows red the closer you are to dying, when your focus is charged up Afro’s pendant sparkles…and that’s pretty much all you need. You do level up and learn new focus moves such as bullet slice (reflect and slice bullets in slow-mo), mounting etc. There are some different enemy types, but there could have been more. You’ll see a lot of the same ones half way through the game and it tends to add to the monotony.
Enemy AI is actually pretty good and you will have a challenge fighting off enemies by the dozens. Thankfully Afro is fully equipped to take on all these baddies. Combat doesn’t tend to get to frustrating until you get to bosses since the windows for attacking are so small it takes so much patience to kill them. While your character does level up it doesn’t really make a difference since it’s all set on auto really. The game is fairly short clocking in at about 4-6 hours depending on how you play the game and your skill level. There is zero replay value since there are no extra modes you unlock or anything. I just highly recommend Afro Samurai as a fun weekend rental.