August 3, 2009

Afro Samurai

Grundy the Man Says: When you look back at some of the greatest titles to grace the Action game genre there is one name that rings more true than any other: Ninja Gaiden. Afterall, it would have to be exceptional to warrant TWO remakes for the original Xbox and once for the PlayStation 3. There were so many things that made this game great. With that in mind, let’s reflect on another game that aspires to reach this level of greatness: Afro Samurai.

Released in January of 2009, the game loosely follows the events of the popular anime series of the same name. The main crux of the story revolves around Afro’s quest, who along with his imaginary companion Ninja Ninja, are hunting down the individuals who possess the ceremonial headbands of the top two ninjas in the world. This is also a bittersweet tale of revenge for Afro, who is searching for the man who brutally murdered his father when he was a youth. Adding further validity to the game, many of the original voice actors from the cartoon have reprised their roles, including the likes of Phil LaMarr, Ron Pearlman, John DiMaggio, T.C. Carson, and Samuel L. Jackson.

One factor that Afro Samurai has in its favor is the unique art style. Modeled after the cartoon, the game has a cell shaded appearance that is very reminiscent of the open-world adventure title, Crackdown. However, that is where the similarities end, because the over-the-top violence almost tarnishes the mood that the aesthetic tries so hard to establish. Though it was part of the animated show, the geysers of blood and disembodied corpses seem out of place.

Possibly the most damming flaw is the repetitive combat system. There is never a need to learn more than a basic set of four or five combos, because that is all that you need to be successful. At no point is there any incentive to expand beyond the initial move set. Due to this lack of progression, every battle seems both repetitive and unnecessary.

When it comes right down to it, Afro Samurai is a mediocre action game that offers very little to those that are not already fans of the franchise. Think twice about picking this up and instead opt to acquire a copy of Ninja Gaiden Black for Xbox 360 owners or Ninja Gaiden Sigma on the PlayStation 3.