Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Review
New from Versus Evil and Redacted Studios is the second installment of the Afro Samurai series and it is every bit as anime styled as you would expect, supported by an entirely hip-hop soundtrack. Continuing the story after the original Afro Samurai title, this story focuses on Kuma, after he nearly dies whilst watching his family as they were brutally murdered. Rising from near death and improved with cybernetically enhanced body parts, Kuma seeks revenge against Afro Samurai: Afro’s selfish actions lead to the murder of Kuma’s family. More enemies wait between Kuma and his revenge, led by his dead little sister Otsuru he searches for Afro, whilst Afro and the other enemies search for a symbolic headband that started this saga in the first place.
To appreciate the story start from the first Afro Samurai game: context for the events is shown but the impact of everything is lessened because there is no former knowledge of the characters or why you should care. I write this as a person who has not played the original game and was incredibly confused about the relationships everyone had and the significance of many plot points. Kuma is the main character and he yells his sisters’ name out… a lot, which can be grating after several hours. Hearing Otsuru’s name every 30 seconds crates a problem because she is dead and you are following her ghostly form, listening childish giggles. This happens for so much of the game that it is entirely possible to develop an irrational hatred of a non-playable character. Another hugely repeated phrase was ‘What have you done!’, screamed repeatedly in defeaning tones at multiple enemies. There was promise in the story line of betrayal, Samurais, and friends turned enemies and I’m unsure if it is my inexperience with the original game/manga/anime that contributed to my dislike of the game.
Graphically the game was confusing: beautifully designed but terribly executed, where the camera frequently pans through rock faces as you navigate Kuma through chapters. Presented in third person view the layout of the levels mixed with the awkwardness of the camera angles, one of the biggest disappointments was how hard it was to focus on what was happening… mostly because half the time you couldn’t see it. Afro Samurai’s manga style artwork included lots of heavy shading; rich with the darkness that encases the game’s storyline. When a level starts from a birds eye view and is filled with shadows, rocks and the ever present enemies, it removes a lot of the desire to continue playing because more energy is expended discovering where your path is instead of enjoying an easily presented an organic experience. In defence of the game it must be said that the art style is beautifully designed, it is buggy, has delayed inputs for attacks and quick time events, but looks really pretty most of the time doing it.
Combat is initially rather cool: Kuma has an impressive arsenal of attacks that had him flipping around enemies in a whirlwind of blades leaving dismembered body parts littering the ground like confetti at a party. Sadly there are two problems with the combat, the first being most of the game’s frame rate issues happen mid battle. Confetti like body parts are all well and good but lose their visual impact when you miss the part between the blade hitting body parts and those parts hitting the floor. Secondly, the enemies are too easy to overcome; many can be outrun and ignored until you are ready to turn them into human garden mulch. Quick time events also contribute to the problems with the combat: inconsistent input timing meant that quick time events had to be replayed several times without any difference in button strokes.
It must be said that I honestly hate Hip-Hop music, Heavy Metal is more my speed… so, when the soundtrack for Afro Samurai kicked in and it was comprised exclusively of Indie Hip-Hop I wondered when the bleeding from my ears would start. Negative as my predictions might have been, they were hasty and wrong, it was well directed to suit the story and undeniably catchy. I won’t go as far as saying that I enjoyed the soundtrack, but it wasn’t terrible either, there may have been some head bopping and foot tapping.
Overall I wasn’t highly impressed with Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma because: the story was confusing; combat and enemies had problems; the camera angles were awkward; it had a hip-hop soundtrack; and there were issues with quick time events. That’s a long list of complaints and being fair I don’t like hip-hop music or quick time events to begin with., nor was I familiar with the backstory of this series. With those negative things being mentioned, the positive aspects to this game were the amazing attack styles and the art style that was so well suited to the manga/anime roots of the story. This kind of game would suit someone who generally enjoys JRPG style games and anime style hack and slack titles, an interest in hip-hop music probably wouldn’t hurt either.
About: Sarah Rigg
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