It'd be easy to write off Afro Samurai as another cheap cash-in on a successful franchise. The Spike TV animated show is a cult hit and we all know what happens when you try to tie in a video game to an established IP, right? Wrong. Afro Samurai is bloody, beautiful and entertaining.
One glimpse at the game's production value is bound to impress even the most cynical of gamers. From the A-List Hollywood line-up of voice actors to the fantastic RZA-produced hip-hop soundtrack, Afro Samurai spares no expenses in completely immersing the player in the game's unique, blood-spattered universe.
Afro Samurai: Cel-Shaded Samurai
The first thing gamers are bound to notice when they plug in Afro Samurai is the game's exquisite art design. From the title's sketchy cross-hatched visuals to the water coloured scenery, the game really looks and feels like it was painted on your screen.
The cel-shaded graphics only intensify the stylish experience, truly making you feel like you're playing through an episode of the television show. This idea is complimented through events and characters ripped straight from the show, not to mention trademark moves you'd only find in a property as completely ridiculous as Afro Samurai (slicing sniper bullets in half an instant before impact, anybody?)
Afro Samurai: "Yes. They Deserved to Die!"
Afro Samurai doesn't hide the fact that it's a slice and dice brawler through and through. With the game's deeply rooted combat system playing such an integral role, the brawling is a real sink or swim situation.
Thankfully, Afro Samurai's innovative hack and slash fighting is an absolute blood-soaked blast. Similar to most brawlers, you're equipped with the bare essentials (heavy attack, quick attack, etc) and an insane amount of enemies to test those moves out on.
Where Afro really shines, however, is stringing these attacks together in utterly ridiculous (and sometimes seemingly endless) combos resulting in some of the bloodiest finishers this side of No More Heroes.
Afro also has access to a "Focus" mode which kicks in a slo-mo effect similar to FEAR's reflex time. While in Focus mode the action slows down as speed lines fill your screen and your surroundings turn black and white, each timed strike incredibly devastating to those around you.
Focus attacks are incredibly fun to execute and range from vastly entertaining to utterly ridiculous as you slice the torsos of five enemies at the same time, your sword acting as a hot knife through butter.
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Afro Samurai: Blood Is Beautiful
While the game's faithfulness to the show is refreshing, the storytelling is rather inconsistent. I found myself lost from time to time as I ventured through Afro's disturbed memories. The platforming segments are also schizophrenic in their difficulty - they're either insultingly easy or obscenely difficult.
Much in the vein of the Prince of Persia series, Afro can wall-run and leap across ledges in certain environments, but with clunky detection as well as clipping issues when it comes to some of Afro's more difficult acrobatic pursuits, the game just becomes plain frustrating in an extreme trial and error manner.
Still, Afro Samurai is bloody, beautiful and entertaining. I just wish the experience had been more consistent throughout; if it had, it would have gotten a much higher score for sure. But fans of the TV series will definitely want to pick this one up; newcomers to the franchise should also have no problem enjoying this gorgeous genre-twisting brawler.