Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma – Volume 1 Review

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Action
 
Rating: M
 
Release Date: Available Now
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
1/5


User Rating
1 total rating

 

Positives


Strong Soundtrack

Negatives


Technical Issues
Haphazard Pacing
Graphically Uninspiring


0
Posted October 4, 2015 by

 
Full Article
 
 

When the Afro Samurai anime was released in 2007 it was a revelation to me. I hadn’t watched an anime that resonated with me so well since Cowboy Bebop, and it quickly earned a special place in my heart. The soundtrack was amazing, the action scenes incredibly choreographed and the voice acting was excellent. To say that I was excited when it was announced that the story would continue in Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma would be an understatement. Originally announced as a full action game, with no indication that it would it be episodic, Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma – Volume 1 was released with no fanfare and little warning. Releasing a game in this manner has quickly become a warning sign in the last few years, and it doesn’t take long to see why there was no fanfare.

Afro Samurai 2 begins with an opening cutscene that quickly recaps the end of the original Afro Samurai. Saying that it’s a cutscene may be going a bit far, as it’s just slow panning over character models with no backgrounds and then 2D images with voiceovers playing. Slideshows such as these play between and during chapters, with some of the early chapters having you spend more time watching them than actually playing the game.

However, these slideshows are also the nicest thing you will look at during the game. Graphically, Afro Samurai 2 is one of the worst looking games to be released in the current generation. With muddy textures, ugly character models and bland area design, you quickly stop paying attention to what you’re looking at as you play. There are also a number of rough edges in the game, including lots of clipping. Seeing your feet sink into the ground or half of your body disappear into a wall happens so often that you eventually end up ignoring it entirely. Enemies will have parts of their bodies mysteriously pass through their clothes, and every once in a while you will see the next room through a rock wall, which is not how walls are meant to work.

AS2-Screenshot-11-March-2015

Bad graphics in a game can be overlooked to a degree, as long as the game functions well mechanically and is fun to play. Sadly, that’s not the case here at all. Animations are stiff, and almost look to be missing frames. When you jump, your character hitches momentarily as you fall back to the ground. In fact, the framerate hitches constantly during gameplay, with later chapters having complete stops for over a second during busier fights. Having a game that is doing so little on-screen completely stop during gameplay is inexcusable.

Afro Samurai 2 is incredibly simple, as far as controls are concerned. Largely borrowing the style made famous by Batman: Arkham Asylum, you use one button to attack, one button to counter and another to execute finishing moves once you hit a high enough combo. To bring some variety to the game, you have three different fighting styles that you can switch between during fights. Each fighting style has its own special abilities. The Master fighting style allows you to execute a finishing move that hits a large area, the Kuma style has an execution move and an auto-kill attack that charges up over time, and the Afro style allows you to jump over enemies and deflect projectiles back at enemies. Each style can be upgraded through a skill tree, with the last slot in each skill tree being completely unobtainable until Volume 2 is released. It’s rather surprising to see something like that in the game, and leaves it feeling unfinished.

Chapters in Afro Samurai 2 all play out in a largely similar manner, you will fight enemies for between 1 and 2 minutes, walk very slowly for 20 seconds and then see a slideshow. The game constantly shifts from being a fast paced action game, to a very slow walking simulator as Kuma repeats the same lines over and over, and then cuts to a slideshow for a couple of minutes while you wait for the next action sequence to start. I can’t count the number of times I heard Kuma say, “I remember! I remember it all!”. The constant shifts in focus leaves the game feeling somewhat schizophrenic and makes me think that the developers couldn’t decide exactly what sort of game they wanted to make.

AS2-Screenshot-6-March-2015

Enemy encounters play out in largely similar fashions, but new enemy types are introduced relatively frequently to try and keep the battles fresh. Enemies in Afro Samurai 2 are generally easy to kill, but the controls are so loose that you will often find yourself missing enemies. Also, with no manual camera control it’s easy for enemies to duck just off screen and throw projectiles at you, ending your combo streak with no way to know you needed to dodge. With no combo system in the game, just the same three button mash at all times, the action is monotonous and boring.  Boss battles are another thing entirely, with all but one being QTE based. Quick time events can be interesting when used sparingly, but having to mash buttons rapidly for a minute plus without let up is just frustrating.

As well as the combat sequences and boss battles, there are also situations where you are tasked with running away from your enemies. In these situations, you are forced to run towards the screen, in scenes reminiscent of Crash Bandicoot, while dodging and destroying obstacles. The problem here is that the controls are so loose in the game that it can be quite hard to get through the gaps at times, and you’re often so close to the screen that you can’t see a lot of obstacles until you’ve hit them. This leads to a lot of frustration, as there isn’t a large margin for error at times and you can quickly die leading to a long wait as the game reloads the sequence you were in.

AS2-Screenshot-12-March-2015

There are only two redeeming qualities in Afro Samurai 2, with the first of those being the soundtrack. While the rest of the game fails around it, the beat heavy soundtrack pulses along and hypes you up. Filled with the R n’ B style that helped make Afro Samurai the experience that it was, the only negative is that there isn’t enough of it. While the sountrack is great, the character’s voices are tinny and distant, with Kuma simply repeating lines that he used in the anime. After seeing the credits and not seeing a voice actor listed for Kuma it became apparent that they had copied audio directly from the anime and had not recorded new lines for many characters in the game. The second redeeming quality of Afro Samurai 2 is how quickly the experience is over. Volume 1 can comfortably be completed in a single sitting, lasting between 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on how often you die.

Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma – Volume 1 wishes it was simply a forgettable game, because that would be an improvement on the experience it provides. With the sudden announcement that it would be episodic, the abrupt release, the cliff-hanger ending, skill options that can’t be unlocked and general quality issues, it would appear that the game was released unfinished. Afro Samurai 2 is one of the worst games I have played, both technically and creatively, and even stalwart fans of Afro Samurai should avoid this game at all costs.


Andrew Cathie

 
Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.


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