Afro Samurai Review
DJ drop me a funky beat, because once the Afro Samurai draws his sword the dance has already begun! If you thought the path of a samurai would be full of glory and adoring fans, think again. Your fantasy world is about to turn into a nightmare. Ask our boy Afro, holder of the number 2 head band, if he is living the life of glory and honor. You will probably end up missing a hand before he would even consider answering your question. From the creative mind of Takashi Okazaki, featuring the voice talents of Samuel Jackson, Kelly Hu, and Ron Pearlman, and also introducing music by The RZA from Wu Tang, I hereby welcome you all to our Afro Samurai Review for the Xbox 360.
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Revenge is said to consume a person's soul, and once you seek out vengeance everyone around you ends up hurt. Afro is the seeker of the #1 headband (the marker worn by the top dog in this anime universe) so he can finally put his slain father’s soul to rest. However, becoming the number 2 has made Afro a target to every known thug, ronin, and shinobi who want to take his title. Followed by his sidekick Ninja Ninja, Afro's life has been transformed into a living hellish nightmare offset only by his own motivating bloodlust. But why all the hype over his second-tier headband you ask? Simply put, if you are the #2, that means only you can take on the #1 which is like being one step away from God in the Samurai world. Wearing the #2 headband is like proclaiming that you have one day left before retirement in a cop movie -- it's just asking for trouble.
If you watched the anime series you will already have an idea of how the combat will play out in the video game. You will execute heavy slashes with Y, quick slashes with X, use A for jumping, B are your kicks, Right trigger is block, Left trigger is your focus where everything slows down and then Left Bumper is your berserk or one hit kill focus. While in focus you can execute different maneuvers such as back flips, redirect bullets or execute precise finishing slashes. During the duration of your quest you will also unlock skills through leveling up Afro and each skill falls in different categories, however mastering each will take some time. The enemy AI is very competent at combat and you will get a whole lot of different enemies from Ronins to Ninja cyborgs. Each adversary brings in a new challenge where some will be dumb enough to fall for the simple attacks while others will be more smart and dodge a lot. They will all attack you in a cluster so you will have to dodge and weave your way through the collective of enemies.
In the game there is no health meter but instead your character suffers from increased fatigue leading towards being dead. You will notice a read aura growing around Afro which will indicate he is about to die. You will either have to kill enemies to calm the aura down or run away and wait for it to subside. There are little teddy bears located on the level that will restore your health so you can jump back into the battle. Other enemies will be having guns while you are fighting a dozen enemies at once which can work at your advantage. If a sniper fires, you can use focus to either send the bullet back to the shooter or cut the bullet in pieces to kill whoever is behind you. The shrapnel will take care of any enemy that is trying to attack you from behind. I favor that move a lot to be honest.
Since the story is done somewhat differently than the manga or the anime series it will be a retelling to those who have not yet read the story. In Afro samurai you should not see him as a hero because during his travels you will come to know how many innocents have been killed on his quest for vengeance. Speaking of which we should talk about the soundtrack of the game which was supervised by "The RZA" from the famous "WU TANG CLAN". The game is packed with an awesome mix of different artist specifically to enhance the idea and game play of Afro's journey. The music seems to work well with the combat like your own special partner giving you the right motivation to take on these foes standing in your way.
The main bad guys are the "Empty Seven", "Jinno/Kum, "Okikou", "Android Afro" and of course "Justice". The "Empty Seven" has this idea that if they obtain the number 1 head band they will become immortal so if you want to know where all the enemies are coming from, I can give you seven guesses. The voice acting is amazing, since they have all the originals from the anime involved -- especially Sam Jackson who does most of the talking for your alter ego "Ninja Ninja" which serves as the comic relief of the game. Afro Samurai is a "M-rated" title because of all the blood and cursing; also some partial nudity within certain areas. Yes the slicing engine is the best part since you can choose what parts of the body you will slice off of an opponent. It is so detailed you can slice off fingers and toes if you so desire.
There are statistics that will display what you have done or how much damage you dealt through the story. It will give you states on how much blood you spilled to how many heads you cut off. This information comes in handy for the achievements you will obtain and my favorite so far is slicing four people at once during combat.
The main gripe I have with Afro Samurai is the camera. Instead of making it a fixed camera they decided to give full control to the user; however that is a mistake since you have to do too much in looking around and having to deal with enemies coming from all sides. At least give the user a reposition button to center the camera at a certain spot just in case you can't be bothered with doing it yourself. This single player title which can be beaten in a day however should not stray you away from how awesome the story is.
The bottom-line is that you have a great soundtrack with massive combat situations especially the fun body part poker where you need to slice off pieces of your opponent to get a straight flush or other earnings to obtain that portion of the game. There is some sweet voice acting which leaves you laughing and brings a lot of emotion to each of the characters. It is a great samurai re-imagining done in a unique way with a weird and stylish anti-hero. The only thing missing is for the developers to be so kind as to fix the camera. For their first title I was very impressed and they gave us what the fans wanted. I will have to give Afro Samurai for the Xbox 360 a solid 4 fresh lemonades out of 5. Stay frosty gamers and keep your Afros tidy!
Developer: Namco Bandai
Pros: Good music, action paced slicing, story line works with the manga, great voice acting and easy achievements.
Cons: dealing with a manual camera controls.
Xboxist Rating: 4 out of 5.