What is it about launch games that cause us to criticize them so much? Perhaps it’s because we need to feel satisfied when dropping over $600 for a brand new console that was supposed to deliver the first true next-generation experience. Genji: Days of the Blade is the follow-up to last year’s PS2 offering of hack and slash goodness, and while it does show off some of the system’s graphical muscle it fails to deliver in almost all areas where it counts the most; gameplay.
Anyone who played the original Genji knows the deal here. You have hacking and of course slashing through gorgeous ancient Japanese locales in the same vain as Capcom’s Onimusha series. With that said you should also be aware of the problems that those aforementioned titles brought with them such as a static camera and limited environments to explore. Sadly Days of the Blade has not fixed either of these issues in it’s first PS3 outing and it really causes the game to grow old and repetitive way before it gets going.
Not all is lost in translation though as the guys at Game Republic have thrown in a few new features that do give the game a bit of life. For starters you now control up to four characters at once as opposed to the single hero in the first game. This can be performed on-the-fly by simply tapping the corresponding direction on the d-pad. The lead character, named Yoshitsune, is by far the most well-rounded and enjoyable character to play as. The rest of the cast is truly forgettable, but the devs have done a nice job of integrating their specific abilities into the gameplay so that you are forced to use them from time to time.
Thankfully the mechanic works great and swapping characters in and out of battle will become second nature very quickly. Unfortunately the game doesn’t always give you the best hint as to which character to use in specific boss fights which leads to one of gaming’s most feared clichés, trial and error. There is nothing more frustrating than facing off against a formidable boss, let’s say for instance a giant crab, only to find out that his weakness was on the bottom of his armor; yeah I couldn’t let this review go without a crab joke I apologize.
Each of your four warriors will also be granted weapon upgrades throughout the game which can be switched in real-time. Yes I am once again poking fun at the infamous demonstration of this game, but seriously is this a feature that truly defines next-generation technology?!? Each weapon does give your character an upper-hand in battle and they do make slicing through the drones much faster.
The combat in Genji is pretty cut and dry, if you have ever played a game of this type you have no doubt seen it done before and most likely a lot better. Each level consists of hacking away at hordes of ridiculously stupid enemies in confined spaces with some pretty horrendous camera angles. There were many occasions where I died simply because I couldn’t see the enemy attacking me off-screen. Now if you truly want to define the next generation of gaming how about giving me some camera controls, now that would be helpful. Another feature of the combat is called Kamui, in this mode you go into a sort of mini game where well-timed button presses will eliminate all enemies onscreen without you worrying about taking damage. Be warned though that the AI can also perform this tactic and if you fail that mini game the damage sustained will be massive.
As far as the levels are concerned you will often times find yourself wanting to explore the rich detailed environments only to run into the familiar invisible walls. The problem I have here is that the game itself displays some truly gorgeous and massive levels yet you feel confined almost through the entire game. On occasion you will need to use a specific character to scale a wall or move an object, but for the most part you are forced to move forward, slice through a group of enemies, and move onto the next batch. This kills any form of exploration through these gorgeous levels and really drags down the immersive experience you would expect from a next-generation game.
The visuals in Genji are one of its finer points displaying gorgeous textures and animation that really are worthy of being on the PS3 hardware. However if you don’t have an HDTV most of this will go unnoticed as the game is really hard to differentiate from a PS2 game without the advantage of the higher resolution. Gorgeous lighting and outstanding fire effects will wow gamers with the proper setup, but those without the expensive TV set will find themselves wondering if someone slipped a copy of the original Genji for the PS2 into their new shiny console.
Even with the lush and gorgeous visuals Genji can not hide the fact that the game feels forced at times. The combat gets repetitive too fast and there just isn’t enough here to really immerse the player into the game. The biggest problem with this game is that you have seen it before a million times and on most occasions it was done bigger and better. Launch games are usually disappointing, but Genji is one game that will not make you happy about your big purchase. Fans may find something to love here but most people will find an unpolished, mindless hack and slash that could have easily been done on the PS2.