Genji: Dawn of the Samurai

Review

posted 11/14/2005 by Matt Mirkovich
other articles by Matt Mirkovich
Genji: Dawn of the Samurai has managed to build a love/hate relationship with me during the time that I’ve sat down and played it. On one hand it’s got a beautiful landscape and character design, excellent music, amazing CG cut scenes, strong graphics, a near flawless frame rate, and a very strong base for a story. But for the really strong positives it has, there are glaring negatives; lack of anti-aliasing, very repetitive and easy game play, and worst of all, it is terrifyingly short, has a very weak resolution and has virtually no end-game. I blazed through this game in quite literally a day, and when I got to the end I was left thinking, “This can’t be over already… damn, it is.”

Genji starts off by filling you with a great back story, the Genji clan and the Heishi clan are at war, the winner would be determined to be the most powerful family in Japan. The Heishi have the upper hand thanks to the god-like powers of their generals and would rule over Kyoto, but the ones who would bring the Heishi down would not be the powerful warlords from other various parts of the nation but would be Yoshitsune and Benkei descendants of the Genji clan. With the power they are granted that is called Kamui, they will fight and overthrow the Heishi. It all starts out well and good but rushes to the end very quickly, and does not seem to offer the resolution I was hoping for, a lot of the times it seemed like the story was swept under the rug in exchange for pretty graphics.

Genji does a damn fine job of looking pretty, to say the game is colorful is quite an understatement. If you’ve seen the recent Jet Li film; Hero, then picture that as the background for this game, very bright, and very attractive. This is accentuated by the solid 60 frames per second that this game runs at. All this comes at a price though as the game suffers horridly from aliasing issues, almost to the point of being Ridge Racer 5 quality. A lot of your time will be spent wading through hordes of soldiers, but when you get a chance, just stop and soak in the sights, and sounds, it’ll draw you in like a beautiful painting. A place to note in particular is when looking for a special sword for Yoshitsune, the waterfalls and general backdrop of the location is just a sight to behold, I’m torn between that location and the golden forest that you enter early in the game. The CG work in this game is also fantastic, every cut-scene is well animated and is very detailed and fluid. I can only hope the PS3 release of Genji will look this good.

When it comes to sound, you don’t get a more Japanese title than this. There is no English audio track, and the background/battle music sound like something you would expect to hear from eastern lands. If I were a bit more cultured I would tell you about the instruments that are all over this game, but I’ll just keep it simple, it sounds fabulous. I really have no complaints about the game in this regard.

Where things start to come undone falls mainly in how the game-play is executed. For the most part this game is a straight-up hack and slasher, and it’s not one that require a little bit of finesse like Onimusha, this game is simply all about mowing down tons and tons of nameless and faceless soldiers all while you gain levels and do a little bit of stat boosting. Throughout the game you’ll find many items that will change your stats and offer you resistances, but in all seriousness I never found a use for those items.




In an attempt to spice things up however, Gaming Republic saw fit to implement a little bit of the Matrix formula into their game. Yoshitsune and Benkei have an ability called Kamui which allows them to see the moves of their opponents, basically slow down time. The more Kamui that you use the slower your opponents will move, and as your opponent draws near the square button will appear below your character given them the opportunity at a one hit kill. Some monsters will also drop special items that can be used for making new stronger weapons or armor when you hit them with a Kamui attack. One of the pluses to the combat system is how free it is, once you start attack an enemy you are free to branch off and attack another enemy by moving the left analog stick in the direction of your target and hitting one of the attack buttons. However there isn’t a whole lot of variety to these attacks which causes them to get old very fast. Couple this with the very small variety of enemies that you will be fighting and you can see why I’m rough on this game.

A heavy emphasis has been placed on exploration, Benkei and Yoshitsune each have their own areas to explore but there are a few times where their paths cross and you can check out areas that the other character previously explored, this usually results in finding new items and weapons. The amount of exploration isn’t a major focus but it is a nice distraction from mowing down enemies.

I don’t know if this is to compensate for the weak game play but this game is also awfully short. My first play through clocked in at just under seven hours and that was with an hour on pause. The game consists of three chapters the last of which is a rehash of a previous area only with cosmetic changes. The story rushes along at a very brisk pace and has a few detours, but it is over very quickly, and a lot of the characters in the story seem to just, blink out of existence, this left the game feeling very incomplete to me. The PS3 sequel that is due will hopefully elaborate more on the story. Also the opening cinema made it seem like there was more than one general fighting for the Heishi, hopefully more generals will be introduced in the future. In terms of extras there really isn’t a whole lot that this game has going for it, a voice collection, harder difficulty, and the option to play the game with the last clear data, very bare bones with nothing that makes me want to play through again.

After completing Genji: Dawn of the Samurai I came away feeling like the game was way too short, but perfect for the weekend. If you’ve got a weekend to kill then I really could not think of a better game, even with the flaws present in the game. The look and feel of the game is what draws you in but ultimately it is the shallow game play that makes the game a slight chore to play, coupled with the lack of extra content and you have a game that really is over before it feels like it should be over. Eventually this game will reach Greatest Hits status and at that point I would highly recommend picking it up, but at forty bones there are a few other games you can pick up that offer a bit more robust an experience.





C+
A fun, flawed and very short game that would be a perfect weekend rental.