Genji: Dawn of the Samurai
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
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.
A fun, flawed and very short game that would be a perfect weekend rental.
Rating: 7.8 Above Average
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I recently cleared the 10 year club with Gaming Nexus. Kind of surprised I've been a mainstay here for a little over a decade now.
In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers and have recently returned from a job in Texas doing production work for a company that did cell phone games. Now I'm working for a record label, along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.