cardon's Genji: Days of the Blade (PlayStation 3) review

Genji offers a solid experience despite having some flaws

Genji is probably one of the most talked about PS3 games but for all the wrong reasons. At E3 2006 it got the attention of many due to a somewhat poor stage demo complete with the instant catchphrases of the year ‘Massive Damage’ and ‘Real Time Weapon Switching’ along with having ‘historically’ accurate monster crabs. Many have shrugged Genji off since E3 but Genji is actually one of the more surprising launch titles.

Genji Days of the Blade picks up 3 years after the events of the first Genji. The hero of the first game, Yoshi has successfully driven away the Heishi forces. The land is in a state of peace until the Heishi strike again imbued with the power of Amahagane, divine stones that bring godlike power to its wielder. Yoshi and his partner, Benkei, have to take on the Heishi along with the help of two new characters, Gozen Shizuka and Lord Buson. Both of these new characters have their own motivations as to fighting along with Yoshi and Benkei and taking down the Heishi. Genji has a good story and if you’re a fan of the previous installment or the Onimusha series then you’ll certainly like Genji’s mix of fantasy and historical events.

Genji’s combat system does have more than the ‘Massive Damage’ and ‘Real Time Weapon Switching’. The combat system for Genji is actually quite good and easy to get a grip off. Each of the four playable characters has their move sets and abilities. Yoshi can jump onto ledges, Benkei and push objects, Gozen can use her weapon to swing between ledges and Lord Buson wields a double saber. You can also upgrade your weapons and abilities to become more powerful. The system may not be that deep compared to other titles but it’s still nice to have. Another major feature of Genji’s combat is the Kamui mode. When your gauge fills up you can press L1 which sends the player and the surrounding enemies to another plane of existence. Once in Kamui mode the player can effortlessly take out all the enemies through timed button presses. Using Kamui mode is a good way to take out large groups of enemies since at times you will be fighting 10 enemies at once. Kamui mode is also visually stunning due to its somewhat ethereal look.

Control is an important aspect of any game and Genji does quite well in this category. Dodging enemy attacks and fighting 10 foes at once can be quite effortless at times thank to the easy control scheme. Performing combos is easy and the controls really make the player feel the role of an ancient Japanese warrior.

The visuals are another surprising part of Genji. While the game may not be on par with future PS3 titles such as Heavenly Sword or Devil May Cry 4, it is a very sharp title and has excellent art design. Each character and environment has a unique color palette and design which really immerses the player into the world. Genji’s opening level starts off with very impressive fire and smoke elements complete with heat blur. From there the environments only get more impressive both from a visual and art design standpoint. One of the most impressive levels is one that takes place in a forest with sunlight shining through the trees and falling leaves, it almost seems like a scene taken from the films Hero or House of Flying Daggers. The characters also are very visually appealing thanks to flowing hair and swaying clothing. There is some occasional slowdown during intense battles but not enough to ruin gameplay.

While Genji may be backed by impressive combat and visuals the core gameplay is a bit flawed. The levels are very straightforward and the player is often forced to backtrack to find certain items or to open doors. The game is much longer compared to Genji 1 but you may grow tired of doing the same item quest/combat/boss routine for 10 hours plus. The gameplay is also hindered by the camera. Genji employs a Resident Evil style camera that despite offering cool camera views really bogs down the gameplay. At times you won’t see all the enemies and sudden changes in the camera may confuse the player. If Genji allowed the player some form of control over the camera it would’ve helped greatly during some portions of the game. It is nice that the player can switch between any four of the characters but it is not really needed during gameplay except for a few occasions such as selecting Benkei to destroy a rock boulder.

Genji’s most impressive part is its audio. There are tons of cutscene’s throughout the game and both the voice acting and score is top notch. Unlike the last Genji, all the voice overs are in English and not in Japanese. This may disappoint some but it’s not really a major issue. All the voice actors are professional and the score is on par with films of the similar genre such as Hero or Crouching Tiger. Genji’s audio is definitely the flawless part of the game and should keep players interested in the story thanks to the compelling performances.

Genji certainly deserves more credit than its getting. While there may be some issues in the game it is still an enjoyable experience. If you’re a big fan of standard hack n’ slash games then you should give Genji a shot. While the camera is a bit crap at times and the core gameplay can get old Genji is still a solid combat title. Hopefully the developers, Game Republic, will listen to what game players have said and give Genji another shot.
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