Samurai Gunn Brings Back Bushido
You don’t need to read any other reviews of this game. In fact you barely need to read this one. Can you see this text in the review preview? Good. Here’s the gist: buy this game. Ok, wait. Do you have 1-3 friends you can physically play with? Yes? Well then get ready my friend, because you just bought the best brawler since Super Smash, the best bushido game since Bushido Blade, and hands-down the most samurai, best samurai video game since Onimusha slashed its way into our hearts all those years ago.
Samurai Gunn is a love-letter to all things bushido. Every stage is a dream of sixty years of film, anime, games and ideals coming together to form a fast as hell one-cut-and-you-die versus extravaganza blood and bullets bonanza truly unlike anything you’ve ever played. And yet masterclass simplicity means anyone with even a little gaming experience can pick up and play Samurai Gunn. In my experience a thirty minute trial by fire will make a champion of every player. I don’t know much about the fella who made Samurai Gunn, but I know he’s made a good number of deathmatch games previous to this, and the experience really shows. The rules: you move on a 2D plane, can jump off walls, and can slash your sword or shoot your gun Up, Left, Down and Right. You can slash and shoot in the air, and you can deflect bullets. Each player has three bullets per life. That’s all there is to it. Currently the modes are first to ten kills wins and 10-life stock match. Inside this perfect framework you will have hours of fun with the dial cranked well passed 11. You’ll have matches where everyone is just this close to winning. You’ll have wild blowouts. You’ll have two-way, three-way and four-way ties. You’ll have showdowns so cinematic and epic in their nature you’ll swear a samurai spirit coded the game into existence. Each zone (Fortress, Graveyard, Mountain and Forest) has its own distinctive tile set and small number of maps, as well as a unique Showdown level to handle ties. My favourite showdown level is in Graveyard. As soon as the map starts the characters vanish behind the fog, and all you can see is the trails of dust behind their feet as they move about. Now and again lightning will strike, momentarily revealing your position as you run headlong into the enemy. Like I said: a bloody, beautiful love-letter to bushido.
Probably the funniest thing about Samurai Gunn reviews are the complaints of its local-only design. Look, you wouldn’t buy a car if there were no gas stations in your town and you probably shouldn’t buy Samurai Gunn if you don’t have anyone who can come over to play with you. Hopefully you do. The learning curve is not steep at all and anyone can jump in, but hours and hours of play will hone your skills to a seemingly impossibly high level. There is a single player ninja-killing mode (which can also be co-op) called Survival and it will fuck you right up. Seriously. Most of us lost the patience for this kind of difficulty fifteen years ago but it’s certainly doable. After a few hours of versus you can start to make headway in Survival. The satisfaction of playing this mode alone and succeeding is nigh-euphoric but I still wouldn’t recommend Samurai Gunn to anyone as a strictly solo affair unless you A) really love samurai and B) are a tough-as-nails badass. The rest of us will need friends to make it through the early Survival levels, much less the madness that comes later. If you’ve ever wanted to see what a raging angry, roided-up AI would act like, this is it.
Mechanically Samurai Gunn has a few things left to polish such as spawn placement and maybe the implementation of a frame of invincibility on spawn but frankly the whole thing is so unpredictable that ill spawn luck tends to be paid back soon enough; other than that it would be nice to have long term statistics for players and a team or co-op mode that doesn’t have friendly fire, but I’m still on the fence about this as it does change the character of the game. And what a character it is. Everything is a balance of mechanical necessity and stylistic bushido integrity. The way the screen freezes and highlights a kill, for example, isn’t just a stylish and cool way to show off death, but also gives you that fraction of a second you need to reorient. So while it is fast, furious and unforgiving, Samurai Gunn is also incredibly well-balanced. Spamming slash or shoot works for a few minutes before players wise up and develop the skills to deflect bullets; meanwhile, the game’s insistence on prioritizing ties and showdowns over the total number of kills means you get to feel like a winner even when the showdown ends with your head rolling on the floor.
Samurai Gunn is the most fun I’ve had playing couch co-op and versus since Super Smash Brothers on GC and GoldenEye before that. It delivers on the promise laid down by tense Bushido Blade matches 17 years ago and then some; one hit kill swordfighting should and could be a genre all to itself, and today, Samurai Gunn is the crown jewel.