fnord's Seven Samurai 20XX (PlayStation 2) review

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I feel that we are friends, you and I. I feel that we share a very close bond… The kind of bond which can only really be shared between someone like me, who writes reviews, and someone like you, who reads these reviews. And, as we are so close, let me tell you something about me which you wouldn’t normally know, yet is vital to understanding this review; I am a very big fan of Akira Kurosawa’s films, and my collection of Kurosawa’s films are surpassed only by my collection of Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies. And, of all of Kurosawa’s movies, the one I have seen the most is Seven Samurai, which, in the end is why I cannot recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of the movie.

Let me start off by talking, briefly, about the movie that this game is very loosely based upon. Seven Samurai is a movie, made in 1954, by Akira Kurosawa, which was, perhaps, the first modern action movie of it’s kind, ever. The movie is often shown in film schools where they’re trying to give the students examples of what a good film looks like. In the film you have examples of various things which have become standard in films today, such a reluctant hero, the gathering of a group of heroes to accomplish some task, the slow-mo action shot, or even something as simple as horses cresting a hill. The film is a classic, and is currently listed at #7 on the top 250 movies on IMDB. In short, this movie is something that everyone should like.

Now, let’s compare that with the game, which claims to be a retelling of the movie. In the game, you play a young punk named ‘Natoe’, although all of the English voice actors in the game call him ‘Natto’, which is the name of a fermented bean product which is known for being very sticky, stringy, and difficult for westerners to eat without being sick. The irony was not lost on me. Anyway, ‘Natto’ is a young punk samurai, hanging out in some town which is constantly being attacked by ‘Humanoids’, various robots and werewolves (no, I don’t understand it either), and he comes across a group of villagers who are trying to defend their village against these ‘Humanoids’

Actually, now that I think about it, it would likely be best not to actually spend too much time talking about the plot, as it was fairly easy to see that the entire plot was shoehorned into an already-existing game. There are plot points which make no sense, boss fights which are superfluous, and character interactions which just make my head hurt. I will admit that there are certain scenes which were placed into the game which do match some of the action and dialog of the original movie, but it feels stilted and derivative. The entire time I played this game, I couldn’t help but feel that the people who made the game had never actually seen the movie, but rather just had a friend of theirs come over and tell them about it, and that was all they could be bothered with.

There is also the issue of the characters in the game. Now, it may just be me, but none of the characters in the game matched up at all with the samurai in the film. There are, indeed, seven samurai, but that seems to be where the resemblance ends, as far as the characters go. The only exception to this is Hambei, the older swordsman, who is supposed to reprise Takashi Shimura’s portrayal of Kambei Shimada, but even as the older and reluctant warrior, his character still doesn’t have the life, or the back-story of his movie counterpart, which leaves him feeling hollow, just like most of the other characters. The characters from the game are all so over-the-top they seem that the whole point of this game was style, and was nothing about substance.

Enough about the film lessons, I hear you say, just tell me about the frickin’ game already. Ok, ok, fine… How does the game play, you ask? Well, frankly, not that great. The game consists mostly of hitting the square button constantly, and pressing the L1 and R1 buttons every two minutes, with little else. Why is that? Because this game is almost entirely combat, with long sections of wandering around and not interacting with the environment.

Combat is basically you hitting the square button until there are no more enemies, and you’re able to press the R1 and L1 buttons to briefly pull out a second sword and go to town for around a minute and a half before you have to put your second sword away for around 30 seconds to ‘recharge’ before you can do the same thing again. And combat takes place in such varied environments, such as a large room, or, another large room, and then, another large room. Most of the game consists of running from one large room to the next, where some strange ‘plot device’ force fields keep you from exiting, but which the 200 enemies per room have no problem crossing. At that point, you fight and kill them all, then move to the next room, rinse and repeat. Occasionally there will be a boss fight, which are normally over in around two to four minutes, which mostly consist of you pulling both of your swords and wailing on the boss, running away to recharge, and then wailing on him again, and he’s dead.

Occasionally there will be a cut scene to break the monotony of this action, but not often, and more often there will be a 10 second load so your character can take five steps, and go through another 10 second load. And then there are the various times when you’re forced to wander around the non-interactive environment, where you can occasionally talk to people who have green arrows over their heads and get one line of dialog. That line of dialog never changes. A character will tell you to ‘Go check out this place’ in a particular area, even after it’s blown up. A lot of the areas of the game are designed very well, which makes it even more frustrating when you can’t interact with any of the content of it. There is also a large problem with slowdown any time there are other people, or certain ‘Humanoids’ on the screen at any time.

In conclusion, I think this game is best described as a movie-based game. Many people around my age will have flashbacks of ET on the 2600 and know exactly what that means. Comparing this game with Seven Samurai is like comparing Das Boot with Titanic; sure, they’re both about boats, but the similarities end there. If you really like fast-paced action and you’ve never actually seen Seven Samurai, this game may warrant a rental, but, honestly, the movie itself would likely be more entertaining and fulfilling. But as for the game’s score below, take one off if, like me, you are a big fan of the original movie.

2-Handed Sword Style out of 5

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