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Genji: Days of the Blade

Genji: Dawn of the Samurai receive a muted release last year, largely overshadowed by the promise of its PlayStation 3 sequel. The solid, action-packed gameplay of the original was quickly lost amid anticipation for the visually-stunning Genji: Days of the Blade. Released in tandem with the launch of PlayStation 3, Days of the Blade fulfills its promise of gorgeous graphics; however, it doesn’t quite live up to the legacy of the first game in terms of gameplay. While it isn’t a bad game, Genji: Days of the Blade has a few shortcomings that prevent it from being widely recommendable.

Set in feudal Japan, Genji has you once again take the role of Yoshitune Minamoto in his effort to quash an uprising of the Heishi clan. Following their defeat in the previous game, the Heishi have rekindled their ambitions with the aid of mysterious pink crystals called masohagane. At the behest of his brother Yoritomo, Yoshitsune seeks to destroy the leaders of the Heishi clan. Benkei, who aided Yoshitsune in the last game, accompanies him in the fight. Additionally, two new playable characters lend their abilities: Lady Shizuka, who enchanted Yoshitsune’s amahagane in the first game, returns in playable form; also, the god of war Buson takes human form to lend his support.

You’ll guide Yoshitune and his crew through missions offering a mix of action and role-playing elements. By far action takes center stage over role-playing in Genji: Days of the Blade, even more so than the first game. Gone is the mission map, instead replaced by linear mission progress that is remarkably similar to Capcom’s Onimusha games. Completing one mission simply forwards you onto another, without any options to save or visit shops for items. The goal in dropping these elements is to immerse you in the action, which the game certainly does; however, Genji: Days of the Blade ends up being structured like any other action game.

The level design is incredibly linear, yet at the same time frustrating. Few contextual clues within the game create problems when solving what are supposedly simple puzzles. Awkward camera angles make finding some objects difficult, not to mention blind combat. Too frequently, you’ll end up fighting enemies that you can’t even see or get knocked down by flying creatures you didn’t even know were there. Even worse, long levels without save points mean having to trudge through battles repeatedly.

There are significant differences between each of the characters in the type of weapons they equip and attacks they unleash. Yoshitsune retains his nimble grace with a katana, Benkei lumbers around with a massive war club, Lady Shizuka can quickly move about with her chained blades, and Buson lies somewhere in between with his double saber. The differences are quite pronounced and you’ll feel a distinct change when switching from Lady Shizuka to Benkei, as an example. In this way, Genji: Days of the Blade surpasses other action titles in differentiating its characters beyond just throwing different weapons into their hands.

Each character has two types of attack: normal with the square button and heavy with the triangle button. Pressing combinations of the two buttons will result in various special attacks. Basic attacks vary between the characters and the types of combination attacks change between weapons; for example, Yoshitsune’s heavy attack has him darting across the screen to jab an enemy, whereas Benkei spins his massive club to knock enemies back. In addition to standard attacks, Yoshitune and friends can transform into a powered up form called kamui by pressing L1. While in kamui form, enemies are slowed down and you’re able to land powerful attacks by pressing corresponding buttons as they appear on screen.

Not much skill is required to attack enemies, but you will need to make use of the right analog stick to evade attacks and R1 to block. You can also turn on motion controls to evade enemy attacks, but skip it since it’ll frustrate you with its sensitivity. The game often pits you against large groups of enemies, which will overwhelm you if you’re not careful to avoid their attacks. While it may not possess an incredible amount of depth, Genji: Days of the Blade does just enough to keep you hacking and slashing your way through the game.

More emphasis has been placed on developing each of the characters in Genji: Days of the Blade than in the previous game; as a result, the role-playing elements have been redesigned. Defeating certain enemies grants masohagane orbs, which can be used to increase the power of characters’ weapons. Much like in the Onimusha series, weapons are enhanced by investing a set number of masohagane orbs. You can also improve each character’s health and kamui gauge by assigning amahagane. Since the orbs are hidden, you’ll only receive amahagane occasionally; therefore, you’ll need to be deliberate in how you use your available stock in developing your characters. Even though the parameters for character development are seemingly limited, at least you’re afforded some freedom in deciding on which attributes you’d like to focus.

Genji: Days of the Blade isn’t necessarily a bad game; instead, it possesses a handful of flaws that prevent it from realizing its potential. The hack and slash action is somewhat enjoyable, even if it is lacking in depth. While it doesn’t manage to live up to the original, Genji: Days of the Blade is a beautiful game that is worth playing through if you enjoyed the first game on PlayStation 2.

Overall: 6.8
Although flawed and derivative, Genji: Days of the Blade still manages to offer a bit of enjoyment for those willing to seek it out.

– Tracy Erickson

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