Anime is a pretty thin niche, yet its games continue to sell through the roof. Seizing the opportunity to push a game based on the most expensive Japanese cartoon ever made to market, NamcoBandai’s Afro Samurai aims to grab the attention of the gaming public with a vice grip by making use of the series’ gruesome action.
Unfortunately, that’s seemingly all it offers. The bare-bones version I played was clearly labelled “combat demonstration,” but without any form of multiplayer, open-world elements or storyline expansion, the game is left to fall back on its simple two-button combat.
Mashing the X and Y buttons on the Xbox 360 control pad always results in satisfying arterial spray, and with hordes of enemies rushing Afro with aimless goals and a lack of aggression, there’s plenty of choppin’ fodder to feed your lust for gore. But the simplicity wears as thin as the niche of the material since various combinations result in visually indistinguishable attacks that dismember and bisect countless amounts of identical chumps, and a fussy camera means you’ll be fighting with it as much as you will the Japanese drones that stand in the way of your progression. Combat is fun, but after ten minutes I was already looking for more depth.
The overall artistic direction of the game, however, was enough to keep my eyes on the screen and thumbs on the buttons. Seeing Afro quickly split an enemy in two from shoulder to thigh in slow-motion as I used a combination of triggers and sticks to direct my kill was a beautifully morbid experience.
The “moving painting” watercolors that make the game look absolutely gorgeous might be a great thing to see, but ultimately it’s outweighed by the quick-to-become-stale combat that needs more depth and a camera that doesn’t require constant babysitting.
Hopefully the needed refinements are implemented, because the potential for this visual stunner to be a great combat game is there.