PAX Prime 2015: Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Hands-On Preview – Ninja Combat
Afro Samurai Warrior: Revenge of Kuma 2 seemingly has it all — music created by Wu-Tang Clan member RZA (Robert Fitzgerald Diggs), hand-drawn illustrations by Takashi Okazaki, and a story written by American Sniper writer James Defelice and based off of the popular manga Afro Samurai, and all top of all that, it’s fun to play. However, during my time with the action game at PAX Prime 2015, I found that it lacked something important — good animations.
The game puts you in the sandals of the ninja Kuma, who is looking to get revenge on Afro after he killed their master. But, before Kuma can get to Afro, though, he first has to collect the Number 1 headband, and kill a whole bunch of other samurais, ninjas, and general bad guys to do so. The game, although it is an action game, also focuses on the story, seeing as it does have a famous and well-known writer helping out with it. It will come in different episodes (three are already planned), and it looks like each episode will leave the player with a massive cliffhanger.
If listening to dialogue (albeit, well written and acted dialogue) or reading subtitles isn’t really your thing, then it seems easy to just skip past all of that and get right into the action. Kuma has three different fighting styles, and each one offers something a little different, although they all focus on getting combos. The Afro style, for example, allows Kuma to block enemies, but his sword swings are far slower. Meanwhile, the Master style is incredibly fast-paced, but Kuma does only a fraction of the damage with each blow that he would do with the Afro style. Finally, the aptly named Kuma style allows the samurai to perform fairly fast hits, as well as use a special Rage ability that gives him the ability to take down enemies with one blow. Each style can be upgraded by leveling up and using skill points, making them faster and deadlier. The styles also feature finishing moves, which will take down one or more enemies instantly.
A Little Off
However, it is in these finishing moves in particular that the animations seem off. Whenever an enemy gets hit by Kuma’s sword, he doesn’t actually get “hit” by the sword. Instead, a lot of the time, the sword just kind of whizzes by, making it looks like Kuma missed completely. It kind of works like the old Adam West Batman TV show, where if you actually pay attention, the blows don’t seem to be connecting at all. It then goes without saying that each massive strike with the sword doesn’t feel like a strike at all, but more like a poke. It doesn’t have that heaviness that melee combat desperately needs. I also noticed that Kuma’s walking felt a little off, as well, and it came off more as gliding than anything else.
Unfortunately, since the first episode has almost been completed and will be coming out soon, it doesn’t look like these animations will change, although I hope I end up being pleasantly surprised when the game comes out. But, at the same time, I did enjoy my time with Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma. There are some truly crazy enemies to fight (like enemies with bombs strapped on their backs and skillful ninjas), and a well-written story and entertaining voice acting. It will be interesting to see how the finished first episode turns out when it releases in the next month or so.