Genji: Dawn of the Samurai is the latest creation of legendary game developer Yoshiki Okamoto, known for his work on classics like Resident Evil and Devil May Cry. After leaving Capcom and opening up shop at Game Republic, Genji: Dawn of the Samurai for the Playstation 2 has emerged as the first fruits of his new studio.
Genji: Dawn of the Samurai is based on a Japanese legend of the same name. The game revolves around mystical stones called Amahagane, which let the player possess the power of Kamui. Kamui allows player go into an extreme focus mode, where enemy attacks can be countered with stunning moves. The main character in Genji: Dawn of the Samurai is Yoshitsune Minamoto, son of the historic hero Yoshitomo Minamoto who fell during the Heishi rebellion. The Heishi have taken control of the Japan with the help of the Amahagane they possess. It is up to the player to stop the Heishi from collecting all the Amahagane and achieving immortality.
Yoshitsune is joined shortly by Benkei Musashibo, a monk wielding a huge club who has set out to stop the Heishi clan as well. Playing as both of the two heroes, players must face the army of evil warlord Kiyomori. At certain junctures players can choose to switch between the two characters, and while it is not necessary to change characters most of the time, there are certain points where players can only advance as Yoshitsune or Benkei.
Usually, Japanese action adventure games get dubbed once they cross the ocean, with hasty localizations offering less-than-satisfying results. Genji: Dawn of the Samurai is an exception to his rule, as the original Japanese-language voices are kept in the game with an option for English subtitles. This seemingly minor touch is a very nice addition to the game, preserving its carefully cultivated Japanese atmosphere.
Although Kamui is an interesting feature of Genji: Dawn of the Samurai, it gets very repetitive quickly. As soon as the player enters Kamui mode, enemies attack one by one. The player must hit the square button with correct timing to perform a successful counter attack. Kamui would have been so much more enjoyable with more buttons to push or even a choice of different buttons to do different counter attacks, but sadly this is not the case. Yet even with its repetitiveness, Kamui is still a much-welcomed addition. Players can truly become a master of the sword, slaying hordes of enemies without even getting scratched.
To make the fights more realistic, a well known fight director was brought on during the gameâ€™s development. Besides helping to design and hone specific moves, this director had key influence on the gameâ€™s artificial intelligence system, making each fight into a precisely choreographed kung-fu battle.
As players progress through Genji, their attributes will increase with experience earned in combat. Health, defense and attack will increase automatically, with the possibility to use 3 pieces of â€˜essence of Amahaganeâ€™ to further raise your stats. Benkeiâ€™s stats are kept separate from Yoshitsuneâ€™s, so players must take care in leveling both characters equally to keep them balanced.
Another role-playing game element that comes into play is the ability to improve your characters by changing their equipment and weapons. There are four weapons to be found for each character and dozens of different equipment pieces. These components are usually hidden in the levels, so it isnâ€™t advised to rush through stages to get to the next.
The graphical style of Genji: Dawn of the Samurai shows its influence from movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, particularly in its serene environments decorated in a single base color. The visual effects in combat are truly stunning, like the ability to slice enemies in half or send them flying with Benkeiâ€™s huge club. The cameraâ€™s position is fixed for each shot, which can sometimes make it difficult to see enemies at the edge of the screen, but for most of the game it serves as a positive, adding to the overall cinematic feel.
The music in Genji: Dawn of the Samurai adds even more to the Eastern atmosphere. The dramatic score during the game makes players feel like they are in a classic Japanese film, and certainly adds to the value of Genji: Dawn of the Samurai. The sound effects are just as well done, with authentic sword effects and soft rustles of the leaves when all is quiet.
Genji: Dawn of the Samurai is a fighting game with battles realized in great detail. The gameâ€™s excellent visuals and integration of that Japanese feel make it a better-than-average action adventure game, but is overall too short to make it really stand out. Itâ€™s definitely a great first game for Game Republic, but a more engaging storyline and longer length would have made it an outstanding one. No matter how you twist and turn it; Genji: Dawn of the Samurai brings a mystical, Japanese atmosphere to the Playstation 2.