Nights of the refund.
Back in May, Sony struck unintentional and unfortunate comedy gold at their press conference. We guffawed at “Riiiidge Racer” and gasped at the hefty price tags, but we practically barfed laughing when Sony announced their plans for gamers to strike giant enemy crabs for massive damage in Genji: Days of the Blade. A new internet meme was instantly born.
Six months later, having forked over my own five hundred and ninety nine U.S. dollars
, I was ready to lay the smack down on some seriously large crustaceans. Apparently they figured heavily in the historic, and totally incomprehensible Japanese wars between the Genji and Heishi clans.
[image1]As pretend history has it, the Heishi clan had the “Amahagane”, but now the Genji clan has it. At first I thought the Amahagane might be a magic sword, or a helmet or something cool, but eventually you’ll figure out that it’s magic rocks that make your belt glow and enhance your Kamui. So, the Heishi clan have switched to evil “Mashogane” instead - purple crystals they jam into their chests to turn into monsters. You’ll also want to collect Mashogane yourself in order to level up your weapons, which is apparently the non-evil way to use it. And you’ll need all the help you can get if you’re going to find all the Clefstones to get past the Masho Wards. Oh forget it, just go kill all the Heishi – they’re bad.
Still with me? You play as four warriors of the Genji. Yoshitsune with a katana in each hand, and Benkei with a club the size of a telephone pole, return from the first game. Shizuka is some sort of priestess of the Hotsexy Temple, and swings a blade on the end of a chain that can hit at a distance. Finally, Buson is a spirit animating the dead body of a guy that Yoshitsune killed; he spins a double blade, Star Wars Kid style.
The plot is a confusing mess, though I often got the feeling that I was probably missing some traditional mythology and that, had I grown up in Japan, it would all make a lot more sense. Like how if I named a character Merlin, we all know he’s a wizard without having to be told.
[image2]But Genji isn’t about story, it’s about crab-thrashing, and to get to those crabs, you’ll have to hack and slash your way through hundreds of intimidating looking Heishi soldiers. They only look intimidating, however, and you’ll easily slash your way through them like a Samurai weed-whacker. Unfortunately, there’s little finesse to the fighting and for most situations, you’ll find that mashing one button will do the trick, and there’s no real need to ever block.
When surrounded by particularly large hordes, it’s time to whip out the Kamui. This mode launches you into sort of a stylized realm with your enemies, all pastel colors and drifting rose petals. Here you merely follow a set of button presses to effortlessly and cinematically dispatch the hapless shmoes.
Each character eventually acquires four weapons, which you can switch to (yes, in real time), but there’s very little difference between them. You can also switch between characters instantly; when one gets low on health you can quickly and easily tag team. If even one character goes down, it’s game over.
And despite your overpowering martial prowess, that happens often enough because you can’t see who you’re fighting. The very cinematic game camera is completely out of your hands, and seems to prefer the “You getting destroyed by unseen assailants view”. Time and again, this linear adventure has you running directly into the camera, which is great for looking at your character’s facial expressions, and also great for running smack into enemies you can’t see at all. They even shoot you with arrows, but you can’t look to see where they’re coming from.
[image3]So you spend half your time just watching the little mini-map, since it actually shows enemy positions relative to your own. This way, you at least know which direction to swing your sword, except you miss out on all the fancy graphics and stylish combat. For spectators at least, this means that Genji is quite a pretty game. There’s a little slowdown in some of the larger battles, but the characters, enemies and effects all look great, and the outrageous combat moves would put a crouching tiger to shame.
The sound is also top notch with some decent voice acting. Swords clang and clubs smash ferociously, but the musical score, based on traditional Japanese instruments and drumming, is really what stands out.
But the good music certainly isn’t enough reason enough to button mash your way through a second time, and Genji only has the one story mode. There’s no other way to play, no online, no co-op, and the only unlockable lets you re-watch the movies and run a sound test. This is strictly a one-trick crab.
In the end, while pretty as a picture, Genji has only managed to strike my wallet for massive damage. My advice is to switch away from buying Genji, and get your giant crab with some garlic butter instead.