Furi Is Yet Another Awesomely Slick PS4 Console Exclusive

It only took the first thirty seconds of the gameplay trailer for Furi—the flashy samurai duels, the dodge-tastic bullethell breaks, the pulsating electronica, and the futuristic neon art styleto convince me to take a private appointment with the game and its stalwart indie developers, creative director Emeric Thoa and executive producer Audrey LePrince of The Game Bakers.

The swiftness and responsiveness that the trailer shows is exactly how the game feels with the PS4 controller in hand. Furi is an all-boss action game where you have a focused number of moves in your arsenal: a dodge, a block parry, and a blaster controlled like any twin-stick shooter. This might seem limiting on paper, but Emeric Thoa aptly pointed to Nintendo's Punch-Out! as an inspiration and an example of a game that features tough one-on-one battles and doesn't need a laundry list of controls to be exemplary.

Even in its early stage, Furi has found that fine balance between challenge and player skill. If you miss a parry, fail to dodge out of the way, or mistime a dodge, it's clearly your fault. Bosses have red telegraphs and otherwise clear signs of when they're about to attack. Furi's combat system relies on effective counter-attacks, punishing enemies for whiffing rather than trying to force an opening by button-mashing. By that measure, Furi is mechanically a blend between a blistering hack-'n'-slasher and a robust 2D fighter where invincibility and recovery frames matter, with shades of a rhythmic bullethell game when bosses start firing off in crazy, vibrant, wave-like patterns.

More experienced players will ultimately learn how to use the charging system effectively. Every move can be charged for a different effect: the basic shot becomes a charged shot with assisted aiming, the basic slash becomes a charged slash that can leave an enemy open for a combo, and the basic dodge becomes a charged dodge that can cover longer distances. Like a classic Mega Man game, it can be to your benefit to charge your slash as much as possible since you can still dodge with it charged, although the dodge is slightly reduced in distance. In the hands-on demo against the game's first boss, a jailor with three rotating heads, I managed to maneuver around the arena fairly well with a charged slash at the ready.

The story is purposefully vague, with your nameless samurai attempting to free himself from a heavenly prison and guided by a mysterious anthropomorphic rabbit, who I imagine is either a trickster or a projection of the samurai's will to survive. Each boss represents a guardian who is preventing you from descending down each layer of the celestial prison and approaching Earth. The art design from character artist Takashi Okazaki of Afro Samurai fame can be felt the very instant the game begins.

As a side note, I related this nameless hero to Prometheus, the Titan in Greek mythology who was chained to a rock as punishment for stealing fire from Mount Olympus and gifting it to mankind, a point of comparison that the developers said wasn't that off the mark. Of course, this is more of a modern retelling of classical myth, what with the neon accents and vivid use of color throughout Furi, and the fact that this cyber-samurai version of Prometheus is fighting back.

As you might suspect, Furi is essentially made for players to show off their skills. At the end of the story mode, which the developers teasingly said would have anywhere from "5-15 bosses," you'll be graded with traditional Japanese system with rank 'S' at the top. Your grade will largely depend on how many times you are hit and KO'd, with your total complete time counting toward leaderboards for the game's speedrun mode.

And of course, if you're truly skilled, you can try the game on Furi-er mode (I told the developers whether that means we should expect a Furi-est mode later… with no response) with each boss being upgraded with new attacks and attack patterns. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you can also play the game on the easier story-based mode, but the game should really be played on standard difficulty to get the full experience.

Furi from The Game Bakers is already on my short list as one of the best indie titles this year, along with Klang and Thumper, and is sure to bolster the PlayStation 4's impressive catalog. It's slated to release on PS4 and PC in Summer 2016. 

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