Disappointing launch titles go hand-in-hand with console launches. These games are often unimpressive, having had to contend with new development hardware and self-imposed launch deadlines. Although Game Republic may wish Genji: Days of the Blade had avoided the launch spotlight, no game has ever manage to do so; and like a dear caught in headlights, Genji has been caught out as dare I say it – just another samurai game – but not just any samurai game, one with the rare ability to cause rage-induced insanity in its players. Oh dear…
Entitled Genji: Days of the Blade, the game was initially dubbed as "an exciting new IP", but with Samurai games being the bread and butter of Japanese gaming, originality is something which has eluded the game with all the cunning of a Ninja.
Set in feudal Japan, Genji: Days of the Blade starts off a few years after the events of Dawn of the Samurai. Reprising the role of Yoshitsune, the Samurai, players are tasked with defeating the Heishi Clan whom have returned as demons, having been transformed by "Evil magic".
Genji: DotB claims to have some sort of historical context, such as historically correct battlefields and scenarios, but this probably isn’t going to be particularly evident to most gamers when they play.
Perhaps in an effort to add some variety to Days of the Blade, the game’s developers have offered the ability to switch between several characters: Benkei, a club wielding brutish monk featured in the first game; Shizuka, a female assassin-type equipped with a crescent blade; and Lord Buson, an spear bearing soldier. Tese characters do add some variety, as they each have their own unique abilities to use on the battlefield, but only one can appear on the battlefield at a time.
Gamers do have the ability to quickly switch between the characters by pressing their corresponding button on the D-Pad, but the simple fact that there is only one character on screen at a time is rather discouraging. This is ratified when considering the vast amount of power that the PLAYSTATION 3 bolsters.
In addition to the extra playable characters, players also have the ability to change weapons… in real-time. Weapons will be gradually accumulated as the game progresses, and each does add a pinch of variety, but not enough to last the entire game.
Days of the Blade’s combat is the equivalent of a school bus driving off a cliff, and is limited to two different sets of moves: normal and special. There is a set of different moves under each category, but players will often find themselves mindlessly button mashing through hordes of identical adversaries. The concepts behind the boss fights do show some signs in ingenuity, but the limited combat convolutes what would’ve been an interesting feature.
Genji sports an Overdrive type mode called Kamui, in which a succession of button presses ala Dance Dance Revolution, although not in-tune to music, must be performed. The background visuals during this sequence are beyond gorgeous, and make for some of the best parts of the game.
There are also a number of minor puzzles, usually requiring the modification of the environment in order to progress through the next stage, which serve as minor diversions to make the game a little less boring, but do manage to slow it down. Given the Days of the Blade’s limited palette of moves, the puzzles aren’t particularly enjoyable, and activating the puzzle is often more challenging than the solving of it.
Sadly, controls are mostly to blame for Genji’s downfalls. Had the problems not existed, Days of the Blade might’ve been a decent hack and slash. But the slow, clunky, and inhibited controls are enough to drive anyone insane. And to add a dash of salt to the wounds inflicted, the camera controls are horrible. Individual enemies will often escape the camera, appear dead, but will later get back up and attack from behind. This is not a game play mechanic gone wrong: it is purely the fault of broken controls, both in terms of camera and character.
Days of the Blade is a decent graphical showcase for the PLAYSTATION 3, as certain parts of the game feature lush background animations, such as the flaming castle in the first few levels. However shortly after, players will find themselves in an almost indescribably drab corridor, which demonstrates the inconsistency of this games graphics. Character design and detail is impressive, but the settings are bad enough to make me forget about how beautiful the characters are.
My ears enjoyed the wonderful soundtrack which Genji: Days of the Blade provided. The pounding of the drums really set a nice atmosphere, but I really wish the quality of the soundtrack would have reflected the quality of the game play.
Overall, I can’t say I’d recommend Days of the Blade to anyone. It really feels as if the developers had a lot of great ideas and concepts, but rushed the game so it could be a launch title. I’m sure given more time, Game Republic could’ve made a fairly competent hack and slash adventure, but Genji certainly isn’t it.