Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume 1 Review

Score 35Afro Samurai 2 is without a doubt, one of the worst games I’ve played in my time here at Mouse N Joypad, and I played Cricket Captain 2015.  The combat encourages endless button mashing.  Boss battles aren’t difficult or interesting.  The story doesn’t even get out of bed. Characters are emotionless and say their lines with discontent that only unpaid interns could provide.  On top of everything, the game is buggy beyond compromise, breaking any immersion the game might’ve had.  It’s fifteen bucks, so it’ll cost you five dollars an hour if you want one of the lamest experiences you’ll ever have with a teddy bear obsessed samurai.  

WHAT WE LIKED
º A nice blend of modern music, Japanese culture and western flare.
º The soundtrack by The Rza is a nice assortment of hip-hop tracks.
º Character models retain the wow factor of the show and movies.
WHAT WE DISLIKED
º Combat is boring, and boss battles are ridiculously anticlimactic.
º Massively bad frame rate, glitchy textures, and broken environments.
º Horrible voice acting and bad cutscenes deliver a paper-thin storyline.
The art ranges from exceptional to laughable, but the story never really takes off.

Oh man; where do I start with Afro Samurai 2?  I’m not a big fan of the franchise, but I love all the ingredients of the series.  Japanese samurai and ninjas, cybernetics, a dash of Western gunfighting, and The Rza’s blend of Hip Hop to liven it all up.  It’s a series that has undeniable style.  My biggest problem with this game though lies with its substance- which is downright horrible.  Honestly, it might be one of my least favorite games of the past few years, and I was glad when I beat this ‘Volume’ in one afternoon.  It’s such a mess; I don’t even know where to begin.

Let’s start with some good points.  Visually, I simply love the nonsensical structure of it all.  This world seems stuck in a time of lanterns and clay pots but can somehow run sophisticated sound systems and AC units.  Like peanut butter and jellyfish; it’s a brilliantly bizarre blend that shouldn’t work, but somehow does.  I don’t think I would’ve ever thought a sword-swinging samurai with a teddy bear head could be cool, but somehow, he is.
This game takes place entirely from Kuma’s point of view, and there’s only a brief glimpse of Afro Samurai.  I love the idea of changing the perspective to someone who has just as much anger as Afro, especially since Kuma does have a pretty big ax to grind.  Sadly, the storyline spends the first half of the game recapping Kuma’s heartache and the rise of his desire for revenge on Afro.  Outside of that, even fans of the previous entries in the series won’t find much in terms of new story here.  You travel from Mt. Shumi to a city with a strip club, to the Temple of Justice.  Your goal is to stop all the killing that the superficial headbands have caused, by killing anyone and everyone who gets in your way of destroying them.  
Cutscenes adopt a comic-book style but honestly feel like a cost-saving measure over an artistic decision.  I might have a different opinion if the environments looked like the developers cared at all about matching the quality of the models.  Certain sections poorly utilize a strange slow-mo effect, jumping in and out of it without rhyme or reason.  Scenes are suspended in a moment in time, and yet things like fire effects and water animations continue flowing.  The most appalling; sometimes the game will just hold onto some production art for a minute, while it vocalizes the scene.  I’ve never seen a project so comfortably asleep behind the wheel.
There’s nothing positive to say about the story regardless, even if they did have flowing visuals.  Its dialogue is boring, long-winded nonsense.  Quite honestly, a huge surprise considering Jim DeFlice wrote this tripe.  Characters rant on and on, as the camera pans around in what can only be described as head-bangingly stupid tirades.  I understand you have to fill the game up for your 15 dollar price tag to seem justifiable, but this is not the way you do it.  Honestly, Justice has a monolog that runs for four uninterrupted minutes, the character waxing philosophical about the irony of killing. The game had me yelling at my monitor, begging it to just end the scene.  
The beats are the only thing popping in this scene- and I don’t mean Buttons.

Not only that, but it’s also poorly written in terms of story structure. They actually flashback, while they’re already in the middle of a flashback.  Then, when you do get back to where the series left off, it’s just a lot of characters screaming each other’s names in either anger or fear.  Your hero’s plans or intentions are almost entirely unclear, and you’ll travel to locations without fully understanding what’s going on.  I’m not big into this series, but it’s fairly obvious that fans are not getting a true expansion of their storyline.

The game lacks any idea of what pacing is.  The cutscenes run for too long.  Action segments start and then immediately stop.  Enemies take way too long to cut down.  The game will give you back the controls, and then promptly pull them away again to touch on ideas it just went over.  The game is only three hours long, but it seems so much longer, and you’ll constantly feel like you’re in the way of the game’s meandering attempt at providing ‘entertainment.
Not only that, but the battle system is also poorly executed.  You’re given three battle styles based on the warriors in Kuma’s life; Sword Master, Afro Samurai and Kuma’s system.  While there is some diversity among them, it isn’t enough to make it interesting.  Kuma’s style is by far the best, but it’s because he has a one-hit kill system that’ll wipe out most of a room’s enemies.  This encourages you to use that style more than any other option.  Upgrading these styles is without any thought or planning, as you’re only choosing between two paths that all comes back together in the end.  Regardless of which style you favor, you’ll have all three of them upgraded in one hour regardless of what diverse paths you choose.  Not that all of this matters, because it all feels like button-mashing in the end, with even reversals failing to matter because enemies can’t strike you when you’re swinging.
You would think that poor combat would be the biggest problem, and it’s not; the game is glitchy.  Beyond any understanding, this game’s framerate is atrocious for such a standard looking experience.  The game periodically drops down to the single digits and the camera floats around randomly, leaving you confused by what direction you’re heading given any choppy second.  You’ll fall through platforms and walk through walls to your death.  Enemies will suddenly be unable to hit you, as you stand there and watch them swing with their best efforts.  Textures pop out on fully stationary objects.  I would’ve loved to downgrade the graphics, or smooth out some options, but the game doesn’t even allow that.  If it had, I might’ve been able to read important instructions, which for some reason run off the edge of the frame.  To call this game buggy would be an injustice because of how cute the word is, and there is nothing redeeming about these grievous oversights.
The character models look okay however, and they retain the charm of the series- but the developers have done very little to animate them into believable characters.  Everyone just stands around, ranting with no visible emotion.  Honestly, these stoic characters had me begging for some arm lifts or something.  When your game makes me long for the expressiveness of Resident Evil, you’re doing it wrong.  Not to mention, every character has a scarf over their face to hide the fact that the developers didn’t want to animate their mouths.  I get that that’s a pretty bold statement, and I might agree I was jumping to conclusions if it weren’t for the fact that there are characters who talk without moving their visible lips.  Despite not animating focal characters, they have a topless woman who sits in the background of a lifeless shot, her legs flapping around as if her lower extremities were injected with speed.  That and their eyeballs shoot out of their skulls during shot transitions.
Avoiding suicide bombers as they leap off a waterfall might be the best moment of the game.

Boss battles are a joke.  There’s a guy named 2 Hammers, who wants to take you on because of undisclosed reasons.  His main move is somehow spinning in suspended animation, with his two hammers (oh, I just got that) swinging on either side. After avoiding this lazy bit of animation, it comes down to two minutes of repeatedly tapping buttons in a quick time event.  If I have to switch hands in the middle of your boss fight, you should either shorten the experience or find an actual way to bring enjoyment and challenge to your climactic battles.

Audio wise, and I hate to sound like a broken record, but it’s laughable as well.  The music isn’t bad; it’s the way it’s been arranged.  Music just ends, and starts up on a slow build in the most awkward ways.  Rappers perform in the background, while characters talk at the same time, allowing me to understand neither.  Not that it matters, every voice actor fails to provide inflection or any emotional delivery to their performance.  Everyone just sounds like a street corner preacher, delivering their monotone sermon about existential nonsense through a tin can.
I don’t know how to explain this any clearer; this game is not worth your money.  According to Redacted Studios website, they “can take an idea from early concept to finished product with packaging in less time and for considerably less cost than internal teams.”  Well, they nailed it; this game feels cheap.  This experience doesn’t feel like a team’s best effort and falls somewhere between a loveless project and a complete cash-in.  It’s a shame too because there’s a loyal fanbase out there that deserves much better than this.
·      Publisher – Versus Evil
·      Developer – Redacted Studios
·      Genre – Action, Adventure
·      Release Date – September 22, 2015
·      Version Reviewed – PC
·      PEGI Rating – 18
·      Multiplayer – No
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