Afro Samurai Updated Preview

Walk tall, carry a bloody sword, and wear a big "natural." We get an updated look at this gorgeous anime-inspired hack-and-slash.

Big 'fro, big sword, big action. In a few words, that's the heart of Namco's upcoming Afro Samurai, an action game based on the cartoon series that aired on Spike TV in 2007. The pithy description doesn't nearly capture the series' heart, which is all about a son's love for his father, revenge, and--yes--big, big action. The developers at Namco are taking on the considerable task of bringing that huge action and the endless swordplay of the Afro Samurai series (which began as a manga created by Takashi Okazaki in 1999) to an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 near you while maintaining the heart and soul for which the series is known. Based on what we've seen of the game so far, the developers seem to be well on track toward achieving that goal.

Loads of blood, with a touch of heart and soul: Afro Samurai's got style to spare.

Though we've seen the game a couple of times already, today's look was our first at the actual gameplay running live. As good as the trailers made this game look, Afro Samurai seems to be living up to those lofty visual targets. The key technique is a dynamic cross-hatching system that gives the game a hand-drawn style--everything from the buildings to the characters look as if they were created from pen and ink. The backgrounds are colorful, and the settings took Afro everywhere from flowing streams tucked in mountains to menacing-looking villages where danger seemingly lurked around every corner.

Before you think this is some beautiful pastoral painting in game format, let's get real here: Afro Samurai is highly skilled at killing fools, and the game that bears his name is going to show off those skills to great effect. The game is still in the early stages, and combat is only partially complete in the game, but the moves that were on display during the demo showed off Afro's incredible arsenal of moves. The combat in Afro Samurai will have three components to it--ground, aerial, and terrain. The ground moves will feature Afro spinning and rolling around enemies, while aerial attacks will have him in midair slicing and dicing. The terrain attacks will let Afro interact with objects in the world--wall runs, flips off of ledges, and so on.

Flips and tricks are one thing, but it's where steel meets skin that Afro Samurai looks to have its biggest impact. With the ability to sever any enemy in two at any point on his or her body, this game is going to be a bloody mess (even if all of the blood effects aren't in the game yet). Afro's combat moves will have him flipping and slicing from every angle, and in some takedowns, you'll be able to choose the exact spot and angle of the cut you want to put on an enemy. That these kills are actual physical slices (as opposed to canned animations) are a particular point of pride for the development team, and it looks to add a lot of variety to the encounters in the game.

The game's music will help that variety too. A thumping hip-hop soundtrack will be featured throughout the game, and each new encounter with enemies will be scored by its own track. The encounters will also be synchronized with the appearance and movement of the enemies on the screen. While the music in the demo we saw was just placeholder, it sounded pretty good to our ears, and with work yet to do, we're optimistic that things will only improve as we get closer to the game's release.

There won't be any heads-up display in Afro Samurai; the only presentation flourishes in the game will be the occasional comic book-style panels that will appear dynamically when enemies appear or a plot point moves forward. Because there won't be a health meter, you'll want to pay attention to Afro's focus during combat. If his opponents are getting the best of him, he will lose focus; the game will begin to fade in color, and you'll know Afro is close to death. Similarly, if you're whipping enemies left and right, you'll get Afro in an over-focused state. The color palette will flatten out, and Afro will be able to cut through any enemy with just a single stroke. Afro's health won't regenerate automatically; instead, the only way to build him back up to health will be by battling it out with enemies and helping Afro regain his focus.

When he isn't slicing his way through walls of enemy flesh, Afro will be smoothly running and jumping his way through the game's environments. The development team at Namco is working to ensure that the levels in Afro are as open to the main character as possible--he'll be able to grab onto ledges and leap deftly as you guide him through the environments.

One of the keys to the character of Afro is that mentally he's not exactly all there. Between hallucinations and flat-out schizophrenia, Afro is the very definition of a tortured hero. This will be reflected most pertinently in Afro's Reflection mode, which the player can access at any time by pressing the pause button during gameplay. While the action falls away, you're taken to a dreamlike menu that features obscured or blurred images, which help tell the story of Afro Samurai. In Reflection mode, you'll be able to learn new moves, as well as piece together clues in the game's storyline, among other things.

How to ruin a perfectly good hat. And face.

The enemies you'll encounter in the game are almost all human--there's no magic or monsters in the Afro Samurai world. That said, you can expect to see plenty of weird enemies, including robotic ninjas and some really, really big guys who will surely pose a problem for you. There will also be the occasional challengers, sub-bosses who will require a bit more than button mashing to get through. Nonetheless, all of the enemies will have their own style--one of the sub-bosses we saw wielded a deadly-looking sword while wearing a derby hat like a proper English gentleman.

There are still a bunch of details to nail down with Afro before its release later this year. We don't know how many levels the game will have or if the development team has decided on a final control scheme for all of Afro's fancy moves. We do know the story will move in and out of the television series, providing plenty of backstory in the process. And based upon what we've seen, the team looks to have captured the essence of what the show and the character of Afro Samurai is all about, which is a great place to start. Stay tuned for more updates on this game in the coming months.

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Discussion

103 comments
Aka_Oni
Aka_Oni

I can only wait and see. This is such a great anime I hope they do it justice.

LordChimera
LordChimera

I hope they do this well. I loved the movie. coolest anime character ever.

xMADxDOGx
xMADxDOGx

I hope this get bloody like the anime >D

lamepunk
lamepunk

This looks cool. As long as it does have a good story and gameplay instead of just focusing on gore I might get it.

lordzz83
lordzz83

This game has serious potential. As long Sam.Jackson does the voice acting, there's tons of blood, intuitive/interesting game-play dynamics, and more of those ridiculous cel-shaded lanscapes to whoop a$$ in, I'm pretty sure I'm buying it. I watched the entire first season last night, and bought the DVD set today. Fan for life. F*#K yeah, Sam.Jackson-killin it... And whoever thinks the concept is racist needs to grow an imagination and a set of balls. Its a cartoon, grow up...

Akatsuki398
Akatsuki398

I'll watch the anime first,then I will get the game.

shenron43
shenron43

looks interesting, I might have to keep my eye on this.

Deadpool8
Deadpool8

Virtual_Erkan the game is based on show Afro Samurai

Megas_132
Megas_132

This game look pretty good and the art looks great. Game play looks fluid.

Virtual_Erkan
Virtual_Erkan

Well the idea of Afro spoils the game. Could have been serious a little bit.

Truf89
Truf89

It looks good at the moment. I want to see some stylized blood.

TylrKakarot1
TylrKakarot1

This game is looking just fantastic! I only saw a few episodes of the anime (Never actually caught a full episode at that), but the art and style of this game is completely original, and I can't wait to get it!

Raykuza
Raykuza

Wait a minute... a non-stereotypical black male lead? I didn't think it was possible. Take that 50 cent: Blood on the Sand!

Eternal_Rezen
Eternal_Rezen

I agree with pycho22solid and Chrissyc86 the game has great concept art in the game which really hasnt been able to be a big concept in the next gen series of games hopefully the gameplay looks as good as the screens!

pycho22solid
pycho22solid

Lookin good, I'm lovin the art. Lets hope Sammy Jackson does his voice though!!!

Chrissyc86
Chrissyc86

so long a samual L Jackson does th voices its all good

HardcoreBunni
HardcoreBunni

I've never seen the anime series but the game is looking really cool. Some of the best use of cell-shading I've seen since Wind Waker.

lumeiwan
lumeiwan

I think this game is worth to buy.But if it were to follow the original anime story plot,it could be a short game imo.

jbahari
jbahari

This game looks great from what i see. This probably the best use of cel shading I have seen in a while. They did a good job with the Afro Samurai character model. Now as far as gameplay we'll see.

Vorodor21
Vorodor21

@the_monkey_god: this coming from the guy with the spongebob avatar?

Yyin9564
Yyin9564

whoo... been following afro samurai (the game) since its announcement... been watching the show since it announcement as well... can't wait for this and The Boondocks game

xgalacticax
xgalacticax

Sounds ok, wasn't a big fan of the series but i like the art style.

tr00pa_26
tr00pa_26

I cant wait for this. Also I like the afro series. Lemonade!!

GreyWolf217
GreyWolf217

As good as this game is startin to sound you might see scenes like outta the anime when it comes out in stores. Here's to hoping people lookin to buy it have good health insurance. lol

promano3
promano3

That combat system looks awesome! Slicing off body parts? YES. This game will likely be as gory as the anime...I hope Samuel L. Jackson still does the voice for the game too. I think it has somewhat of a Ninja Gaiden feel to it, although of course Ninjas and Samurais are totally different! ;) No HUD and terrific art also makes it must buy...that is if I was willing to shell out the cash for a PS3.

Tree06
Tree06

It's looking good.

Pete5506
Pete5506

I like the way the game is looking

jblaze5000
jblaze5000

Got the dvd,got to get the game.

lakeerie_effect
lakeerie_effect

this guy that did the interview the black older guy sounded and looked like a retard every cut is like afro remembering his dad and tear jerkers and u want me to feel that everytime i hit the x button or whatever. CLOWN. to be honest i dont even care about this game. i just was curious cuz it looked like a joke when i seen it on the main page.

PacBoy23
PacBoy23

Looks good , Im happy about the combat system, No HUD, Soundtrack and Art style

YoungDab
YoungDab

Nice work,its not racist,its just a video game with a anime style black samurai lol.

iboo01
iboo01

this game looks solid!

battlfrnt2006
battlfrnt2006

Can't wait! I loved the series, it was just so f-ing badace, this is a definite must-buy for me

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

Actually I doubt Afro Samarai has anything to do with racism I mean there are Black Japanese people. I've met one once. So why would they want to wipe out their own kind? I mean minorities have to stick to gether. This is solely about revenge that's all there is no deep seeded racism. You're looking for something that's not there.

LordSchmee
LordSchmee

@lt8653: Its Afro Samurai, after a popular anime series...

Lt8653
Lt8653

So awsome I loved afro ninja, hopefuly this game'll kick ass too.

betatester
betatester

wow some of those visuals are jaw dropping, hope it looks as good in motion as it does in the screenies

Unknown_Legend
Unknown_Legend

I would love to beat up that crying teddybear guy. Is Samuel L. Jackson doing the voice?

Blisster
Blisster

I thought the series was beautiful and had a pretty good story. It wasn't as good as say Ninja Scroll, but it was well done and had a great style. If the game can pull off the anime's style and translate the movement well enough (ala Devil May Cry series) it could be a solid game.

legend26
legend26

sweeeet! i loved the show i have to get it!

M_A_D
M_A_D

bah not another anime wana be game >_> .. i remember how Samurai champloo game turned out , boring and stupid ...i say fail !

kenshi_92888
kenshi_92888

Shaping up real good, ought to check it out and maybe get myself to finally know what Afro Samurai is really about.