Genji looks and sounds great, and the play mechanics are solid enough; but the game is way too short to make it worth more than a rental.
- Gorgeous levels and detail
- Tight, responsive controls
- Tons of interesting boss battles
- Flashy but satisfying combat system.
- The game is over way too soon
- Fixed camera angles don't always give you a good view of the action
- Frequent cutscenes interrupt the flow of the game.
Genji: Dawn of the Samurai is the first project from developer Game Republic, the company formed by former Capcom executive Yoshiki Okamoto. The relation is immediately evident if you've played any of Capcom's Onimusha games, because Genji looks and feels very much like those. If you're a fan of flashy cut-'em-up action and Japanese mythology, you'll be glad to know that Genji doesn't stray from that path. Unfortunately, that path is a short one, and it ends just as soon as things really start to get interesting.
The story of Genji carries a mythical theme that revolves around rare magical stones called Amahagane. These stones let their bearer harness the power of Kamui, which lets a single fighter slay dozens of enemies in the blink of an eye. The game is set in late-13th-century Japan, where a powerful family of warriors known as the Heishi have taken control of land. The Heishi generals are endowed with godlike powers, thanks to the Amahagane they wear, and as a result, they easily slaughter any resisting forces. As you might expect, the Heishi aren't exactly kind, fair rulers. The Heishi are on a quest to collect all of the Amahagane so they can increase their power even further to achieve immortality and absolute rule. That won't do at all, so you have to set out to free Japan from the grip of these power-mad tyrants.
The main character of the game is Yoshitsune, a young warrior with an Amahagane of his own. Your job is to find all the remaining Amahagane and use them to bring and end to Heishi rule. You can expect to fight plenty of faceless goons and powerful bosses on your quest, and as you collect Amahagane your power will grow stronger. Early in the game you'll meet Benkei, a lumbering giant of a monk who is dead set on taking down the Heishi with his insanely oversized smashing weapons. Benkei joins you in your fight, and you can switch between the two characters at certain points throughout the game. For the most part, which warrior you choose is entirely a matter of preference. However, sometimes you'll need Benkei's strength or Yoshitune's agility to access certain areas or retrieve hidden items. For example, there are sturdy doors in the game that Yoshitsune isn't strong enough to open but Benkei can shove open with ease.
Since this is your basic action game, the majority of your time will be spent killing drones, collecting treasure, and facing a series of grandiose bosses. The combat in Genji is quite satisfying, and the fact that you can switch between the two different characters is just icing on the cake. The combat controls are simple but effective. Hitting the square button initiates a basic strike, which can be chained together to form combos. The triangle button performs a powerful but singular strike. There are also leaping attacks, and when using certain weapons, you can hold one of the strike buttons to perform a charge attack that inflicts heavy damage but leaves you vulnerable as it charges.
Combat is quick, flashy, and fun. You can slice enemies in half, knock them off bridges, or just send them flying with a swing from Benkei's club. In fact, Benkei can actually knock a guy's torso off his legs--although the animation is the same as when Yoshitsune cuts an enemy in half. These effects are exaggerated and silly, but they're effective in adding to the illusion that you're a superbadass warrior who can take out scores of evildoers without breaking a sweat.
The best part of the combat in Genji is the Kamui power. As you defeat enemies, you'll charge up your Amahagane. When you have one full bar of energy, you can tap L1 to activate your Kamui power, which basically slows down time to sharpen your reflexes. When you do this, all of the enemies in the area will attack. At the appropriate time in their attack, a small square button icon will pop up on the bottom of the screen. If you hit the square button before that icon goes away, you'll dodge the enemy attack and launch a powerful counter of your own. This can be tricky, since some enemies are faster than others. Sometimes you'll only have a split-second in which to hit the button, so you have to pay more attention to the enemy attack animations rather than relying entirely on the icon. It can be tricky at first to get the timing down, but once you do, it can be a tense and rewarding experience to dodge and counter several attacks in rapid succession. Most enemies will die after a single one of these countermoves, but it can take half a dozen or more of these dodge-strike sequences to take down a boss.