Genji Hands-On

A mystical look and solid melee combat characterize this new action game from Game Republic and SCEI.

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TOKYO--Famed former Capcom designer Yoshiki Okamoto hasn't shown off his new studio's first product to the world--until now. At the Tokyo Game Show, Game Republic's new PS2 action game Genji is on display and fully playable in demo form, and we had to stop and check it out. The game's appealing visual style, impressive level and enemy design, and rewarding combat system seem to indicate that Game Republic is on the right track with this one.

The TGS demo version of Genji offered no pretense of story--it simply had us choose from two playable characters and dumped us right into the action. The first available warrior, Yoshitsune, was lithe, nimble, and had a repertoire of fast combat moves and jumps, while the other character, Benkei, was a giant of a man who wielded a massive club for a weapon. Naturally we chose Benkei, because who's going to argue with a huge bald guy swinging a telephone pole?

After character selection, we found ourselves on a bridge in the middle of the night, immediately under siege by a host of sword-wielding enemies. The combat in Genji could be compared to that of the Dynasty Warriors games (but with much more complicated levels), as we were able to perform a simple combo by repeatedly hitting the main action button, and our broad swings could knock down two or three enemies at a time if placed properly. Another attack button made Benkei perform a much heavier attack, but it took a good several seconds to charge up and use. We seemed to be gaining experience as we fought on the bridge and then into a second scenario set inside a tranquil temple, as the game paused for a second to extend our life bar a couple of times.

In addition to the apparent level-raising system, it looks like you'll be able to obtain new gear and other accessories for your character as you progress. Though Benkei started off with the aforementioned big club, we soon obtained a massive pike from a downed enemy and were able to equip it from a fairly complex menu screen. All the menu stuff was in Japanese, but there was a lot there, so it looks like you'll have plenty of equipment to play with in the final game. The pike gave us new combos to employ and generally allowed us to attack much faster than when we were using the club. Presumably, you'll encounter different situations that will make different weapon choices seem appropriate.

Genji's combat already feels very fluid and quite enjoyable, but what really sold us on Game Republic's new title was its cohesive visuals. The game draws heavily from Eastern influences, with agile, samurai-like warriors barring our way through the temple level and a boss character who was patterned somewhat after a Chinese-style dragon. One of Yoshitsune's levels that we observed was set in a forest and had a pervasive mist that hung thick in the air, lending a subtle ambience that we greatly appreciated. We can't yet say Genji will necessarily be one of those games that makes you go "ooh" every time you encounter a new level, but the early signs are certainly there.

We didn't know a whole lot about Genji before we walked right up to the kiosk and played it, but after the brief demo we've filed it away as a "one to watch" PS2 game. It's due out sometime next year, and we'll be sure to bring you more details and media as soon as possible.

For more updates, be sure to check GameSpot's coverage of Tokyo Game Show 2004.

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