Genji Review

PlayStation 2

December 16, 2005 by

Genji Image

The Japanese traditions and myths are certainly elegant. A world of stylish clothing, peaceful surroundings and graceful combat movements combine to form a world that is considerably different to our current world today. With the Japanese myths and lifestyles being considerably different to the rest of the English-speaking world, its understandable why many games that are based in such a world are overlooked in our English-speaking markets. Its an unfortunate occurrence, as many of these games provide a refreshing and captivating experience that so many of todays games lack, all of which are elements that are essential in making a game truly spectacular.

Game Republics Genji is, quite simply, an elegant game. The presentation is breathtaking, the storyline truly captivating and the gameplay execution is commendable. Its the type of game that offers a refreshing experience, an experience that is enjoyable from beginning to end. The only problem is, the time that you will spend with Genji is disappointingly short, as the games storyline lasts roughly eight hours on first play-through.

Genji tells the story of Yoshitsune and his quest to destroy the tyrannical rule of his people from a careless group known as the Heishi; a devious family who control their land with a heartless iron fist, treating their citizens as nothing more than worthless slaves. The Heishi have gained control of the country after defeating the previous owners through the use of special rounded stones known as Amahagane, which give its bearer superior battle abilities. In order to further strengthen their rule and prevent any uprising being successful, the Heishi are searching to retrieve all of the Amahagane stones. If they succeed, the Heishi would become an unbeatable force.

The game begins with a confrontation between you and a group of Heishi soldiers, who demand that you comply and follow them as directed. In your stubborn ways, you refuse and begin battle, only to discover that you are outmatched as further Heishi soldiers appear. Just in time, a mysterious ninja appears, throwing a smoke bomb that temporarily stuns the Heishi soldiers, allowing you to follow the mysterious savior. Following the ninja, you soon come to meet up with a small group of resistance fighters, who inform of the latest happenings that forms the basis for your entire quest. It turns out that you, too, possess an Amahagane stone, the reason as to why the Heishi soldiers had attacked you. Apparently, you are destined to save the people from the Heishis rule, as your father was a royal member who once ruled the land. Armed with your dual swords, amazing acrobatic skills and the determination to succeed, you set out on your quest to retrieve all the Amahagane stones and end the Heishis rule.

Shortly into the game you join forces with Benkei; a massive, muscular brute who has the strength to use massive weapons, including one particular weapon that is a metal-clad log. You are able to regularly switch between Benkei and Yoshitsune at your wish, with much of the game playable by either character. There are sections, however, when each specific character is required to be used, although these are limited and are usually found towards the latter sections of the game.

Genji focuses heavily on gathering the Amahagane stones, with the ability to increase your characters health, attack and defense by collecting Amahagane crystal shards that are hidden throughout the games environments. To retrieve the crystal shards, the controller vibrates, with the vibrations becoming more severe the closer you get to the fragments. When the vibrations are at its strongest, investigating an object or attacking the air will yield the crystal fragment. Collecting three fragments allows you to increase your health, attack or defense level by one.

The Amahagne stones come into the gameplay further with the inclusion of the Kamui power, which essentially puts the game into a slow-motion sequence and allows you to anticipate and effectively counter-attack enemy attacks by tapping the square button at the right time. To keep the game balanced this power is limited, requiring you to kill enemies to replenish an on-screen gauge that measures the Kamui power that you have available. Unfortunately, the Kamui ability is too shallow, with many larger and more powerful enemies, in particular bosses, being virtually unaffected by the ability. It appears that only the small-time enemies are truly subjected to the power, which limits the ability as many of the smaller enemies are easily beaten without the Kamui power in use.

The pleasant and varying combat system makes for the dispatching of foes an enjoyable and never-tiring experience. Yoshitsune is an acrobatic, nimble fighter with many of his combative moves involves jumping or rolling about, issuing attacks quickly and then quickly jumping out of the way when an enemy attempts to counter-attack. Benkei, on the other hand, is a slower fighter who packs a bigger punch than Yoshitsune, allowing you to quickly dispose of groups of enemies with a single swing of his incredibly large weapons. Both characters offer their own unique fighting styles that consist of a surprising number of moves and combos, which allows the combat elements of the game to never grow tiring.

Genjis cinematic presentation is simply superb, offering a mixture of stunning visuals and perfect music that combines to form an impressive presentation. Characters are well detailed and offer realistic animation, which is topped-off with a collection of oriental music that perfectly suits the games era that it is based in. The developer has ensured that the English voice-over work has been conducted in an appropriate manner, with each character offering a Japanese accent that further contributes to the games immersive world. The solid visuals are also present whilst in-game, with detailed environments complementing some great character designs.

Genji is a rare gem that will please most action adventure and role-playing fans. Its a game that effectively portrays a struggle in a world that is remarkably different, yet amazingly understandable, to our world. Its not often that us English-speaking gamers are treated to such Japanese-based gems, its just disappointing that the whole experience is short-lived.

Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.