Preview: Samurai Western (PS2)

Publisher: Atlus So. / Developer: Acquire / Genre: Action / Release: 6-7-05

This summer, for the PS2, Acquire, best known for the Tenchu and Way of the Samurai series brings us a new spin on the old west: Samurai Western. Samurai western tells the story of Gojiro Kiryu, a wandering Samurai who makes his way to the America, circa the late 1800’s. A land much different from his home… rugged, dangerous where the only law is a smoking gun, and justice is as rare as gold. It is in this new land, where Gojiro and his blade make their mark.

Samurai Western was originally released last year in Japan, and is finally making it’s way to the states, with a few upgrades. Usually things work a little different, with Japan getting upgraded versions of games, as with Final Fantasy X, so, it’s about damn time we get the good stuff for once. Upgrades include improved graphics from the original release, along with an “insane” difficulty setting, and “Bushido Sense” which allows the player to dodge and parry bullets with superhuman reflexes and move in for the kill. Speaking of killing… this game sure doesn’t skimp on that, as our hero demolishes his foes, cutting them to ribbons with his Katana, with gouts of blood abound. Don’t expect anything less then an M rating for this one folks. Blood flows like water and heads roll with great abundance, reminiscent of Kill Bill, but without the F word being thrown around as much (at least in game, I’m sure once I got my hands on it, I’ll be talking to the screen, yelling “Take that you dirty mother F*cker!”, but, I’m just unbalanced)

One feature that has grabbed my attention is the customization aspect, allowing the player to select different stances, each affecting strength, speed and special moves. Getting bored with one fighting style? Try something different, and see what you like. That right there insures some replayability. The real meat and potatoes of the replayablity department though are the unlockables, the tally being well over a hundred. Over 25 playable characters for those that want a little more variety to the game. Usually, I’m happy with ONE bonus character, but 25? That right there guarantees loads of fun, as long as the characters are actually good. Added to the mix are 70 different accessories, and 20 weapons. Mix and match all of that, and the combinations are endless.

Samurai Western, I might add, features full voice acting, although, some isn’t so great, namely Gojiro himself, who has the generic Engrish going on for him, which, is grating at best. Take a listen and you’ll see what I mean. Other then that, there doesn’t seem to be too much to complain about in the sound department, which is good. Too many games feature horrible voice acting, and make you wonder why they tried at all. Graphics wise, the game looks decent, although unspectacular. It makes me wonder how they game looked in Japan, if this is the graphical update, from what I saw, it looked like it was on par with, and slightly better then GTA: San Andreas, which really wasn’t a graphics masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. The GOOD thing though, is you get a nice big heapin’ helpin’ of gameplay, which is what you really come for.(Square fanboys and graphics whores need not apply) I mean, really, how many games these days have a Western theme?(Personally, I love westerns, so, I snap them up.) And how many of those have friggin’ Samurais? This game screams, “Play me!” If only because it’s something you don’t see often, while it’s true that usually innovation sells like crap, I can see this one being a sleeper hit for the summer, a season that rarely has any big releases, so, games like this do well. If anything, I’m sure it’ll be a great rental game. Get some friends together and slice some cowboys to pieces. Speaking of friends, there is also a co-op mode that has been tacked on that features a gunslinger that can be controlled by the second player, to back up Gojiro.

SW is being released in the states by Atlus, a company well known for localizing games for American and European releases, such as the Ogre Battle series, and has a few games ready to hit our shores later this year also, like Riviera: The Promised Land for GBA and Puyo Pop Fever for the Nintendo DS also slated for summer releases. Looks like this summer is going to be a pretty good one for Atlus, so keep an eye out for those titles as well. All in all, Samurai Western looks like it’ll be a great game and definitely worth a try. Keep an eye out for it in a few months, and have fun.