Review: Genji: Days of the Blade (Sony PS3)

Genji: Days of the Blade
Publisher: Sony
Genre: 3D Brawler
Release Date: 11/17/2006

The Playstaion 3 launch lineup mostly consisted of ports of existing PS2 and Xbox 360 games, with very few titles being system exclusives. The ones that are exclusives are underwhelming at best.

Genji: Days of the Blade is a sequel to the PS2’s Genji: Dawn of the Samurai, and continues in that game’s style and gameplay. It stands as one of the only games at launch specifically made for PS3, and the resulting graphical impact is stunning.

It’s relatively easy to get stunning graphics out of a new consoles, it’s much harder to establish new or exciting gameplay innovations. That’s the real test for Genji — does it add revolutionary gameplay with its stunning and immersive visual style? Unfortunately the gameplay doesn’t seem to match up with the graphics.

1. Story
The game is set in medieval Japan, and there is a LONG story to start the game that is unskippable. It actually took nearly 15 minutes to start the actual game after beginning, making a save file, getting through all the story and getting into the game.

The story revolves around the use of Amahagane, ancient jewels that have The story behind Genji is epic, if not a bit cliché. The game takes place in magical powers.

The invading Heishei clan was defeated and there was apparent peace across the land. However, the Heishei have regrouped with supernatural demons and are mounting another attack against the Japanese. The Genji Clan, the main protoganists, are prepared for a fight.

Not an overly original story, but it is well fleshed out throughout the game and for those who relish story and cinemas in the game, they are here in droves.

Story Rating: 5/10

As a game developed for the PS3 and not a port of a last generation game, the graphics in Genji really shine. Each level is grand in scope and uses a large color palette to create stunning environments

The characters are large, well modeled and animate smoothly and realistically. Simply moving the characters around the levels is fun for a bit, as it almost seems like the game is an interactive cinema scene. The graphical prowess is easy to see early in the game, as early as the first playable portion of the game where a huge building is on fire. The effects of the fire creating heat waves around the characters and environment is impressive.

The use of the camera is well done in Genji as well, mostly fixing the camera at a certain part of a room and allowing the action to unfold that way. It is somewhat reminiscent of Resident Evil, but with more flexibility. It helps create a more cinematic feel to the gameplay and makes the graphics stand out.

It’s also worth noting the art style of the game. Steeped in the traditions of ancient Japan, there are large lavish palaces, stunning costumes and amazing special effects associated with various special moves. There are constant bursts of colors and effects to spice up the already impressive looking locations.

In total, the graphics in Genji are the most impressive facet of the game, and stand as one of the PS3 graphical showcases at launch.

Graphics Rating: 9/10

3. Sound
With so much story to move the game along, Genji has a large amount of spoken text as exposition. The writing of the story is decent, and the voice acting varies from solid to unspectacular. There aren’t any overly offensive voices, but there are none that stand out, leaving Genji’s story feeling a bit pedestrian.

The music is well done, with an epic feel to all of the instrumental music.

Sound Rating: 6/10

4. Control and Gameplay
Genji is a wide open 3D brawler that pits the player against hordes of attacking ninjas and demons. The players can jump and attack, and have defensive blocks as well. There are two main attack buttons, light and strong, and then can be strung together with jumps and weapons to create combos. That being said, a large portion of the game can be passed through with button mashing, and it seems like that creates some impressive combos without any thought at all.

There are four playable characters in the game, and a unique twist is that the can be switched between in real time using the D-Pad. Just tap the D-pad and the character you choose will replace the current character and be ready for battle. There is also realtime weapon changes, although usually the most current weapon is the most powerful and the most useful. New weapons are earned throughout the game and are presented with a lavish cinema. The new weapon will always be ready to wreck shop on the enemies, although they grow stronger through the levels (but by that time you’ll likely have earned another new weapon).

The main character of the game is Yoshisune, who wields two swords and is generally fast. The bulky Haggar-type character is Benkie, who is slow but powerful and has a huge club that seems somewhat like a giant pencil with an erase. The requisite skimpy female character has blades and is the fastest character. The last character was actually the boss in the PS2 prequel. Buson is perhaps the most powerful character. All four are fairly balanced though, as Buson is not able to do combos in an attempt to weaken him to match the other playable characters.

Character switching isn’t just for fun and variety, it actually helps in the game. Much like using the correct weapon on a boss in Mega Man, certain characters can be used in certain situations to better pass. If there is a huge obstacle, the big dude can move it, or if something swift and lethal is needed, you’re probably switching to the girl.

The key gameplay element that tries to differentiate Genji is the Kamui. There is a blue meter which fills up as the player defeats the hordes of enemies, and when its filled, the Kamui can be activated. This brings the player into a psychedelic, colorful slowdown of the battlefield, where strategic button presses can result in lethal blows to the enemy. These parts are actually quite cool and have a really unique graphical look, and feel somewhat like the Matrix.

Genji has some fun techniques and everything is easily executed on the Sixaxis controller, but the whole game has a feeling of déjà vu. There are never-ending hordes of largely dumb enemies that need to be disposed of with extreme violence, and there is more than enough offensive firepower to make that possible without tons of challenge.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 6/10

5. Replayability
Genji is a fairly long adventure, with a ton of levels and 1000s of enemies to go through to beat the game. Beyond that, there isn’t much to Genji, with no multiplayer mode and nothing to unlock. There is always a call to jump into a 100 on 1 attack and kill off hordes of demons, with so many games like this, its more likely that if you’re a fan of this genre, you’d pick up something new with new gameplay elements rather than go back and play through Genji a second time.

Replayability rating: 3/10

6. Balance
After the lengthy intro, the game drops the player right into the action, running into a burning building and kicking ass. There isn’t a whole lot of challenge besides figuring out how to kill each type of new enemy.

Besides earning new characters, which happens fairly early the game, there aren’t many upgrades or powerups outside of some addition moves or combos. This makes the game feel pretty repetitive by the end, as yet another horde of enemies is en route, and they plan on taking turns attacking.

Balance Rating: 5/10

7. Originality.
While Genji has great graphics and solid enough gameplay, it does very little to innovate new gameplay concepts. The character and weapons switching in the course of battle is fun and mixes things up a bit, but is something that has been done before. The only thing truly original about the game is that the graphics look amazing, something that will likely no longer be true by this time next year.

Originality Rating: 2/10

8. Addictiveness
There is something to enjoying new visuals during a console launch window, and once that window is closed, the game goes away pretty much forever. That being said, during the first few months of the PS3 lifespan, early adopters who picked up a console will likely return to Genji now and again, especially when new people are around that might not have seen PS3 yet. The graphics are markedly better than what was seen in the last generation and there is a certain wow factor that can be fun to revisit.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor
This game was not the most well received after E3, with the whole realistic giant crabs fiasco. However, as the launch lineup took shape with so many cross-platform games from Xbox 360, a game like Genji’s appeal went up just due to the fact that it is a system exclusive.

Appeal Factor: 6/10

10. Miscellaneous
Genji represents the type of game that is expected at a console launch these days — a last generation game remade with new graphics. The look and the feel of Genji is epic, and it makes one of the best uses of the PS3 graphics capabilities of any game at launch. However, after the graphical wow factor winds down a bit, you’re left with a fairly generic brawler in the vein of dozens of games we’ve seen before. There is a nice variety of characters to control, but for the most part, the gameplay feels like been there, done that.

The box art is a pose of the main character with swords, and silhouettes of the other main characters to the side. It does a great job of presenting the tone and look of the game. The manual is also in full color with a large amount of backstory.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10

The Scores
Story: 5/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 6/10
Control & Gameplay: 6/10
Replayability: 3/10
Balance: 5/10
Originality: 2/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 6/10
Miscellaneous: 5/10
Total Score 54/100
Final Score: 5.5

Short Attention Span Summary
As launch games go, Genji is decent, showing some graphical prowess and solid if unspectacular gameplay. The basic game is you vs everyone, and the addition of the matrix-like mode to take out enemies in slow motion is fun and pretty but ultimately somewhat boring as well. As graphical showcases go in the PS3 launch window, Genji is tough to beat, but if you are looking for a deep satisfying game, it might fall short.



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