reviews\ Nov 19, 2006 at 7:00 pm

Genji: Days of the Blade - PS3 - Review

Three years have passed …

… the world has been at peace thanks to the combined efforts of Yoshitsune Minamoto and the mighty Benkei Musahibo. The cruel Heishi were defeated and scattered, but the evil clan was not finished in the battle to attain Amahange – divine jewels that imbue their possessors with godlike powers.

Yoshitsune’s older brother, Yoritomo, has led his army on a path to round up the surviving members of the Heishi, ignoring rumors of ungodly creatures appearing to join in the various skirmishes with the Heishi. And now a temple is threatened and the heroes must find allies to join forces to battle the new threat and save all of Japan.

Part myth and part pure imaginative action adventure, Genji: Days of the Blade continues the story told in the PlayStation 2 title with some notable differences. First, this is a PlayStation 3 launch title, and it is viewed in glorious 1080p (1,080 lines of progressive scan resolution that defines true high-definition). The result is a visceral experience that is wonderful.

The game begins with a Heishi attack on a temple. The levels basically involve threading your playable character through the level maze, getting from point A to point B while trying to solve some of the mini-puzzles along the way, battling hordes of enemies, picking up a few drops scattered about the level, and ultimately acquiring the rest of the team.

Quite honestly, the screenshots do not do this game justice.

There are four playable characters in the game – Yoshitsune, Benkei, Gozen Shizuka (known as the Priestess of Tamayori) and Lord Buson (the powerful God of War who has left the heavens to help the Genji mortals battle the Heishi). Once all have been gathered – you will need to play through several of the levels to collect the team – you can switch through the team members on the fly by using the directional pad.

Of course, as wonderful as the game looks, there are some problems – mostly tied to the fixed camera position that will not allow you to see what lies ahead until you are in the middle of enemies. Yes, you can see that on the mini-map (enemies are little orange triangles) but working the camera to scan the environment seems like something that should have been available, especially considering the nature of this game. The game is also extremely linear in nature. If you fail to make it through the level the first (or second or third) time, then you can count on the same enemy formations, the same drops in the same spots and the same solutions to the puzzles.

As you battle, you build up the Kamui meter. When it is full, you can hit L1 to send your warrior and all the enemies he (or she) is fighting to an alternate plane. By matching the PS hotkey icons as they appear, you can one-shot most of those you are fighting. Miss, though, and the enemy may tag you, which sends all back to the mortal plane. As you fight, if your health is running low and regenerative icons don’t appear with the death of an enemy (they are few and far between, and only appear for a short time), you can hit the start button to pause the game and peruse the inventory. From there you can load out weapons or take herbs or potions.

The control scheme will enable you to use the sixaxis controller to defensively tumble during the battle, but you have to activate it in the options menu. R2 will allow you to turn to face the nearest enemy, while R1 adopts a defensive stance.

As each of the team members boast different skills, using the right one in a given situation is wise, though they can each deal out punishment to a number of foes.

The audio is a supporting player in this game. The narrative and sounds are all what one would imagine from this game with few surprises. The camera angles aside, the game has some strong graphical elements, not only in the focal parts of the game, but in areas you may not notice – like the leaves on a tree. The visceral quality is excellent.

Genji: Days of the Blade is an action-packed game that really does not do a whole lot new in terms of game mechanics or even story, but does step up to the plate – camera angle notwithstanding – graphically. It is a visual treat that plays out well on a big screen (in this case, a 40” Sony Bravia HDTV) and has many graphical moments that may have you saying “wow.” That is precisely the reaction a launch title should elicit.

Review Scoring Details for Genji: Days of the Blade

Gameplay: 6.0
The camera angles can make a mess of the action as it is fixed and will not rotate. It is even possible to jump and leave the fixed frame. The controls are easy to work and create a game that is easily accessed.

Graphics: 8.8
The game is a wonderful visual experience. The animations are well done, the effects look very good and the characters have detail and personality in their movements.

Sound: 6.5
Solid sound that lingers on the edge of the stereotypical (in terms of accents) at times, but does an adequate job as a supporting role to the graphics, nontheless.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
There are two difficulty settings on this game – normal and hard. There is challenge but the normal is not overly difficult to get through.

Concept: 6.0
The game has a very linear design and the puzzles are not that hard to figure out. The game does come with an auto-save feature that helps save progress through the game.

Overall: 6.0
A decent successor to the first game, but generally Genji: Days of the Blade falters on too many gameplay elements to be considered a must-have launch title. The visceral experience is everything we would want from a 1080p title but this does not truly make up for the lack of innovation in the way the game plays out. There is much of been there-done that feel to the game. The graphics are, initially, a wonder, but when you finally look past them, you will find a game that is merely ordinary, and the fixed camera is an annoyance that needs to be fixed if there is a third title in the franchise.

Above Average

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