For gamers who couldn’t get enough hack and slash gameplay from God of War, Sony’s soon to be released Genji: Dawn of the Samurai will fill this void. This time, instead of Ancient Greece, they have taken their inspiration from the 11th century Japanese literary masterpiece, Tale of Genji. Genji provides a dramatic samurai plot fused with fantastical Japanese mythology. This historic samurai tale is set against the beautiful and elegant environments of feudal Japan, and delivers a story of two noble warriors engaged in a crusade against mythical forces controlling Japan. Genji: Dawn of the Samurai features authentic swordplay choreographed by Japan’s leading swordsman, and production directed by acclaimed industry veterans.
The story opens up and the land is in chaos. Roving bands of brigands are doing everything they can to make life hard on the citizenry in their quest for money and magical items. Cue the music - this is where you step in as hero Yoshitsune, a dual-sword wielding (does any game character wield one weapon any more?) do-gooder who’s out to free the land from the bad guys. In order to do this - he’ll basically hack, slash, chop and devastate his way through wave after wave of baddies. But you’re not alone - early in the game you’ll meet characters like Benkei, a lumbering giant of a monk who is dead set on taking down the enemy with his insanely oversized smashing weapons. Benkei joins you in your fight, and you can switch between the two characters at certain points throughout the game (which is vital for some basic problem solving). Similar to the beauty of God of War - Genji is a game that’s all about style. Visually, it’s stunning and when Yoshitsune summons his magic power, Kamui that slows down time and creates an automatic kill system (just hit the square button at the right time) - the screen is rife with brilliant colour and animation. The gore factor, as seen in God of War with rather messy finishing moves and limb removal give this game a slightly more mature rating.
The only problem with all this style is that substance has been sacrificed in its favour. So you’ve got plenty of cinematic action and lush environments, and gameplay that amounts to stringing together combos, jumping around and hitting the Kamui button when things get too tough or you tire of fighting countless waves of enemies. However the experience is still an enjoyable one. The role-playing element of gaining attributes and learning new combos / magic attacks gives the game a much longer lifespan, and rewards you for your wrist-straining efforts on the battlefield. Hollywood quality cinematics between scenes pushes you gently through the story, which is both intriguing and visually mesmerising.
All in all, it is difficult not to compare Genji with the long series of Onimusha titles, but Sony’s effort does offer a different sense of style and scope and should please fans of any third-person action game. One to try out if you enjoyed God of War - which many people most certainly did!