First Impressions: I choppy choppy your peepee!
With the PlayStation 3 looming in the distance, it seems the PlayStation 2 is finally seeing its last days as Sony's go-to home console. Thankfully Sony believes in supporting their hardware to the fullest at times like these, and thus SCEA has a horde of titles due for PS2 this fall to counter the release of the Xbox 360. One such forthcoming release is Genji: Dawn of the Samurai, an Onimusha-esque action game, developed by Game Republic, a new Japanese developer founded by former Capcom luminary Yoshiki Okamoto (which explains some of the similarities to Onimusha, but yet his origins come from a game some of you have heard of called Street Fighter II). Taking place in 12th century Japan, Genji promises an intricate storyline, adventure an role-playing elements to add depth, and of course, hordes of hack & slash action to compliment the beautiful, artistic graphics & environments. Due in late August/early September, Genji: Dawn of the Samurai could be the first salvo in yet another big fall for the PS2 ? and most likely its last.
As mentioned, Genji takes place in 12th century Japan in a period of much fighting ? though that's not a real surprise, nobody makes a swordfighting game during a peaceful period. At the start, your main character is Yoshitsune, who is very fast and elusive in combat, making up for any possible lack of strength or endurance. Eventually, another man joins you, a strong, but slow character named Benkei, who compliments Yoshitsune very well as their styles and strengths offset each other. This doesn't mean there will be cooperative play, but likely a swapping method where you switch characters on the fly like you might in an action RPG, for instance. Genji promises to be a very story-heavy game, thanks to being based on an old, ancient Japanese book. But Game Republic assures there will be a great deal of action-packed goodness ? nothing less can be expected from someone with experience at Capcom, a company that knows the meaning of style over substance.
An action game first and foremost, Genji will be extremely heavy on the swordfighting. The game is going to be designed as something for new players to easily latch onto, but at the same time, tough enough for action veterans to sink their teeth into, which can only benefit all sorts of gamers. Basically, depending on what you do with the analog stick, either character will execute different moves for a great deal of variety and strategy against the different enemy types. You can also defend, though eventually your guard will break and become stunned and thus open for enemy attacks. Genji also employs something called 'Mind's Eye' which is basically Bullet Time with a different name, as everything slows down but you and thus much ass-kickery can commence. It might not be anything innovative in this regard (though arguably the whole of Genji is fairly by-the-books), but I'm sure it will come in handy when there's hordes of enemies surrounding you.
Genji also employs some RPG aspects, even moreso than numerous other action games that have gone this path. In a crazy twist there's actually a world map that you travel across, though it's a point-to-point deal (similar to say the Kukai Foundation and Second Miltia world maps within Xenosaga/Xenosaga II). Both playable characters earn experience points and thus can level up to become stronger, and equip new weapons, armor, and accessories, and there's a few towns scattered about where you encounter NPCs for information gathering most likely. These elements, along with the other adventuring aspects are sure to help Genji avoid falling into the trap of being a repetitive and mindless action game, and with the possibilities of non-linear progression in spots, it may be a game you can replay more than once to see different paths open, quite similar to Onimusha 2's structure.
Since Genji was announced late last year, the buzz has been about the beautiful graphics. Lush, colorful environments, loads of artistic stylings, and very impressive character animations were evident upon first seeing the videos and screenshots, making for a quite stunning title. Like many games, Genji will have both cutscenes rendered through the game engine, and CG sequences for the more vital storyline sequences. Genji will have full voice acting as well...but not like you'd expect. In a surprising twist to keep the authentic 12th century Japanese feel of the game (seeing that I'm 99.9% sure nobody in Japan back then spoke much English, let alone even heard of a language called English), all the voices will remain in Japanese for the US release. Of course, there will be translated subtitles to go along with the translated menu screens, but there will be no option to actually change the voice to English. Some perhaps will find this disappointing, but in return it actually cuts back the translating time (seeing the game recently released in Japan and will be out in the US in less than 2 months, unless there's a drastic delay), so we can play it that much sooner.