Genji: Days of the Blade PlayStation 3
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Game Republic
Release Date: Out Now
I have to admit to looking forward to Genji: Days of the Blade when it was being shown during the build up to the launch of the PlayStation 3. The reason for my looking forward to the game had nothing to do with fighting giant crabs or the much publicised (and ridiculed) 'real-time weapon change', it was simply because I enjoyed the original Genji on the PlayStation 2. The game was similar to the excellent Onimusha series but had enough originality about it to make it feel like a different experience. In fact our main criticism was that the game was too short. Surely Genji: Days of the Blade was going to be one of our favourite PlayStation 3 launch titles?
Genji: Days of the Blade is set three years after the events of the first game. In the first Genji game Yoshitsune and his companion Benkei defeated the evil Heishi Clan with only remnants of their forces remaining. Yoshitsune's older brother, the leader of the Genji Clan, managed to locate the remnants of the Heishi Clan. As they prepared to wipe out the Heishi Clan it became known that demonic creatures had begun to appear with the Heishi Clan ranks and as a result the Heishi were becoming a force to be reckoned with. Once again Yoshitsune has to join the fight against the Heishi and along with Benkei and two new companions, he has to summon the powers of the Hinaishi in an effort to save Japan.
In addition to the dual sword wielding Yoshitsune Minamoto and the warrior-monk Benkei Musashibo who wields the giant war club (which appears to be the size of a telegraph pole) you're joined by two new fighters. Gozen Shizuka (who appeared in the first game) and Lord Buson (Kagekiyo) also join your group to now give you four fighters to choose from. Gozen Shizuka is pretty much the opposite of Benkei in that she is small and very agile. With her rather unique weapon (it's kind of a circular blade that can carry out long range attacks and can also be used to pull enemies nearer) she manages to compliment the styles of both Benkei and Yoshitsune rather nicely. Lord Buson has a kind of spear and doesn't appear to be that useful in all honesty. As well as having their own unique styles each character has a Kamui power that enables them to combat many enemies at the same time. Once the Kamui meter is filled you simply press the L1 button and then press the relevant buttons as they appear on the screen. This is done until either you get a button press wrong or all of the enemies are wiped out.
On playing Days of the Blade for only a short while it becomes obvious that the game has some fundamental problems that manage to sour the overall experience. The number one culprit is the camera which has to be one of the worst we've seen in a long time. The games confines you to a fixed camera angle and it makes things, such as the various jumps you have to perform and the fighting, as difficult as possible. Whilst you have to fight many enemies in Days of the Blade none of them are as challenging as the camera which at times does its level best to prevent you from progressing. You'll come to rely on your mini-map quite a lot to get a sense of direction as a result of the poor camera. The right analogue stick, which should have been used to manipulate the camera, has been used to carry out evasive manoeuvres which works well. However, you can use the motion-sensing capabilities of the Sixaxis controller to also carry out these evasive manoeuvres. The motion-sensing controls aren't that great to be honest. They feel like a last minute addition and it's no surprise they are disabled by default.
The combat in Days of the Blade is pretty much what you would expect in a game of this type. It wouldn't be unfair to call the game a bit of a button basher and it's possible to get through the bulk of the game without giving too much thought to what you're doing. The game confines you to fairly small areas during a battle through the use of barriers known as Masho Wards. You'll be fighting the same kinds of enemies over and over again and it can become a little tedious. Only the boss fights really offer some variety. The boss fights are the highlight of the game and vary greatly in terms of difficulty. As we mentioned earlier, the game gives you control over four different characters and each of these characters has their own weapons and fighting style. You can switch between characters at any time by pressing the relevant directional button. The theory is that you can fight a more tactical battle by swapping out characters at relevant times, particularly during a boss fight. In practice you rarely need to switch from using Yoshitsune, which is a shame. It's good to be able to switch characters and weapons (different weapons give the characters different fighting styles in most cases) on the go and it's a shame you're not encouraged to take advantage of it more often.
Most would have expected Days of the Blade to have looked considerably better than the original Genji and the game certainly does not disappoint in this respect. In fact Days of the Blade is one of the best looking PlayStation 3 games at the time of writing. The character models are actually quite large and they look excellent. The various environments you'll find yourself in during the game also look very good although it's not always easy to appreciate them because of the fixed camera angle. The level design seems to be a little basic too, which is disappointing. The load times are quite good and there's an option to install the game's data files to the HDD if you wish but I didn't feel the need to as the load times were fine. The frame rate for the most part is good although it does drop from time to time which is a little disappointing. There are quite a few clipping issues too, which again is disappointing.
Genji: Days of the Blade is subtitled and deaf gamers shouldn't have any real problems with the game. The cutscenes are subtitled, as is all of the important dialogue in the main game. The subtitles are displayed on a darkened overlay offering maximum clarity. There are no character names or portraits placed alongside the dialogue so you're not always going to know who exactly is saying what. That said however, we didn't encounter any problems in this respect. All tutorial messages are shown in text. Icons also indicate what buttons you need to press in context sensitive situations so if you need to press the X button to open a box then an X button icon will appear onscreen.
Having enjoyed Genji on the PlayStation 2 I had hoped that Genji: Days of the Blade would at least be as enjoyable. In truth it isn't and this is hugely disappointing. Whilst the combat in the game isn't as enjoyable as it should be, it's the awful camera that will turn most gamers off. For a next generation console to have a game such as this with a fixed camera angle is hugely disappointing. Most of the time, you will feel frustrated at not being able to see exactly where you're going. During combat it's a pain when you have jumps to perform and puzzles to solve from a fixed view; it can make you want to pull your hair out. Ignoring the chronic camera for a moment Genji: Days of the Blade is an average game at best; however, when taking the camera into account it's safe to say this is the most disappointing PlayStation 3 game we've seen so far.
Genji: Days of the Blade is very disappointing given how enjoyable the original game was on the PlayStation 2. The camera is atrocious and the bulk of the combat just isn't as enjoyable as it should be.