E3 2015: Hands-On with Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma

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The Afro Samurai franchise made its video game debut in 2009 to a mixed critical response which made the news of sequel to the game a bit shocking especially since it has been so long. Now with lessons learned from their first outing the development team are looking to make improvements and deliver the best Afro Samurai experience possible. To achieve this the team will go the episodic route like the anime series and will focus on some new mechanics for the combat.

Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma takes place after the events of the series and is from the perspective of Kuma. Kuma for those unfamiliar with the series was Afro’s big brother at an orphanage/dojo, but due to tragic events was left a broken and vengeful person. Once known as Jinno he is transformed into Kuma, a powerful cyborg samurai with a bear’s head. Out for revenge Kuma sets out to find Afro who he feels betrayed him. The game was written by American Sniper writer James Defelice and will have a soundtrack by RZA of Wu-Tang Clan fame. Having RZA back for Afro Samurai 2 is a nice touch since his soundtrack for the television series and movie were big parts of the franchise’s appeal.

AS2 Screenshot 10 (March 2015) AS2 Screenshot 8 (March 2015)

At E3 2015 I was able to get my hands on the game for two sections of gameplay. The first section was a tutorial room, in this all white room I controlled Kuma and learned the basics of the combat against defenseless enemies and the other was an actual level from the game.

The combat for Afro Samurai 2 is what you’d expect in terms of controls for the a hack and slasher, but what sets this sequel apart is it does away with the slow motion mode from the first game. In the first game you played as Afro and he had the ability to slow down time and do extra powerful and stylish kills. Replacing that in Revenge of Kuma will be the ability to switch between three fighting styles Kuma, Afro and Master. These styles differentiate in many ways. One style is a fast paced style that is more about offense than defense and another is more calculating and defensive. And I believe the third was a combination of the two. In my short time with the game I was not able to get too into the nuances of each style, but there was a notable difference between all three. In order to add depth to combat players will have the ability to switch between each style on the fly even during combat by selecting a style on the d-pad. In my experience I ran into some issues switching between the styles every once in awhile in part because the game appears to be heavy on its animations. Once Kuma got into a stylish move I was unable to break out of that particular move and therefore I had some issues where the game might not have registered me switching to another style. Switching styles did however work when I was doing smaller more basic attacks so the problem could have been me or the early build of the game. Either way the combat is pretty sick with each fall of an enemy being satisfyingly brutal as enemies split into pieces from the blows of Kuma’s katana.

AS2 Screenshot 7 (March 2015) AS2 Screenshot 11 (March 2015)

Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma looks pretty damn close to art of the anime series which will make fans happy as it is closer to what they loved than what the previous game was able to achieve. And on top of having the RZA returning to help on the soundtrack the voice actors will all be returning which is huge. As mentioned before the game will be episodic and when I asked the developer about their release schedule I was told that episode one will be releasing soon. And as far as how often episodes will be released they are looking to avoid having huge gaps between episodes. If the story comes together nicely and the combat nails some level of depth then this could be what Afro Samurai fans have wanted for years.

Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma is set to release this year for the PlayStation 4, PC and Xbox One.

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