Review: Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume 1 (PS4)

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Title: Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.5 GB)
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Versus Evil
Developer: Redacted Studios
Original MSRP: $14.99 (Volume 1) / $44.99 (Complete Trilogy)
ESRB Rating: M
Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
The story of Afro Samurai 2: Kuma’s Revenge is from the perspective of Kuma (Jino) who had everything he loved destroyed when his family got caught up in the drama that followed a young Afro. Out for revenge, Kuma is determined to find and kill Afro for the loss of his family. This game has a lot of problems so let us begin.

The combat in Kuma’s Revenge feels sloppy and is often unresponsive and unwieldy. Fighting is done with the Square button and Triangle is the block. The game attempts to keep combat stylish. What it ended up with is a fighting style that just leads to mashing Square over and over again and hoping that the stylish moves do not take you too far away from the action.

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What happens in the combat is that Kuma will go for cartwheels and flips. Without a proper lock-on he will end up away from whoever the player intended to strike. Luckily there is not much combat to worry about in the first three-quarters of the game due to constant stop and starts from the terribly told story.

Plus, for whatever reason health never seems to be much of a factor till the very end unless you fail a quick time event. When it is time to block and parry an enemy, the Triangle button appears over their head like in the Batman: Arkham series. But it does not quite work as smoothly as those games and will lead to Kuma being hit. I could not for the life of me figure out if it was a timing issue or just the lack of tight controls.

… It’s hard to understand how a game based on combat can fail at combat so much …
What the game does to differentiate itself is to introduce the ability to play three different styles of fighting that the player can switch between on the fly. These styles are Afro, Kuma, and Master. Each has its own abilities and therefore strengths that the game will force you to use to pass certain levels.

For example Afro style can block projectiles, Kuma has Dharma Rage, and Master has an overpowered kill all move. Dividing the three styles up feels forced and the small differences between them and the game’s use of them just does not do enough to make them feel special from each other.

From time to time the game will only allow you to kill enemies with a specific move set, which would make sense if the game wouldn’t completely forget that later on when those enemy types pop up again and they can be killed with any style. It’s hard to understand how a game based on combat can fail at combat so much.

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There is a skill tree which, despite this being the first of three volumes, is easy to almost complete. The only thing stopping you from fully leveling is the fact that a few upgrades are locked until the next episode.

This brings up another frustrating point. The game is not really clear when it is time to upgrade, because at certain points I ran into walls where I could not get past a level due to having to upgrade a style. The game does a poor job communicating this and it can be frustrating.

… filled with bugs and glitches …
To make matters worse the game is full of bugs. I struggled to finish a specific level because enemies would not appear or they would fly into the sky leaving me unable to move on because I needed to eliminate them.

This left me to restart the chapter in the hope that it did not glitch again, but it did many times before I was able to move on. It is really easy to clip through the environment and get trapped which again forced me to restart multiple times.

There are some terrible platforming levels that are filled with bugs and glitches where falling or missing a platform is unavoidable. Overall gameplay feels like a rushed mess like everything else in the game.

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Visuals:
Where to begin? There are a ton of issues in this game, from the presentation of the story to how the game runs. The story is presented through bits and pieces of choppy in-engine cutscenes and monologues.

Other bits of the story are done in motion comics and while those look nice, they sometimes lack motion making it just look like concept art is being thrown on screen. Seeing how the story is presented raises questions on whether this game was rushed to be released or not.

As for the gameplay, it is plagued with a horrible framerate that goes down to a slideshow too often. To make matters worse, the game will sometimes go into slow motion and the framerate issues will still be present. It is mind blowing how bad it runs even in slow motion.

… ruined by a horrible audio mix …
Audio:
The one thing this game has going for it is the soundtrack which was worked on by RZA. It’s a good mix of hip-hop tracks and instrumentals that fit into what made Afro Samurai work as an anime.

Unfortunately the game still finds a way to fumble the one thing it had going for it. The music is ruined by a horrible audio mix. Voice work, music, and background noises are mixed terribly. Voice performances can sometimes be hard to hear due to a loud background music or sometimes the fighting sounds can be mixed so high that the speakers will crackle.

It just sounds like very little care went into the sound design despite featuring RZA’s contributions to the music and having voice actors that have worked on the anime.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Afro Samurai is just an absolute disappointment. Overall it gives off the vibe of a game that had some budget issues or was rushed to release. It rears its ugly head in almost every aspect of the game.

I do not understand how they are going to release two more volumes of this game with this first showing being so poor. The story could have been great, but instead what we got is laughable because of poor design choices.

The soundtrack is the only redeeming quality going for this game and even that has issues. You are better off buying a random Wu-Tang Clan album, closing your eyes and imagining a better Afro Samurai game.

Score:
2.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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