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Samurai G - 3DS Download Review

Game Info
Samurai G

3DS Download | UFO Interactive | 1 Player | Coming Soon (North America) | $1.99
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2nd October 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

To those who thrive on chaotic experiences, the thought of a game with circumstances that have a sense of unchanging permanence can be a turn-off. When gameplay fails to trigger any sort of ardor, that leaves the presentation and the background to penetrate inhibitions exhibited on the part of the player. But a predictable state of affairs on its own shouldn't be enough reason to dismiss a perfectly good game. In fact, it might even be a force for good if there's a sufficient amount of movement to it -- either what's encouraged or what's transmitted in the execution. Such is the case with Samurai G. This isn't the first time and it most certainly won't be the last time that the eShop is treated to games that are structured in an endless format, and just in adhering to this convention of a semi-prearranged spread, Samurai G's skeletal framework doesn't leave a whole lot to ponder over. But in its straightforward appeal, it bears up with a dormant edge, enough that Samurai G won't seem like such a tremendous downgrade from the deeper experiences also available on this platform.

    The game puts you in control of a shirtless, katana-equipped warrior by the name of Tetsuo who is constantly on the run -- from or towards what, is never explicitly stated. The game offers nothing in the way of back story; anything of that nature has been subjected entirely to the digital manual. Compare this with Bird Mania 3D, a game with a similar model that aimed for some semblance of plot to connect you to an otherwise generic character's hopeless endeavours. Thus, instead of relying on story as a point of entry or even as filler, Samurai G shifts all its attention and effort into accentuating both the basic and underlying appeal of its gameplay, with help from supporting achievements that hint at how far one can go with it. As I've referenced multiple times already, the idea is to survive as long as you can, and to link back to the representative use of the letter "G", you must rely on gold coins as though it were a source of nourishment. Consuming these will build gold energy tracked via a pouch on the lower screen. Once this has become full, what's known as Golden Mode will become active, turning Tetsuo into a Super Sonic-like form that grants him invincibility for as long as he has energy to sustain this temporary transformation. And that's about as deep as the game gets.

    Sticking to endless runs across its two available options of Normal and Advanced, the presentation of obstacles remains the same while the methods used by the game to fill the gaps do differ slightly. The main difference is that the latter will change up the circumstances in a more randomized fashion and allow for a manual operation of Golden Mode, whereas standard play will involve a level-by-level progression with the same sets of malicious enemies on each run. With Normal Mode, there is a learning process that players will be forced into from the second they select this option. Offering a very small window of time to prepare, you always begin with a shuriken coming in your direction almost immediately, hence my use of the word "forced" earlier. Advancing from there, you'll encounter new enemy types, including those launching projectiles from hang gliders, warriors on horses, ninjas that appear on a second's notice, and more. In addition, booby trips are laid out on the ground and include spikes that shoot up as you get close, as well as pointed stakes that will impale you if you don't jump over them in time. Once you've lost all your health, a tombstone will mark the spot where you died so that on your next run, you can pass through this marker to recover a bit of health. The strategic principle behind this element isn't clearly understood on an initial basis, and even when it is, its intent of trying to lead you along isn't carried out to a successful degree, especially when you consider the limited amount of health that is actually recovered. 

It's a pleasure to see that even with the disciplined approach tied to the game's model of endless gameplay, there is some actual development happening to keep players engaged. Players will take notice of patterns relating to enemy attacks and the resulting progression that comes from repeated defeats. And surprisingly enough, it's easy to overlook the fact that you're being led into a set of repeating circumstances, seeing as it's not just a continual, unprogressive loop. The overall atmosphere does serve as a sort of preamble to this very push, through layered backgrounds of war-torn and forested areas that gradually alter in appearance as you go along. These do give the impression that 3D usage would harmonize to create an added depth, but this really does nothing for the visual dynamics. While the environment isn't completely ravaged and has a bit of mystique to it, the death animations of both the main character and the enemies you defeat are a tad grisly, and this is needlessly off-putting.

    Connected to its distributed elements are a series of issues that prevent Samurai G from elevating itself beyond what its design allows. In a certain respect, the game isn't designed well. Having to monitor three levels of enemy space at a time -- frontal attacks, aerial attacks, ground obstacles -- can be a bit conflicting, as interesting as it makes the game appear. This is largely due to the fact that these traps and even some of the projectiles are hard to spot against the backdrops and terrain, and having to pay such keen attention in this way is not only unnatural, it prevents you from having reactions that become more and more instinctive.

    Closely related to this issue is the negative impact Golden Mode can have on your progress. It is during this phase that the game accelerates to a faster pace and also produces slow-mo effects anytime you vanquish an enemy. What happens sometimes during these triggered moments is this impromptu occurrence where the effect is prolonged for no detectable reason. One time I had Tetsuo suspended in the air for 30 seconds, at which point I was seriously thinking the game froze on me. Conversely, the sudden ending from Golden Mode leaves players with little time to transition back to the normal pace, which becomes a problem when this occurs right before a run-in with a stake on the road. The same goes for when a projectile comes hurling towards you just as you're about to do away with it. It's another attribute to the game that forces you to keep a close eye on things -- in this case, the lower screen, to see how much energy you have remaining -- and although it helps in the way of engagement, it's ultimately not for the right reasons.

In my experience with this game, I also encountered a number of technical concerns, such as the jump button not always responding during Golden Mode, an achievement not activating when it was supposed to, and a glitch that caused the music to stop on one occasion. But you know, it is truly surprising how much fun one can have with this game in spite of all this. For better or for worse, although I don't completely agree with the way the game is arranged with respect to the design flaws that have surfaced as a result, there's a great hook here that encourages momentum and rhythm in conjunction with skillful timing. Players will develop a desire to keep going one more stretch, and once you're locked into that cycle, you'll be surprised to find yourself playing for longer than originally predicted. The design may not see to great improvement as one takes the wheel, but the mere presence of movement in the format that's been explored here is very much welcome and contributes to that motivating hook just spoken of.

    In summary, there are definitely concerns pertaining to its design that hold Samurai G back, but these won't rob you completely of the fun factor that can be had here. The game is still enjoyable at the heart of it and manages to develop into something pretty engaging for the take that it is. So even if it's not particularly striking in how it accomplishes this, and the methods it relies on to bring this to the fore aren't immaculate, the mostly positive payoff is still worth the investment.

20/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Repeating circumstances with some development, monitoring multiple layers can be tiresome, some issues surrounding Golden Mode
Presentation 7/10 - Good atmosphere, 3D usage doesn't do much for the visuals, traps blend into the environment at times, technical faults
Enjoyment 4/5 - Addicting and engaging in spite of its flaws, still frustrating to lose especially when it's over silly issues on behalf of the game
Extra Content 2/5 - Normal and Advanced modes, main setting moves in new directions with enemy inclusions and changes in patterns, achievements

Equivalent to a score of 67% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Samurai G
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