PS3 Hands-On: Genji 2
Street Fighter creator Yoshiki Okamoto's second swipe at the samurai crown on PS3.
Sony's typically massive booth at E3 was dominated this year by the PlayStation 3 - perhaps not by the proportion of floor space it took up but definitely in the crowds it drew. There were a lot of attractive games on display and even some that threatened to deliver on Sony's lofty promises. But Genji 2 was not one of them.
The first Genji game made something of a minor splash at its release on the PlayStation 2, though it probably drew more attention than it deserved thanks to its pedigree, coming as it did from Game Republic, the new home of Street Fighter creator Yoshiki Okamoto. The samurai-based gameplay bore more than a slight resemblance to Capcom's other swords-'n-magic game, Onimusha, but it was still fun. So it's dispiriting that the sequel, already two-thirds through its development cycle, is so tiring.
It's not that the creative team behind Genji 2 hasn't tried to do something new. For one, once you've passed the appropriate markers, you're able to change between lead characters Yoshitsune and the pole-wielding monk Benkei at the tap of a button. Similarly, you can hot-swap between various weapons. These are supposed to open up the gameplay, allowing you to be more creative in your killing strategy. In reality, though, all it does it add another set of buttons to remember - and it doesn't any real effect on how you play the game.
Granted, what was on display on the floor was far from a polished, final product, but it's striking how un-fun it all is. Enemy characters have little in the way of intelligence and perhaps less in variety. Again you're met with samey looking characters and odd-looking bosses that aren't quite interesting. The demo features a lot of flames, something games have long struggled to recreate. Both lead characters have detailed models that animate well, with the exception of poof, presto moments when you hot-swap weapons. But their movement feels sludgy, something that hampers combat severely.
Perhaps the biggest sin perpetrated by Genji 2 is that it's boring. Games such as God of War and PlayStation 3 counterpart Heavenly Sword do a similar thing much better. They have visual flair in hand-lock with solid mechanics. Genji 2, on the other hand, has neither and shows its flaws that much more clearly if you've explored the genre.
There are generally two types of games that accompany the launch of new hardware: those that give a better looking review of things you've already played and those that use the transition to strike out into something better. Genji 2 finds itself going down the more boring of these paths at the moment, but with any luck, Game Republic will use the feedback out of E3 to tighten the various aspects of Genji 2 that are currently lacking.
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Direct feed trailer (PS3 - SCE)
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Direct feed gameplay (PS3 - SCE)
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Direct feed trailer (regular) (PS3 - SCE)
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