There’s a definite essence of the anime series Afro Samurai to developer The Game Bakers latest game Furi. It comes as no surprise that Takashi Okazaki, the creator of the cult classic, was involved in the guardian’s design. There’s also clear inspiration from No More Heroes with a similar cell shaded art design. Your journey begins with a common trope of being an amnesiac prisoner escaping a prison. Your liberator this time is a guy with a really weird bunny rabbit head and a microphone. He explains he just wants to escape and he thinks you are his best chance. With your strange new companion leading the way, a sword in your hand, the fight to freedom begins.
In a similar fashion to Shadow of the Colossus you will face a series of boss battles. Each prison guard is unique in their own right. From a laser headed cyborg to a master of time manipulation there a distinct variety in design. You will face these foes with a basic set of abilities, block, strike, dash and shoot. These abilities never level up, though, they never really had to. The challenge here isn’t to overpower your enemy with stats and buffs but use what you have as default against their attacks. This creates an ongoing challenge purely based on recognising attack patterns and reaction timing.
With each Guardian of the jail you begin with a stack of several health bars as does your enemy. In the first phase of their health bar they will try a lot of ranged mixed with telegraph melee attacks that give you a split second to react. Ranged attacks can often leave them open to being hit by melee. On the off time you can’t get close enough you can always shoot them. In response to this you can shoot by simply pushing the right stick in the direction desired. You can charge your laser fire to do more damage from a distance that usually baits them into close range.When they come in close you can block strikes, precisely parried blows stun them and open them to a special attack that does massive damage. Pay attention to the moment after they do their more powerful attacks as they’re often drained from it. At these moments you can use your charged sword strike to hit them with a the same powerful move. The recovery on less powerful projectile attacks shorter so a basic four hit combo is required in those moments.
Upon successfully knocking their first bar down you go into a close range mode. They will do similar attacks that you will have to respond quickly to by dashing or blocking and responding with an attack. Once you defeat them they will go into the next tier and the process starts over. That’s not to say it gets boring or repetitive as the variety of enemy strategy and scaling of the guardians keep you learning throughout. You will be playing the same guardian several times as they always have something new with each tier. Sometime it’s straight up nonsense like command grabs but once recognised they can be narrowly avoided, if not you can usually escape but it can crush your flow. Other times it’s moments when they turn yellow and become invincible while assaulting you with an insane number of projectiles. These you just have to survive until it stops, some you can destroy to make a safe zone until others that are indestructible will force you to keep moving.There are occasional orbs of health scattered among the laser fire that should help keep you alive. Everything is achievable if you can learn your enemies attack patterns and animations.
Between battles you will walk through vast unskippable sections while your bunny headed companion tells you about the prison you are venturing through. You can’t run but you can make him autopilot to the next location. This lets you sit back and take in the rich and interesting environment while taking in the story. There are nine boss battles in total with an optional tenth for an alternate ending. The end revelation of the game is pretty cool and I won’t spoil it for you but it definitely felt worth the effort I put into the game to get it.
Overall, Furi is a fine blend of reaction timed combat and twin stick shooter that doesn’t fail to impress. It’s a punishingly tough game for all the right reasons, with an enemy variety that keeps you guessing and learning as you progress. The walking between locations moments are very long at times and the option to skip would have been nice. Especially on replay at different difficulties, of which there are the usual three. Easy for the story and less combat because bosses have fewer tiers. The harder the difficulty the more tiers each boss has and of course, a decrease in the amount damage you do. If you’re looking for a new challenge with a fairly decent narrative, that’s a tribute to the anime that inspired it, you should definitely check this title out. If you are still unsure, the full game is currently available for free if you have a Playstation Plus account.
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