Did you just finish Ghost of Tsushima but still have a craving for more samurai swordplay action with a little something extra? If the answer is yes then you’re in luck and if it was going to be no then that would be the wrong answer. Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time delivers all the over the top hack & slash action we loved from the animated series in a stylish beautifully designed button-mashing package.
One doesn’t need to be familiar with the Samurai Jack animated series to enjoy the game’s offering. In brief, Samurai Jack has been thrown through time by the evil wizard Aku. Jack is sent to key locations and moments in his past which forces him to relive some epic boss battles. For fans of the series, this fact alone makes the game a must buy. You get to play memorable battles from the animated series in all its 3D glory. All the character designs are smooth and colorful. Everything feels and sounds like it should. Many of the original voice actors from the series reprise their roles such as Phil LaMarr as Samurai Jack and Greg Baldwin as Aku. Its clear Developer Soleil was not trying to create a run of the mill hack & slash game with a popular license attached.
Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time not only takes us back in time in regards to the story but it does the same in gameplay. The controls feel reminiscent of the original God of War. This familiar control scheme makes the game an easy pickup & play title. Quick tip, (L1) button is for parry and will be your best friend. I highly recommend you master the timing to see some pretty epic kill scenes.
You will notice a good amount of character development options in the game’s menu screen. As you can see from the screenshot below everything is nicely organized with main weapons, ranged weapons, items, and skills. You will definitely be pleasantly surprised by the variety of iconic weapons found throughout the game. Yes, the overall story is linear however there are some hidden areas that will require you to use some of your platforming skills. Reaching the end of these paths will reward you with a chest to open or come in contact with a familiar face who may offer you an item. These random encounters are fun but unfortunately, they are not completely voiced.
I have to admit that I was surprised by the level of depth for the skill tree which is broken into 3 branches
• Spiritual Skills – Focus inward to learn and upgrade spiritual being and inner balance.
• Physical Skills – One must attune the body and mind to learn and upgrade physical skills
• Combat Skills – Weapons alone cannot defeat your enemy, Learn and upgrade combat fighting skills.
Now it’s not the inclusion of the 3 branch system, it’s the fact that each branch has 20 unlockable upgrades. Again developer Soleil could have cut a corner in this department and they did not. There is also some unexpected humor to be found in the item descriptions for example:
HAGGIS – “A traditional meal prepared by stuffing sheep organs into a sheep’s stomach. Trust us, it’s a delicacy. Eating this moderately restores health.”
All the above mentioned would be pointless if the combat mechanic was not up to par. Fortunately, everything works well or should I say as expected. You can assign weapons and items to the 4 directional pad buttons for quick access. You can also press (Start button) at any time to bring up the character menu to switch weapons or use an item. Each level will throw a good mix of short and long-range enemies to keep the combat fresh and get you to use some of your newly obtained weapons. Honestly, I made it through a good portion of the game with just my main sword and invested in all combat upgrades. This playstyle worked well so the game really doesn’t force you down a path like many other games in that you HAVE to get all the upgrades or HAVE to use particular weapons to progress.
The combat will get frantic with multiple enemies attacking you at once but as you saw from the weapons and skills, Samurai Jack is a badass and you never feel underpowered. Even during boss battles which at times could offer up a challenge but never on the level of rage quitting. The only annoyance that I encountered was during boss battles that have multiple tiers. If you die in let’s say the 2nd part of the battle you will need to restart from the beginning of the boss fight. The boss battles are by no means CupHead difficult but this is something to take note of and expect.
Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time delivers as a quality hack & slash title and excels in its fan service to the animated series. Again you do not need to know the lore to appreciate the story, characters, and overall gameplay experience. If you are into fast pace hack & Slash gameplay than this is definitely worth your time. And if you are a fan of the Samurai Jack and already own the game then keep eating that haggis.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time for the PlayStation 4 provided by Soleil and Adult Swim Games.