Before I get into Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Vol.1 from Versus Evil and Redacted Studios, let me state a few important things. I’m a huge fan of the Afro Samurai anime from Gonzo and the manga that was created by Takashi Okazaki. The series blended together an amazing juxtaposition of slick hip-hop music with the grace and flair of Japanese animation.
The world and characters that Okazaki created are interesting and deserve to be explored in greater detail at some point. But none of the best aspects of the series or manga help make Afro Samurai 2 a good game to play through.
Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Vol. 1 is one of the worst video game adaptations of an anime I have ever played through. There are so many glaring issues with the game that it’s very hard to choose a point to begin explaining why. Some of the most basic of game design choices are incredibly flawed and look to have been rushed through any sort of development time. But this is only the beginning of the game’s shortcomings.
The story of Afro Samurai 2 follows the character Kuma, a rival to the series titular protagonist Afro. While Afro continues his quest for revenge in the main story line of the series, the game follows Kuma’s journey after being defeated in a duel. This is a cool concept for a video game story, as it not only respects the source material but doesn’t strictly follow those events. This all sounds fantastic on paper.
But what we’re promised and what we receive in Afro Samurai 2 couldn’t be more far apart from each other. Instead of a great experience hacking and slashing through enemies as Kuma, we’re given broken gameplay through a disjointed and lackluster narrative.
The game’s cutscenes are presented like unfinished storyboards, rather than manga panels that the developers probably intended. Cutscenes drag on for very long and have you staring at a picture while terrible voice acting plays in the background. Some vocal music tracks that play in the background can at times overpower the voice acting during story sections, making it impossible to hear what is being said.
At random times, there will be cutscenes that feature in-game models that have a slow panning shot of a character while the narrator talks on for far too long. It seems like the developers had some vision of how they wanted to show Kuma’s journey, but couldn’t come to an agreement of how it should be presented. As it stands now, everything is a jumbled mess.
During gameplay, levels will have you matched up against groups of enemies in closed off areas. Things are muddied up with frame rate issues, glitches, and unresponsive controls when the screen is filled up. I constantly struggled trying to do the simplest of maneuvers with Kuma during these sections of the game.
What made things worst however was the poorly programmed enemy A.I. that I would encounter in each level. Some baddies would stand around idly waiting to be attacked or injure Kuma when not within a reasonable attacking range. A sword melee attack should not be able to hurt someone from a distance more than ten feet away, it looks visually wrong.
One of the biggest issues during gameplay is the position of the camera. Not only is the camera fixed throughout the entire experience, but can get stuck in walls during fights in smaller areas. Other games of the genre allow for more free camera control to make seeing battles and moving around easier. This also becomes an issue during parts with lots of effects on screen that blocked my field of view. One area had Kuma fighting ninjas within a burning town, with the fire effects obscuring my view of what was happening and prevented me from taking action.
Yet all of these issues pale in comparison to the most disrespectful aspect found in Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma. The game is presented as Volume 1 of a series connecting to one story. This is made clear when you can’t fully level up Kuma throughout the game. Kuma has three fighting styles that can be powered up through the use of skill points you earn at various times, which increase his power or speed in a specific style.
However, the game prevents you from fully powering up each style by forcing you to purchase Volume 2. The ending of Volume 1 also comes to a screeching halt in the middle of a boss battle and leaves you with a sour teaser for the next episode. This rubs the notion of an incomplete game in a player’s face and is very distasteful.
Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Vol. 1 is a terrible example of how to adapt an anime into a video game. All of the flaws throughout the game make it seem like most of the budget went into producing the soundtrack rather than developing the gameplay. While the music and style that Afro Samurai fans love is here, this is far from the game they truly deserve. The content found in Volume 1 is meager and filled with way too many problems to justify a purchase.
If you love the Afro Samurai anime or manga, you will be much better off revisiting them rather than playing through Revenge of Kuma. This game is all bark with absolutely no bite to it, stay far away.
This review was based on a digital copy of Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Vol. 1 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Redacted Studios.