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ups: Hack-n-slash fun, stylized
downs: Short, shoddy story, lacks polish

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Samurai Western
game: Samurai Western
two star
posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: Atlus Software / Spike
developer: Acquire
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ESRB rating: M (Mature)
date posted: 04:18 PM Sun Aug 21st, 2005
last revision: 04:06 PM Sun Aug 21st, 2005

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Click to read.Acquire is at it again. The fun and innocent samurai series Way of the Samurai has been done-up in a cowboy hat and lasso and packaged as Samurai Western. They\'ve removed the adventure aspects from the previous games and made the game more fast paced, more likely to appeal to gamers with short attention spans than fans of stories. Now, just because the western theme is there, don\'t go thinking you\'ll be able to use a lasso, fire a six-shooter in a gunfight, or be your own western badass. Way of the Samurai has literally been transposed into the Wild West. The series has a new coat of paint, but everything else still runs the same.

Now, Atlus has got to be somewhat disappointed in their work. Way of the Samurai for the Playstation 2 was an interesting game, though flawed, which, had it minor fixes here and there, could be a samurai lover\'s dream come true. Unfortunately, things only got worse in Way of the Samurai 2. The control was muddier, the story was inconsistent, and while some of the game was a step forward, it was, overall, a step backward.

Enter 2005: enter the age of Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden. Samurai Western shows up as a nice niche title that could satisfy casual gamers who all share a love of samurai. But what we have instead is a trite attempt at action gameplay with more mayhem, but also more bugs and glitches than in the previous installments.

The main samurai is Gojiro Kiryuu, a wandering samurai who has come to track down his brother Raddo. Gojiro gets sidetracked as he is slowly pulled into an underworld of crime and corruption. This sounds like the makings of a great story. But even the greatest of ideas can sink when it comes time to swim and Samurai Western\'s story is hardly the greatest of ideas. A wandering hero, an evil boss, a lot of bad guys. We\'ve seen it before in every Jackie Chan movie before he went westernized. It is sad to see this game sink because it had such good ideas in concept.

Samurai Western\'s gameplay consists of pressing two buttons and manipulating the joystick to run. Dodge, dodge, dodge, dodge, slash, slash. Repeat. While you\'re dodging you\'re almost immune to all attacks, only explosions seem to graze you as you spin out of harm\'s way. Kill all the enemies you see and more will pop up. And the long streams of enemies are of no intelligent design screaming \"there he is\" or \"get him\" in synchronous time. Then they charge you like a desperate rhino only to get slaughtered at your hand. I have no problem with merciless violence in videogames, but this is merciless violence without the payoff. Killing enemy after enemy ? most of which are carbon copies of each other ? just doesn\'t do it for me. There are different enemies here and there: the generic gunman; a bomb-throwing fat man (did they have these in the old west?); and some machine gunners. The problem is they\'re all dispatched in the same way - a few quick slashes.

Still, there\'s no doubt that some amount of fun can be had with Samurai Western. The quick and violent action is fun for a few hours at least, and while you\'re pressing the attack and dodge buttons vigorously, you get a workout for your thumbs. But there\'s little to get in the way of mental stimulation. The story is ridiculously simple, with a few plot twists that you can spot a mile away. On a visceral level, the voice acting is decent, but the dialog could have been ripped from a high school freshman\'s diary.

Of course, it\'s not all bad. There is some great presentation here, blending the myths of the samurai with the rude and dirty western atmosphere. Gojiro Kiryuu is a one-sided character, which doesn\'t bother me at all. What seems to bother me is that everyone in the game can pronounce his name correctly. If I were in the Wild West, my verbal skills would have consisted of grunts and spits of tobacky. Had the series gone in a more complicated direction ? because, seriously, this game is as simple as a toothpick ? it might have more staying power among the big name action games.

Taken in short bursts, Samurai Western can please, but don\'t play it as a substitute for slightly older, better games. It\'s more like a change of pace between gaming sessions.

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