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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Konami

Ups: Great action; cool textures; samurai zombies.

Downs: Kinda quick, and a little too easy; story is not so hot.

System Reqs:
Sony PlayStation

CG1_01.jpg (3729 bytes)This game comes on like a backscratcher in search of an eager itch. Luckily enough, I’m a person with plenty of itches that few games out there scratch. Soul of the Samurai from Konami is one of them. Yeah, you may be reading other reviews out there that say the game’s storyline is too underdeveloped, that it’s a bad mix of samurai/horror, but maybe I’m just a sucker for a samurai game that incorporates slightly horrific elements, even if it’s average (waiting for Onimusha), but for me Soul of the Samurai holds my attention, at least for a few nights, until the next-best-thing hits the PSX.

CG2_01.jpg (4523 bytes)Let’s discuss that "underdeveloped" story. First, I must say that if you’re playing video games to get a good story, then you’re a pretty average reader. I mean, pick up a damn book—there’s plenty of them out there. Yes, the game offers you a sibling who’s gone missing and a menacing overlord you don’t see throughout most of the game, but really you’re playing an action-thriller that attempts to mix together elements of Resident Evil, Tenchu and Bushido Blade. Let’s bow our heads to Konami for making a good effort, even if it lets us down a little. With Soul of the Samurai it’s more about figuring out how to beat those multiple characters on the screen than reading the melodramatic dialogue, which really is a small part of the game.

lin3_01.jpg (5546 bytes)Like Resident Evil, you can play the game as two characters, either Kotarou Hiba the Ronin or Lin the Ninja. My first romp through the game was with Kotarou who seems to be the character that enters more quickly into the story and action, while Lin seems like a secondary character  that gives the full breadth of the game’s storyline.

kotar5_01.jpg (6224 bytes)The play control of this game takes some time to get used to. The main hurdle is figuring out your timing. You can easily make it through the game if you block, then attack, but you really don’t get much from that, so I suggest trying different moves and learning how to do combos before you meet the boss characters at the end of the stage. The challenge of this game comes when you must face the boss characters at the end of each level. To me it seems like you quickly rush through the chapters, killing whoever stands in your way until you make it to the end where you have to spend some time figuring out how to conquer your enemy. For me this was a kind of let down. I was easily able to plow through the various possessed samurais and ninjas to the end of each chapter.

kotaro2_01.jpg (5623 bytes)The graphics are pretty standard. There are pre-rendered backgrounds, much like Resident Evil, that you play through, fighting various battles with your standard samurai or ninja. Environments are completely three-dimensional, and the textures are not half bad. The cinema scenes don’t do all that much for me.  Mostly, they’re like any other game out there. No jazz and no pizzazz. This is an action game at its core.

sos_screenshot_7.jpg (20083 bytes)One problem I had with the game is that at times it became a bit too easy to make it through the chapters. Most of the time you just have to block, then attack, bringing the game quickly to a close. It would have been nice to be forced to play through more difficult levels and be rewarded with a very challenging boss as the end. Mind you, there are some challenging bosses in this game. My most difficult point in the game, aside from the end, is the sorcerer at the conclusion of chapter three, who floats around, bringing about ghost memories of old Konami games, then turns into a fiery beast who chases you through a cave until you finally put it in its place. There are plenty of combos and special moves that you learn during the game’s course, but  you don’t typically use them because you can beat most people with the standard hack-n-slash method.

sos_screenshot_2.jpg (20885 bytes)For awhile I was really "blah" about this game until I started playing it for evenings straight, finding that it does relieve some of that itching I spoke about earlier. I gather that most of the reviewers out there gave this game a brief once over, then made their hasty decision. Yes, there are other, better samurai/horror games on their way, (well, at least one) but they’re not here yet, so let’s make do with this generation and call it a good, entertaining bundle of binary numbers. We can’t spend our time waiting for the next-best-thing or else we’ll always be waiting and never playing. If you’re into a mix of Resident Evil, Bushido Blade and Tenchu, then more than likely you’ll enjoy this game and the other ones that’ll be following it. Make your own call. If you’re into story, read One Hundred Years of Solitude, but if you’re into games play Soul of the Samurai, because it’ll entertain and sate that samurai/horror  yearning.

--Matt Baldwin