|This game comes on like a backscratcher in search of an eager
itch. Luckily enough, Im 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 games storyline is too underdeveloped, that its
a bad mix of samurai/horror, but maybe Im just a sucker for a samurai game that
incorporates slightly horrific elements, even if its 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.
Lets discuss that "underdeveloped" story. First, I must say that if youre playing video games to get a good story, then youre a pretty average reader. I mean, pick up a damn booktheres plenty of them out there. Yes, the game offers you a sibling whos gone missing and a menacing overlord you dont see throughout most of the game, but really youre playing an action-thriller that attempts to mix together elements of Resident Evil, Tenchu and Bushido Blade. Lets bow our heads to Konami for making a good effort, even if it lets us down a little. With Soul of the Samurai its 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.
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 games storyline.
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 dont 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.
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 dont do all that much for me. Mostly, theyre like any other game out there. No jazz and no pizzazz. This is an action game at its core.
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 games course, but you dont typically use them because you can beat most people with the standard hack-n-slash method.
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 theyre not here yet, so lets make do with this generation and call it a good, entertaining bundle of binary numbers. We cant spend our time waiting for the next-best-thing or else well always be waiting and never playing. If youre into a mix of Resident Evil, Bushido Blade and Tenchu, then more than likely youll enjoy this game and the other ones thatll be following it. Make your own call. If youre into story, read One Hundred Years of Solitude, but if youre into games play Soul of the Samurai, because itll entertain and sate that samurai/horror yearning.