A wise Samurai once said, “Without knowledge of Learning, one will ultimately have no military victories”… So has this sequel learnt its lessons?…
Like many of you I am in love with my iPhone 4. It’s simple lines, the steel band, but the feature I love the most is the retina display. I love the iPhone 4 so much that I have made it my personal mission to show those I meet how incredible the experience is on this new display. When the iPhone 4 first came out I would show them a crisp picture, or a video, I would let them marvel at the crisp icons. But now, when I want to show off my retina display, I load up Samurai II.
To say that Samurai II: Vengeance is visually stunning would be a bit of an understatement. It looks gorgeous. The cell shading with stark inky outlines create a crisp, vivid world. Now throw in details like leaves, windmills, and a generous amount of bright red blood spatter and you have a playable piece of art. I would go as far as to say that currently,Samurai II: Vengeance is the most visually impressive game you can get for iPhone.
Now that I’ve gushed about the graphics, let’s talk a little bit about the game. Samurai II picks up a few years where the first game left off. Starting a new game you learn the story through comic-book panels before jumping into the game. Unlike the first game you now have a horizontally oriented game with buttons and a d-pad.
The move to D-pad controls over the swipe controls of the first game was a smart move. I liked the original controls, but being able to use buttons and a d-pad allows you to see all of the action without your finger getting in the way. The D-pad is also customizable allowing you to move the buttons wherever you like.
The button setup work well for the combo-style attacks you use. To attack you have two buttons “o” and “x” which let you use a strong or quick attack. By hitting these in a timed succession you can pull of combos. But you can’t just know what the combos are, you can only pull off combos that are in your scroll. When you start the game you only have two “ooo” and “xxx”. To get new combos you need to earn “karma” to upgrade or buy new combos.
Combat is very polished. Your combos are easy to execute with a little bit of practice and you quickly learn the timing and audio cues foes give you to alert of impending attack. So if you practice, and pay attention, you can learn when to roll, slice, or pull off that awesome combo.
I’m not sure if it only happens when you do a combo, or when the enemy is near death, or whatever, but at certain points in the game you get a fatality (maybe its a critical) that slows down the game (like Matrix bullet time) and zooms in on the action while your samurai dismembers the enemy. These vary from cutting off a limb, to slicing them right down the middle leaving two halves laying on the floor. These gory moves spatter blood all over the level, and even some drops will seem to splat on the inside of the iPhone screen. This is gory, but still a whole lot of fun. Samurai II makes you realize that you really haven’t lived until you’ve sliced an enemy in half.
In Samurai II you level up through the use of karma. This allows you to upgrade your combo and therefore combat ability, as well as purchasing more total health. You earn karma by killing bad guys and slicing up barrels. You get a fixed amount of enemies and barrels per chapter(level), so you can only earn so much karma by any certain point in the game.
This brings me to my first frustration of the game. After spending your karma you can’t can’t reclaim or re-order how it’s spent. My first run through the game I spent all my karma on combos, but none in health. As I progressed through the game I got to a point where I couldn’t defeat part of a chapter with my current ability and health so I had to start a new game and spend my points more wisely.
Health is also dealt with differently in Samurai II then in most games of it’s genre. Instead of having health that recovers over time or through health potions or something, you have a fixed amount of health for each encounter. You see each chapter (level) is sliced up into a fixed number of encounters. At the beginning of the game you start out with full health and that health needs to last the first encounter. When that encounter is done your health bar fills back up as you begin the next one. As you progress in the game the encounters get longer and harder and if you haven’t spent your karma right you can get completely stuck at a frustrating encounter and will have to start a new game (or get better at playing).
In addition to the normal game mode you also have a dojo that will allow you to practice. Both modes have their own high scores and leader boards using game center. This allows you to compete amongst friends and other player for high score even if you have beaten the game.
I had a lot of fun playing Samurai II, and despite it’s shortcomings this game is a strong TouchGen Editor’s Choice. Samurai II will test your skill, smarts, and patience, but you should have a lot of fun along the way. Heck for $2.99 it’s worth buying just to show off the retina display on your iPhone4 to friends.