Reviews

Samurai II: Vengeance

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.

samurai2_08To 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.

samurai2_04Combat 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.

samurai2_09Health 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.

4-stars

eds-choice

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  • Torbjorn Kamblad, Sweden

    Excellent review Nacho-San.

  • AnotherTim

    This is such a beautiful game. I’m glad you enjoyed it Nacho.

    On another note, please stop using the unnecessary apostrophe in “its.” Nigel does this constantly too, and it has been driving me batty for the last 2 years, so I’m breaking my silence on it now. “It’s” = it is. “Its” = the possessive form of “it.” I thank you for keeping this in mind during future articles and reviews.

  • Legend.inc

    Yeah the artwork in this game is amazing.

  • Nigel Wood

    Thanks AnotherTim, we know the difference between it’s and its. But unfortunately, and certainly in my case, I write my reviews on the iPad and it automatically corrects its to it’s. It’s annoying (apart from just then when it was correct) :)

    We don’t have a dedicated proof reader either, and so they are easily missed.

  • DjBigbyrd

    Game does have excellent graphics and I like the fatalities and gore. Nothing more satisfying them slicing someone in half or beheading someone. Violence is done tastefully and gameplay is simple but effective. I liked the platform elements as well. Story is a bit of a bore in it’s comic strip like story telling. I would of preferred a cut scene. Game does have an addiction factor and overall I found the game’s samurai setting, gore, and gameplay to be more enjoyable than spiderman total mayhem or hero of Sparta 2. This game is the best in it’s genre and at 2.99 it’s also the best value as well

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