Afro Samurai throws you into an animated world of swords, honour and revenge with no mercy. Based on a manga and animated series, the videogame outing of Afro's exploits takes the storyline of its source material and gives it a slightly new spin. The spirit and general direction remain, although some details and plot points have changed, meaning while it's still familiar to fans there's a few surprises to keep you on your toes.
Lesson Number One
The tale of Afro Samurai is one of vengeance as the titular hero seeks to kill the gunslinging creature Justice, who beheaded his father in a duel to gain the Number One headband. Whoever possesses that headband becomes akin to a god, wearing the symbol of a person whose skills are above all.
And the only person who can challenge the Number One, is the possessor of the Number Two headband - a headband Afro now has in his quest to kill Justice.
So begins an adult themed adventure which takes you across a variety of levels where you must hack and slash your enemies and fight your way to your father's killer, delving into Afro's fragmented and damaged mind, unveiling his troubled past and confronting the hell that rests within the hero's soul.
Live by the sword…
Developed by Namco Bandai, this sword based beat 'em up captures the visceral style and hard-edged spirit of its inspiration, with a look that apes the high quality animated series. The cel shaded visuals are distinctive and eye-catching, with a sketched watercolour design that fits within the universe of Afro Samurai.
Complimenting that is the voice acting of Hollywood stars Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman and Kelly Hu, who reprise their animated roles as Afro, Justice and Okiku, respectively - something to bring a smile to the face of dedicated fans, as will the hip hop driven soundtrack supervised by Wu Tang Clan's RZA, offering the same East-meets-West blend that helped catapult the animated material into popularity.
Also present is the uninhibited action which sits at the core of Afro Samurai's gameplay. While there are some platforming sections to traverse and minor exploration, this game is all about cutting through your foes with Afro's crimson spotted blade - and it doesn’t shy away from its violent presentation.
"Just a lil' dude with a head full of hair"
While the battles are powerfully visual and vibrant, it's not just for show - the fighting mechanics that let you slice and dice your antagonists are deep and intricate. A range of light and heavy attacks are at your disposal, as well as kicks which can be used to barge through certain doors. Each of these assaults can be chained together for a wealth of combination moves, handily detailed by a list accessible from the in-game menu.
You can also focus Afro's thoughts to a point where everything around him turns grey and moves in slow motion - which is your cue to be able to perform superhuman feats of agility, slice or deflect bullets or kill opponents with perfect one-hit strikes. Which only helps make you feel even more like Afro as you cut through swathes of bad guys in such a stylish way it's almost like you've stepped directly into the anime.
There are lots of little references and extras for those paying attention, too. Afro's eccentric herald Ninja Ninja is ever-present as both a story and gameplay element, you get to play as both adult and young Afro and there are even sections of the game where you fight alongside a partner, such as the mentor Sword Master.
"Your style… is… magnificent…"
Afro Samurai puts you right in the centre of the hugely successful series in fine fashion, bringing the world of Afro to life like never before. There's something for everyone, whether you're a fan, a curious onlooker or just a person who loves tackle mountains of enemies with a big samurai sword. Sharpen your blade, noble warrior - and prepare yourself for journey to truly prove yourself as Number One.