From the outset, any experience of Genji: Days of the Blade is dominated by the game's beautiful graphics. Developer Game Republic has built upon the art style introduced in their PlayStation 2 title, Genji - offering a game that blends history and otherworldly elements on PlayStation 3.
The environments are infused with life, especially outdoor settings which have an almost magical air that is captivating to behold. Lighting, water and fire effects add a depth of quality to every scene.
Equally, the main characters and adversaries, from facial design to decorative embellishments on armour and clothing, are testament to the amount of work that has gone into presentation. When performing signature manoeuvres in combat, these elements are highlighted, the world slowing to a dreamlike, ethereal crawl. In these moments Days of the Blade becomes a High Definition experience reminiscent of the art style of films like House of Flying Daggers and Hero.
Company of heroes
Genkuro Yoshitsune is once again joined by Benkei, both revered figures from Japanese folklore, in combating the resurgent horrors of the evil Heishi clan. Facing not only overwhelming numbers but foes who have struck a dark pact with Netherworld entities, these legendary names are joined by two new playable characters.
Forsaking her role as an Amahagane priestess, Shizuka has taken up arms against the Heishi. Agile and quick, she turns combat into a dance of death with her signature chained blades, a weapon which allows her to reel in enemies and launch herself into the fray or across chasms.
Buson is more of an enigma. Instantly familiar to fans of Genji on PS2, this heavily armoured warrior is far more than he seems.
Story, history and legend
Inspiration for Days of the Blade is drawn from a wealth of Japanese history and folklore. Genkuro Yoshitsune (1159-1189) is one of the most renowned Samurai commanders in Japanese history. During his life, he led the Genji clan in battle against the Heishi, who exerted almost universal power through control of the emperor.
Many legends are mixed in with the history, leading to Days of the Blade exhibiting many otherworldly elements from Netherworld possessed Heishi warriors to the giant crab.
In the latter, the spirits of fallen samurai at the Battle of Dan no Ura are believed to live in the crabs that inhabit those shores; their possession causes the human-like faces to appear in the patterning of their shells.
The strangest tale however surrounds the Battle of Koromogawa. Historically Yoshitsune, facing the end, committed suicide while his faithful follower Benkei held off the enemy, but in legend it is claimed he eluded his fate, escaping to Mongolia where he became Genghis Khan.
Dance of blades
Whatever the truth behind the historical and legendary background, one thing is constant - he was a skilled warrior - and this is reflected in Days of the Blade.
The dance of battle is spectacular, the level of control letting you choreograph moves against dozens of foes at once. Scything, slashing, flipping and blocking, you switch from enemy to enemy as a whirling dervish of twin blades.
The ability to change weapons, real time, in the midst of the fray expands your repertoire of potential attacks dramatically. Combining this with switching characters lets you pick the right tool for the job and employ a variety of tactics.
Against tougher opponents the Amahagane - mystical jewels which grant their bearer a superhuman power called Kamui - come to the fore. In the mystical space created by Kamui you will avoid enemy attacks while being able to unleash a devastating chain of blows upon your foes.
Rise of a dynasty
Game Republic has created a visually stunning launch title for PlayStation 3, showcasing the difference between PlayStation 2 and the next generation of gaming.
The fast paced, Hong Kong-action style of gameplay, seemingly inspired by recent movies, is in harmony with these gorgeous visuals. Challenging and highly accessible Genji: Days of the Blade is an enjoyable blend of the historical and fantastical.