Genji: Dawn of the Samurai – PS2 – Review

Genji: Dawn
of the Samurai is an interesting creation. Like it or not it’s an Onimusha
clone. In this rare case the word "clone" does not mean "lower-class
knock-off." This time I have the privilege of using the word the way it was
meant to be used: to describe a carbon copy of another game.

Genji has
two leading characters: Yoshitisune – a lean, mean, sword-slashing machine –
and Benkei, a masculine warrior who prefers long and heavy weapons over the
typical three-foot blade. Yoshitisune is the star of the game, taking on most
of the missions himself. You may choose to play as Benkei more often, but he
is only needed for two or three of the game’s battles.

If the name
Yoshitisune sounds a little like Onimusha’s hero, Samonusuke, then get this:
the music is very similar (and very well orchestrated); half the enemies look
like they came from Onimusha; and the computer animated movies were made by
the same studio that worked on the Onimusha series.

If that
wasn’t enough to fool the average Joe into thinking this was Onimusha 4, all
he’d have to do is play the game for five minutes and he’d be convinced. The
combat is extremely slash-heavy. Become best friends with the square button or
face a painful death. The triangle button unleashes a slower, albeit more
powerful attack, but you can’t repeatedly tap it for combos, making the square
button seem so much more appealing.

What’s that
I see in the distance? Demonic samurai! I also see some strange-looking bow
and arrow guys, and a few large beasts carrying oversized swords.

Yep, it’s
Onimusha all the way. If you love this style of gameplay, it’s a win-win

There are a
few minor differences that set Genji apart from (do I have to say its name
again?). Amahagane are important power-increasing orbs that are used like
currency for your body. When three or more are accumulated, the player may
choose to apply the Amahagane to their health, attack, or defensive power. The
increase for each level is marginal but well worth the effort. There’s plenty
of Amahagane to go around, especially if you decide to raise the power of one
character and scrap the other. (Which is what I ended up doing. I’m not a big
fan of Benkei. He’s too much like that guy from Onimusha 2. Rats, I said that
name again. From now on I’ll try to refer to it as that game we don’t speak

can be found just about anywhere. It can’t be seen, but you will feel its
presence as you approach it. Here Genji takes a cue from another classic, The
Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. The Dual-Shock 2 responds accordingly as
you approach the Amahagane, shaking with increased intensity the closer you
get. To make the Amahagane’s essence appear, you must find its location by
slashing your sword in the air. Awesome addition, and a great derivative.
Amahagane is the most important item in the game, thus you never feel like the
time it took to acquire it was a waste.


Genji’s best
and most original idea comes in the form of Simon Says. Simon says tap the
square button to counterattack! That’s all he says, and players will hear it
loud and clear. By attacking and killing monsters as you normally do, players
accumulate Kamui energy. Kamui energy is stored in its own special bar, and
when that bar is full you may unleash it to slow down (but not cheapen or
Matrix-ize) the action. This slight slow down is used as a way of letting the
player look into the future. Enemy attacks become easier to judge, and if you
tap the square button as soon as the appropriate icon appears, you’ll attack
and kill your enemies instantly!

As much as I
dislike the idea of pressing buttons in-sync with on-screen commands, Genji
makes it a fun and helpful tool. It’s possible to counterattack without using
Kamui but it’s very, very difficult. By using the energy as much as possible,
you begin to predict your enemy’s moves on your own. Boss battles have quick,
Kamui-specific attacks (they set up and charge as soon as you unleash the
energy). Some of the time it was more beneficial to watch the monster and
decide to attack when I thought they were about to strike. If I had waited for
the square button icon to appear it would’ve been too late. That’s how quick
they are. That’s how quick you have to be.

Onimu– (ahem) that game we don’t speak of slows its combat down with
annoying puzzles (and in the case of Onimusha 2, weird item trading), Genji’s
only gameplay is combat. It slows things down – and extends its short length
(about 4 hours of combat) – by forcing us to watch anywhere from 30 seconds to
several minutes of real-time and computer animated story sequences. "Great
news! I can’t wait!" It sounds great, and probably would be in an RPG. But
this is an action game, and it’s not fair that we have to sit through these
things – without the option to skip them – when all we want to do is play more
of the game. That’s what this is, a game, not a movie. At least that’s
what it’s supposed to be.


Along the
journey you’ll discover a few doors that say something like, "Return to this
place upon completion and this door shall open." This made me anxious to play
through the game a second time. Luckily, the story sequences can be skipped on
their second viewing. I rushed through the game during my second outing,
searching for those secretive doors. What was inside? I don’t think I’m at
liberty to say, but I can tell you that it was a bit disappointing.

When all was
said and done, and the credits had rolled a second time, Genji left me
satisfied but not complete. It’s a good game. A familiar game. A game that
you’ll enjoy and a game that will make you scream. Be prepared for repetition,
and be prepared to leave the room when the movie sequences start. Get a snack
or something.

Scoring Details

for Genji: Dawn of the Samurai

Gameplay: 7.5
First there was
Coke and Pepsi. Later came a series of soft drinks that mimicked their taste –
few had good results. In the world of video games, Genji is the mimicking soft
drink. It tastes almost as good Onimusha, but has a funny, fizzy, bubbly-ness
that lets you know it’s not Onimusha. Fun for a while, but very repetitive.
The in-game movies will make you wonder if you’re playing a game with a lot of
non-interactive moments, or watching a movie with a lot of interactive

Graphics: 9.0
I was completely
fooled by the backgrounds. Their detail, the stellar texture job, and the
coloring and lighting had me thinking the graphics were pre-rendered. Then it
dawned on me – those backgrounds are moving! You can’t do that in CG (computer
graphics) without streaming off the disc, and that leads to pixelation issues,
among other things.

world is lush and alive. Buildings, trees, bushes, leaves (falling and
attached) – there’s no end to how much your eyes have to see. It’s impossible
to take it all in the first time through.

Sound: 8.5
compositions that would tug at your heart if used with a more powerful
storyline. As is the tracks are pretty emotional, and will definitely leave
your ears satisfied. The sound effects and Japanese voice acting (no English
dubbing – subtitles only) are top-notch. Of course I don’t speak Japanese, but
in terms of how well the voices match each character, and how they convey each
message, it doesn’t matter what language it’s in – top-notch is top-notch.

Difficulty: Medium
At times a
cakewalk, at times a challenge, Genji’s difficulty goes up and down. Early
boss battles are challenging ’cause your character is weak, but by the time
you get to the grand finale, your character’s skills (and your own personal
timing skills) will have been perfected to the point where the battles are no
longer difficult.

Concept: 7.0
Genji is a good
game with a few damaging flaws. It’s good as an Onimusha clone but it’s also
very repetitive. I left the room during some of the movie sequences because I
just couldn’t take it. The story gets interesting toward the end, but in the
beginning it’s dull city. I didn’t care that much why they’re fighting, not
when every character looks like every character I’ve seen in every
other game
about ancient, mythical, Japanese warfare.

Overall: 7.5
Genji: Dawn of
the Samurai is hard to nail down. It’s short, the movies are long and can’t be
skipped, and the difficulty takes a dive at the end of the second hour. These
are reasons to avoid a game. At the same time I love Onimusha, and Genji is
essentially that game with a new name and face. I wanted the quests to be
longer, but a part of me is glad it isn’t. No real commitment must be made to
play it. I can beat it in a hurry and move on. Then again, it doesn’t seem
that quick when the movie sequences are playing.

To enjoy
Genji you have to love this kind of gameplay AND be willing to take the good
with the bad. From a purchasing standpoint, there’s just one question you need
to answer: is $40 worth four hours?