Genji: Days of the Blade (Review)

Cover for the PS3 game Genji: Days of the BladeOne of my goals for this year was to get through some of my console video game back log.  Since July, I’ve been working my way through my second game Genji: Days of the Blade, the 2006 PlayStation 3 sequel to Genji: Dawn of the Samurai which came out on PlayStation 2 in 2005.

Now I remember playing the first Genji game and I enjoyed it very well. It was a short game and just the sort of game where you could just enjoy button mashing and killing things and just having fun with it.  It didn’t have a super complex story, challenging puzzles, or a complicated fighting system.  It was simple and easy and sometimes, I really just like a nice quick game like that.

I presumed Days of the Blade would be of a similar nature. Checking, it was clocking in for most people at 10-12 hours. This seemed to confirm my presumptions and so I started playing it back on July 30th. It’s now October 5th and I have not finished it.  As far as I can tell, I’m not even 1/3 through it.

Suffice to say something went wrong.

Things started out well enough.  We had lovely graphics, pleasant music, some quick story to bring us up to date with the presumption you remember the previous game.  Days of the Blade, set three years later, sees our protagonist from the last game, Yoshitsune, reunited with his brother.  But now that Heishi army has returned with new leaders and their own version of the Amahagane, leading Yoshitsune, along with his friend Benkei and the lovely priestess Shizuka to head back to the battlefield.

The game opens with some individual “missions” for the three to bring them together, allowing you to get used to playing as each of them and learn the controls.  Perhaps these missions should have been my first warning of how this game was made.  The camera angle seemed more aimed at being a hindrance than having any sensible programming, which makes it very frustrating.

Other than that, the first two missions were at times challenging, but quite doable.  But Shizuka’s resulted in a few deaths.  Her controls were clunky and less reliable, her attacks were less accurate and harder to grasp, and she’s a very physically weak character with a low hit points making her ill-suited for the large battles she was thrown into.

Eventually you get all three together and the story finally started moving forward.  Oh, BTW, even though there are three of you, you can only ever play as one, ever.  The other two don’t help as NPCs during fight scenes…they apparently just disappear or something….

A little while later we get our fourth playable character, Lord Buson, who is cursed with surprisingly useless staff weapon and fighting techniques.  Hitting his attack buttons, it was like watching a kid twirling a staff while the bad guys just stood and laughed then smacked him.  *sigh*

So with me just now having the final party member, and finally getting my first real “level” up type item that could give my folks a boost, I presume the story will move forward and we’ll do more fighting, gathering of level up “points” and the like.

What I don’t generally expect is a nearly impossible set of extended battles right out of the gate! Not long after obtaining Buson, and while you still have very few, you hit the Ichinotani Battlefield.  And this is where I ended up stuck for a long time.

It took me at least four or five tries to get through this battle, in part because it was very difficult to find the trigger points that would advance you to the next stage of the battle. And until you hit them exactly right, you literally just kept fighting a never-ending horde of bad guys.  I finally had to turn to a YouTube video to find the exact spots that would trigger the next “round” and eventually lead to the end.

On top of this, this game is hideously stingy with items so you have very few healing items at all going into this and none of your characters have healing abilities as magic isn’t part of this game.  So such a wild battle that can easily last 20-45 minutes with all difficulties of enemies followed by a two-stage boss battle will generally leave the stores depleted.  It did me anyway.

But I finally managed to get through it. And I even managed to get through the two-stages of the Giant Crab waiting for me at the end on my first go, despite that damn camera angle making him invisible half the time (check out GameSpot’s review for more on the fun of that angle and some pics).

But I figured I was fine, because now should generally be a period of saving, healing, and restocking. Foolish me!

Instead, what follows is ridiculously difficult, two-stage boss battle, with one of the primary enemies of the game!  The game did at least gift me a save point between them, letting me heal up my characters, but with no healing items and a hard-hitting, fast-moving character like her who takes to the air in her second stage rendering two of my four fighters relatively useless, there was no way I was getting through it.

Now normally I’m someone who tries to finish any game that I start. I’m the same way with movies and books, in part because I generally have a decent sense for what I will enjoy and don’t often pick lemons.

But this game is just not fun. I didn’t pick it up to have some crazy difficult challenge and I don’t like spending hours of frustration stuck in the same spot with no real way to get past it other than to just keep trying. I can’t just go back and level up my player some more because it doesn’t really have any kind of leveling up system. I can’t go back and get more healing items because there’s no stores and I’ve already picked up all the ones that exist.

I really wanted to enjoy Genji.  I thought it would be a nice short refresher between Ni No Kuni and any of the many long running RPGs I normally play.  But I’m not enjoying it and life’s too short and I have too many other games waiting to be played for me to keep trying to slough through it.

So Genji: Days of the Blade is being relegated to the very short list of video games in my “Did Not Finish” pile, and I’m moving on to something that will actually be fun to play.