Afro Samurai 2: The Revenge of Kuma Volume One is the sequel to the PS3 and Xbox 360 title Afro Samurai, based on the manga and anime of the same name. It was developed by Redacted Studios and is the first part of a three volume trilogy. It’s a hack and slash adventure which follows the story of Jinno, who later takes on takes on the name of Kuma, as he seeks revenge against his foster brother Afro for slaughtering his family, along with his master and sister Otsuru.
The titular character Afro Samurai barely makes an appearance in the game and the title is filled with flashbacks of Kuma’s life before, during, and after Afro’s brutal slaughter of his village. While the premise of the story is interesting, it’s incredibly convoluted and at times simply makes absolutely no sense. Mind you, I have not played the original Afro Samurai, but there were a number of plot points I simply could not follow. At some point Jinno is either dead or near death, and is brought back to life as Kuma. He is haunted by a vision of his dead sister Otsuru and even takes on the head of her teddy bear as a mask throughout his adventure. There is literally nothing else from the story I understand though. Villains pop up out of nowhere as if they are familiar to Kuma, and new characters are introduced with little or no explanation. Simply put, the story is a huge mess.
While The Revenge of Kuma is a hack and slash game, there are a number of times where you’re taken out of the action and simply have to button mash repeatedly in order to defeat a boss. It defeats the purpose of the combat system that the game has put in place. There are three different styles that Kuma can use while fighting his foes: the Afro Style, which is used for slow motion dodging; the Kuma Style, which is used more for one-on-one combat and is incredibly fast paced; and the Master Style, which is used for long range attacks and can finish off hordes of enemies in one finishing move. I found myself using the Master Style the most, as it was simply the easiest to take out enemies with. You can level up each style with skill points that you earn during battle, but are unable to unlock the last skill for each style, which can only be unlocked during Volume Two. I ended up earning at least an additional 30 skill points after full leveling up my character, which was incredibly frustrating. While hack and slashing can be fun, The Revenge of Kuma: Volume One is simply too repetitive and too linear. It tells you exactly what style to use and holds your hand the entire way through the game.
There is also no real HUD in the game and the leveling system is very elementary. Earning skill points is too easy, as you simply earn them by defeating enemies. There is no health bar and you do not even know when you are low on health until a death icon shows up on the screen and half of your face is gone.
While I love the cel-shaded anime look of The Revenge of Kuma, the game simply does not look all that great on the Playstation 4. I feel like it could easily have been a PS3 title and the game slows down a great deal when there are multiple enemies on screen, which is inexcusable for a current generation title. The game also uses some black and white manga panels to tell the story at certain junctions, but instead of adding to the presentation it feels a bit lazy and detracts from it. While the slow downs in The Revenge of Kuma: Volume One do not make it unplayable, it does make it incredibly frustrating to play through.
The game also has no replayability whatsoever. Once you beat Volume One, you are simply waiting for Volume Two to come out. Unlike episodic titles such as Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, you are not making choices and there is no real reason to go back and replay the game unless you want to revisit the story, which is a convoluted, blundering mess which doesn’t make any sense to begin with. With the game taking about an hour and a half to beat, the game just isn’t worth the money it costs to purchase ($14.99) without any replayvalue. Another problem is that since the game is episodic content and the second volume is already in development, there isn’t much the developers can do in terms reacting to the myriad of problems the game presents. They have set out to tell a specific story and use a specific combat system and at this point I do not believe that can be completely overhauled for the next two volumes.
If there is one strong point to the game it is the music. Most of the music in the game is hip hop, and it really fits the action sequences incredibly well. The flashback sequences with Jinno/Kuma and his sister Otsuru are well done, even if they don’t really make much sense to the player. They do tug at the heartstrings and shows what Kuma is fighting for.
Yet for everything Afro Samurai 2: The Revenge of Kuma does correctly, it does about 10 additional things wrong. The gameplay is repetitive and boring, the story is nonsensical, the game does not run smoothly at all, and it has no replayability. For the price point and the length of The Revenge of Kuma, it simply does not justify a purchase unless you are a huge Afro Samurai fan. Hopefully Redacted Studios can get the next volume right, but as of right now, Afro Samurai 2 is a huge disappointment.