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Samurai Western
Platform:  Playstation 2
# of Players:  1
Developer:  Spike/Acquire
Publisher:  Atlus
Features:  Sword=slashing action
Info:  http;//www.atlus.com
Release Date:  June 06, 2005

If you're a true movie buff with an international mind, you probably have IFC (that’s the Independent Film Channel to you laymen or cable-less folk) and have probably (and hopefully)
caught some of the great samurai movies they show each Saturday and Sunday. Either that, or you know about films like Sanjuro, Sword of Doom, the Zatoichi series and plenty of other films that play out very much like American western films and TV shows. One might say after seeing a few of these movies that those Japanese directors from the mid-50’s and 60’s simply translated the language of the westerns into the samurai genre. But given that the samurai era predated the days of the cowboy by a few centuries (more or less), I tend to give the edge to the blade over the gun.

If you happen to be a gamer into the films above AND a film fan, you’ll probably have played and enjoyed fun games like Rising Zan on the PS One, the Tenchu series in its many forms, and the two Way of the Samurai games on the PlayStation 2. Developers Acquire and Spike have another fun bit of inspired action coming your way this June with the aptly titled Samurai Western, published by Atlus USA. One of those ‘why didn’t someone do this sooner?“ ideas, the game is like a love letter to two genres that share plenty of common ground. After some hands on time with near-final code, let’s just say that the Old West will never be the same. Once the black hats get a load of Gojiro and his bullet-deflecting swordsmanship (i.e., you with your hands on the PS2 controller), they’ll be in for some sidesplitting… and I don’t mean from laughter.

A third-person action game with a bit of between-level customization, Samurai Western begs to be played based on its intriguing title alone, and once you pick up the controller, you’ll be pleased as punch. Controls are simple to pick up and Gojiro has the slicing and dicing moves to spare as he goes up against waves of soon to be amputees. The old saying “never bring a knife to a gunfight” only makes sense if your opponent is laying in a pool of his own blood afterward, but Gojiro is fast as the wind and can cut through bad guys like he’s trying out for a job at Benihana. In plain English, expect quite a bit of blood to paint the sepia-toned landscape as the game progresses. The violence in the game is definitely brutal, but comical in that “I can’t believe he did THAT” way that’ll keep you playing just to see what happens to the next fool with a six-shooter.

On the visual side of things, Acquire has pretty much nailed the look of the game down fairly tightly. There’s an occasionally jittery camera in tight spots and some clipping issues that put a dent in the fun, but at least the camera is controllable for most of the action. Some of you more fussy gamers out there may think the visuals are so last year (actually, the game is from 2003- deal with it), but stylistically, Samurai Western is a solid game with such a distinctive feel to it you’ll be checking over your shoulder for tumbleweeds. As far as music and sound effects go, the music is fantastic throughout the build with a great blend of western and Asian instruments and sounds that made me laugh because it clicked immediately. The voice acting is very solid so far, although Gojiro sounds a little like he’s talking with sand in his teeth. Otherwise, most of the other voices sound straight out of an old episode of Gunsmoke or Rawhide.

Expect a full review closer to the release date, but if you’re looking for something that blends the familiar and exotic, set aside some of that summer cash for a copy of Samurai Western. Atlus has been putting out some really cool titles this year, and the more the merrier, I always say. I’ll be back in a few with the final word on this frantic hack and slash game.

No screenshots available for this title.