The two biggest Blue Mage fans are here.
A lot of games are deeply rooted in anime and, in some cases, directly rely on it for cinematic cutscenes. Very few, however, try to emulate the pace and thematic elements of a shonen manga or anime series. What I like most about The Game Baker’s new title, Furi, is that it just gets it, and it knows that you get it too. It puts you in the shoes of a katana-wielding anime protagonist and pits you up against a unique and varied cast of enemies. It’s stylish, it’s punishing, and it just feels cool.
Furi is one part character action, one part shoot ‘em up, one part walking simulator, and all parts boss rush. The boss battles are laid out clearly in phases, moving between dodge-and-parry swordplay and bullet hell shooting sequences pretty frequently, and occasionally both at the same time. Everything feels tight and responsive, and while there is the slightest delay between pressing the dodge button and actually dodging an oncoming attack, it never felt like it was the game’s fault that I didn’t quite get the timing right. Doing a perfect parry at the very last second and landing a special attack is satisfying and makes you feel like a cool anime dude.
Right out of the gate, Furi’s presentation is fantastic. It’s full of vibrant neon colors and boasts unique scenery and character designs. The sections between fights feel lovingly crafted with creative dream-like cyberpunk takes on typical fantasy landscapes, and are set to synth-pop and techno that’s reminiscent of the 80’s. Seriously, the soundtrack is great and totally worth a listen even if you don’t plan on playing this game. In boss battles, there are several instances where you’ll find yourself in canned animations with cinematic camera angles, and they feel just as fast and frenetic as the gameplay. Each battle has unique animations too, so it almost felt worth it dying all those times to see some of the ridiculous ways the protagonist got back on his feet.
There are, however, some technical hiccups on the PS4 version. Some hitching definitely pops up when transitioning between gameplay and loading screens. There are also just a few framerate issues outside of combat. Not to mention a certain pair of lips that just look like something out of a nightmare (hopefully unintentionally). These are minor gripes though, and they didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the game. If Furi had just a little more polish, like seamless transitions between gameplay and cinematics, or having character’s lips move when they’re talking outside of cutscenes, the presentation would be near perfect.
As early as the second boss, Furi gets pretty punishing very quickly. The game is all about pattern recognition, and you always have all the information you need to succeed in front of you. It’s all left up to your execution. The first boss fight teaches you each tell for every kind of attack there is in the game, as well as how to counter it. There’s also a How to Play menu option for each in case you forget exactly what you need to do, which I highly recommend reading through, as it provides a couple extremely useful techniques that the game doesn’t tell you about at the beginning. The UI also tells you the amount of phases you’ll need to get through to beat each boss upfront, and also provides you a stock of continues for the whole fight. This is really useful, as it gives you a little leeway to learn the attack patterns of each boss without just dying and restarting at the beginning. Finishing a phase gives you full health regeneration and an extra continue in case you used one too many in the last phase. Parrying also restores health, so mastering that mechanic becomes essential for completing the game.
This game could use a little more variety in enemy attacks, however. While they definitely rachet up in difficulty as the game goes on, they’re still the same effects, just changed to different colors. It is intentional, though, since the game gets very frantic and there are tons of projectiles on screen, it helps for them to be easily recognizable. I just wish they weren’t displayed like a weird wave of color on the ground, or a circle with other circles in it. They all convey an easily recognizable visual language, but they all look bland. The ice boss uses waves of energy on the ground that are just white because… well… she’s an ice boss and things should be white. It could be much cooler if she used sheets of ice that move similarly to the energy wave attack. It’s another minor gripe, but I just wish the attacks looked even half as neat as the rest of the designs in the game.
Non-combat sections of the game consist of one thing. Walking. Very slow walking through some really pretty and well put together set pieces. Aside from that, there isn’t anything to do except for some light exploration, and exploring doesn’t really lead to anything worthwhile. The walk speed is so plodding that it becomes a chore to move anywhere that isn’t the main path. The camera angles don’t necessarily line up with the direction you’re pointing in, too, so it can take you out of the moment seeing your character scramble for a second to get back on the main path. The developers accounted for this by putting in an auto-walk button that just takes you straight to the next boss fight. Simple! Except then you’re not actually playing the game during these sections. You’re basically just watching another cutscene. I just wish there was more to do along the path, or at least provide me the option to move through it quicker.
Nonetheless, I had a good time with Furi. It’s a really tough game but it felt great when I finally mastered it. There were definitely some soul-sucking instances where I was on my last stock of health and I just had to land that one very last hit to finally put a boss fight behind me, and I got hit with one stray attack and had to replay the whole fight over again. These aren’t short fights either; each is about a good fifteen to twenty minutes to beat. But getting back into the saddle and breezing through early phases with no problems, getting to the ending stretch, learning from your mistakes and landing that last final hit is truly a great feeling. This is what Furi does so so well. I enjoyed this game a ton and it makes me happy knowing gamers can grab this now that it’s out for free on PS Plus all throughout July.