The gaming world would be a whole lot different without gold coins. I mean seriously, could you imagine some of your favorite games without the shiny objects of currency floating around or tucked away in secret corners for you to snatch up? What would Mario collect on his recurring quest to rescue Princess Peach? What would countless RPG heroes use to buy potions and new gear? I know Sly Cooper sure wouldn’t be much of a thief without gold coins to pocket.
Apparently, without gold coins ancient samurai would also lose their ability to transform into hyper speed killing machines. At least that would be the case in Samurai G, a tiny two-dollar downloadable from UFO Interactive, available today from the Nintendo 3DS eShop. If you hadn’t guessed already, the ‘G’ in the title stands for ‘Gold.’
Samurai G is a side-scrolling endless runner action game starring a samurai warrior named Tetsuo whose only mission in life is to gather Tengu’s gold before some evil warlord dude is able to get his hands on it. Of course, I would have known none of this without reading the provided press materials or watching the trailer as the game itself does nothing to fill you in on any of this back story. When you switch the game on, you’re presented with a menu tracking unlocked achievements along with options to start a run on either Normal or Advanced difficulty. That’s it.
Once you’ve started a game, the objective is simply to keep Tetsuo alive as long as possible and to collect as many hovering coins as you can in that time. Tetsuo can jump, slash his sword and move left and right within the field of play, but his movement—and the movement of the surrounding environment—is constant. Progress and scoring is determined by how far you’re able to travel before dying (tracked in virtual miles) in addition to how many enemies you kill and the number of coins you pick up.
Once a certain amount of coins are stashed by Tetsuo, represented by a meter in the form of a belt pouch shown on the bottom screen, he briefly transforms into the Shining Samurai, glowing with a golden aura that makes him invulnerable to traps and enemy attacks and sends him sprinting forward at speeds that would make Sonic the Hedgehog jealous.
If you’re familiar with iOS apps, think Jetpack Joyride, minus the jetpacks, heavy firepower and scientific laboratory hazards. No, this game is set in Feudal Japan. That means you’re dealing with bamboo pit traps, wooden spikes, kite flying assassins, star throwing ninjas, and horseback riding samurai, all just itching to make you dead.
Backgrounds change seamlessly as the scenery scrolls by, and for the most part the 2D graphics are crisp and vividly detailed. Switching on the 3D, as usual, is hardly necessary but does add a layered depth that gives the smoldering battlefields, rundown villages, and swampy forests that make up this ancient Japanese world an extra visual pop. I was also quite satisfied by the appropriate level of gore in the game. Samurai G isn’t M-rated by any means, but body parts and small amounts of blood do fly—in slow-motion even while in Shining Samurai mode–as enemies are slashed into pieces or Tetsuo is impaled on a spike.
The game is endless in every sense of the word. I suppose there must be a finishing point somewhere (the most prestigious achievement medal is earned for clearing 50 miles, a milestone I haven’t come remotely close to passing), but there is no leaderboard or other form of progression indicator to give you an idea of how successful your best run is. The lack of a leaderboard is a definite bummer, because it leaves you to compete against yourself, and before long you may tire of rerunning the same one-path track without gaining any tangible reward for outdoing your previous high score. Achievements are fine, but they really don’t hold much value here.
Still, in short sessions Samurai G has an addictive enough hook to succeed reasonably well as a snack gaming time-waster. It’s neither too easy nor too difficult, and the skill-based nature of deflecting incoming throwing stars with sword swipes, timing jumps to avoid insta-kill obstacles, and watching for visible cues to know when it’s appropriate to be aggressive or act evasively, is met with a rewarding sense of accomplishment when you’re able to put together a lengthy run. At the same time, the occasional cheap death, caused by traps blending in with the ground textures or hazards appearing at the exact moment Shining Samurai mode is ending when there is a short delay in your ability to move or jump, can feel as painful as death by hara-kiri.
Samurai G is cheap enough that you probably wouldn’t regret taking the plunge on an impulse buy, but even for only a couple bucks there isn’t a whole lot here to hold your attention past 5-10 minutes at a time or a couple hours of cumulative play. But still, if you’re into the old school methodology of replaying the same level and competing against your own skill to improve high scores nobody else is going to see, this game has the potential to become your next guilty pleasure obsession.
+ Skill- and reflex-based action can be surprisingly addictive
+ Nicely detailed graphics
+ Hey, it’s only $1.99!
- No leaderboard or other way of seeing how your high score stacks up
- Cheap, unavoidable deaths occasionally bring good runs to a frustrating halt
- Not much variety to hold your attention past a few minutes at a time
Platform: Nintendo 3DS via the Nintendo eShop
Publisher: UFO Interactive Games
Developer: UFO Interactive Games
Release Date: 10/4/2012
ESRB Rating: Teen
Source: Review code provided by publisher