Rental Review: Shadow of Rome, Samurai Western
When I'm feeling ill like I have the past few days I usually turn to renting PS2 games to take my mind off things. As a platform, the PS2 is teeming with games I'm interested in but not enough to buy. This time I've found myself playing Samurai Western and Shadow of Rome, both PS2 exclusive 3rd person action games that probably haven't gotten much notice from gamers.
Shadow of Rome takes you back to ancient Rome just after Julius Ceaser was murdered while Samurai Western leaps forward to the 1800's and follows Gojiro Kiryu as he slices apart cowboys with his sword. So far so good!
Shadow of Rome
Shadow of Rome (Capcom) is actually two games. One would be the gory 3rd person combat story-line that follows a former soldier of Rome who joins the gladiatorial games as part of a plan to rescue his father from the executioner's axe. The gladiatorial games are the focus of this mode and you hack your way forward through multiple stages of fights which get tougher and tougher as time goes on. You'll fight criminals, tigers, midgets and more in various free-for-all matches along with some that see you teamed up with other gladiators. Regardless of who or what you're fighting, it's going to be brutal with arms, heads and torsos flying off at regular intervals. You can even pick up a man's recently liberated arm and beat him to death with it, the crowd eats that stuff up.
One of the interesting elements of the game is playing to the crowd. When you perform a particularly good move the crowd will get even more excited. When that happens you can let out a victories roar that will please them so much they'll throw down special weapons for you to use or food for you to eat and replenish health. You will also be ranked by how well you play to the crowd and get combos but mainly it's a reward while you're fighting to keep you alive.
The controls are decent but not fantastic. There is a lock-on system in the game to focus on enemies you'd like to attack that you would be lost without. If you don't use it, it's very tough to hit anyone because Agrippa will just swing straight ahead with no adjustments to hit someone just off to the right. When you do target there is no indication on the screen who you're focusing on aside from the camera swinging around to center behind you facing the enemy. It's not terrible but it will take some practice before you can effectively switch between targets in a hurry when you're fighting four guys at once. Combat itself is essentially your main swing, alternate attack (depending on your weapon) block and throw. One interesting thing about it that keeps things varied is the fact that your weapons fall apart fast, you will be forever breaking weapons and running about to secure a new one from the ground or wrestle it from the grasp of your enemy. This becomes a huge factor later in the game when you're facing five guys wielding weapons while all you have is your bare fists because you let one of the bad guys scoop up a weapon before you could get to it.
All in all, the combat portion is wicked fun provided you can master the controls.
The other part of the game follows Julius Ceaser's adopted nephew as he tries to discover who really killed Ceaser. This part of the game drives the plot forward with quite a few cut scenes and intrigues. It mainly plays out as a Metal Gear-lite stealth game with sneaking about places you shouldn't be, knocking out guards with jars and stealing their clothes. If you're disguised you have to walk about like nothing is wrong and do your best to avoid close scrutiny. If you're caught you will have to answer some questions, if you don't sound like someone who belongs the mission will be over. This aspect of the game has it's moments but I mainly found myself wishing I could get back to killing people with Agrippa in the arenas.
All in all the game starts pretty slow when you first pick it up but it's worth sticking it out until you hit the arenas and get to the action. I'd call it worth a $19.99 buy or a rent for sure.
I've spent less time with Samurai Western so far but I'm told this game can take as little as two or three hours to play through which pretty much screams "rent me!" right off the bat. That being said, I'm having a blast with it so far. Like the name implies, you play a Samurai warrior who has come to the old west to hunt down a criminal. The premise of a guy with a sword running through a saloon cutting down cowboys shooting guns at him is ridiculous but it works. You spend a lot of time hitting your dodge button which sends you twirling and rolling past shots so you can get in close the cut down your enemies. When you do get with the killing blood will spray far and long in the classic anime style. While you can unlock various stances and different weapons it all essentially amounts to you cutting down hordes of bad guys who will spawn into the area if you sit around too long. This sort of thing usually drives me crazy but I don't mind it so much here, it just give me more cowboys to cut down. Ye-Haw!
The game is split into stages and between each you get a cut-scene to kick the story along with some very solid voice acting. The main cowboy character actually sounds a little like Sawyer from the TV show Lost. At this point I'll mention that the game does support two players if someone wants to step in with the good-guy cowboy. He fires a six-shooter, can dodge bullets and punch bad guys in the face. It's a nice idea but the camera is utterly useless when two players are on the screen and often one of you will be off screen because the camera can't track you both well enough.
So far Samurai Western is great but I'm glad it's so short because as much fun as it is, I can already tell it will get old sooner than later. For those of you who love this sort of game Atlas has seen fit to include all sorts of accessories, unlockable characters, weapons and moves so you can play through again and again if you want. You can even set restrictions on levels you've played before like "no getting knocked down" etc. to add to the challenge. It's not my bag but I'm sure some of you might like the added punishment.
Give it a rent if you're interested in a popcorn game.