Ganryu 2: Hakuma Kojiro Review

Ganryu 2: Hakuma Kojiro Review

In the 80s and early 90s, arcades dominated the industry. Companies like SNK and Capcom released iconic titles that laid the foundation for many subsequent games. While Strider and Samurai Shodown remain icons of the era, Ganryu has been unfairly forgotten. Storybird Studio is looking to bring the feudal fantasy epic back to life, hoping to revitalize the series. However, after 23 years of absence, will they manage to capture the magic of the time?

After a familiar spirit disrupts your meditation, you embark on a personal journey of redemption. As Miyamoto Musashi, you aim to travel from the northern region of Ganryujima south to save Japan before an otherworldly threat is unleashed. The narrative itself is similar in its delivery to games of the past. Beautiful pixel art panels, give plot snippets and successfully establish the premise of your adventure.

Ganryu 2 is a hack and slash, side-scroller in the vein of Shinobi. With a sword and a pile of kunai, you must annihilate everything in your path. Enemies vary and offer a range of attacks to quickly whittle down your health. For this reason, you must read and counter enemies to progress. The sword allows you to slash at close range and your kunai sends projectiles across the screen. Since you only have a finite number of them, you will need to limit your use and research your surroundings more.

An inner fight

Ninjas and warriors emerge from all parts of the environment and for this reason you need to be agile in your approach. With the ability to dash, you’ll need to speed across the platform to eviscerate quickly. This can instantly obliterate minions and stun larger enemies, making it a vital technique to master. Due to the diversity of opponents, you won’t be able to rely on just one tactic. Therefore, you will have to combine elements of your arsenal to overcome the myriad of obstacles that stand in your way. Unfortunately, the protagonist’s movement is a bit stiff. The jump is stiff and its mobility lacks the smoothness we’ve grown accustomed to, which makes Ganryu feel a bit dated.

Levels house secrets that grant a number of bonuses. Whether breaking barriers or jumping walls to hidden areas, you’ll find items that can help you on your difficult trek through Japan. As a hit hits a portion of your health, it becomes imperative to search your surroundings for extra food and lives. Death can be frequent and frustrating, due to the arcade ideology that plagues Ganryu 2. Sequels are absent, so you must complete an area without losing all of your lives. While this lets you learn the level by trial and error, it means you’ll often replay the first area of ​​each stage, which becomes tedious. I understand Storybird Studio’s decision to follow the path of its influences but it seems misguided. Arcade titles were punishing, so you kept giving it more coins, but using the same philosophy without continuing didn’t work.

The power of the blade

Collectibles build a special meter that triggers an ultimate attack. You can select its properties to deal high damage or recover health. Alas, upon death you lose them permanently and will have to recover everything again. While it stays true to games of the era, a Souls-like system where you could pick up items would have respected its origins and fused modern game mechanics.

Even though Ganryu 2 only has 10 levels, the game offers enough variety to make them feel distinct. Along with multi-level and side-scrolling combat segments, there are Donkey Kong mine carts, dogfights and more that will keep you on your toes. Each area has two levels and ends with a boss fight. These may seem difficult at first, but once you learn their attack pattern, you’ll be able to eradicate anyone you come up against. The problem lies in reaching this point. Checkpoints are sparsely positioned so you don’t have to start the whole level over on death. However, due to the lack of continues, you will have to restart the entire area after losing all of your lives, making it a hassle to reach the second boss and learn its intricacies.

Lavish sprites

The areas represent the period beautifully with their stunning use of color and pixel art. The protagonist himself is expertly crafted and would feel right at home in Samurai Shodown. Accentuated by the stellar sound design, the arcade feel pervades its entire presentation and adds authenticity to the game.

Ganryu 2 succeeds in its aim of carrying on the legacy of the arcade, however, it is dragged down by the chains that come with it. Its inability to draw inspiration from modern games means it struggles to compete with its contemporaries. The presentation is beautiful and the levels are well designed, varying throughout. However, the stiff movement and lack of continuity can make it a laborious experience.

*** A PlayStation 4 key provided by the publisher ***

Good

  • Stunning visuals
  • Various levels
  • Successfully captures the arcade action

62

The bad

  • Trial and error game
  • Lack of follow-up
  • Feels a little stiff

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