How Far Will You Go For Freedom
By Edwin Velez
Reviewed on Xbox One
Released on December 1st, 2016 for Xbox One, Also On PS4 & PC
Developer/ Publisher: The Game Bakers
NOTE: This article was updated on 1/17/18 to reflect our thoughts on the Nintendo Switch Version.
If you grew up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s as a kid in the U.S, you probably know of or are at least familiar with Toonami. Toonami was (and now is once again) a block of programming run by Cartoon Network that was geared towards a slightly older audience, featuring a mix of American animations and Japanese Anime. It is primarily where I got to witness the goodness that is the Dragon Ball Z series (which I express my love for here) and where many other popular animes got their chance to shine with the youth stateside. Furi embodies every good feeling that came out of the Toonami Era so to speak, coming off as the Saturday evening cartoon you wish you had growing up. It’s full of badass characters, diverse and powerful tracks, beautiful sceneries, fast and fluid combat, and great voice acting to round off the check list. Furi is a standout in 2016, featuring an inquisitive narrative that see’s your character, Rider, escape his prison and defeat anyone intent on stopping him. Who you are and what you have done remain a secret, but a mysterious and helpful being known as The Voice is your partner in crime, guiding you every step along the way to freedom.
Furi is in essence an action-brawler, featuring 9 main story line boss fights and nothing else. If you break it down going off this number, the story mode is essentially like many arcade modes featured on typical fighting games, where you fight your way to the top with different characters each way. It is a lot richer and deeper than that though. As I mentioned before, your crimes, your identity, and any shred of an idea of why you are here are unbeknownst to you at the start. All you know is that the captor in front of you despises your guts, and finds the opportunity of your escape to be exciting as he aims to beat the living sh*t out of you and toss you back in your cell to rot. He is known as The Chain, the first guardian of 9 meant to keep you in your place. Wielding a staff and a mask with three faces, he will be your first challenge. The game proceeds to run you through the basics of the combat, which is rich and intense. Even the first fight won’t pull any punches once it puts you through the ropes.
Rider is armed with two weapons, a sword and a gun. The sword can be charged to stun, which in effect leaves the enemy open for a devastating blow. You can also do some rapid strikes with it. The gun is your longer range weapon, and can also be charged in addition to being a fully automatic energy pistol. The charged shots do a solid amount of damage, but you have to know when to go for it so to speak or it will surely get blocked or dodged. What is interesting here during fights is that there are typically two phases of combat per each life the boss has. The first stage of combat is usually more ranged, featuring a mixture of melee and shooting on both sides of the fight. The second phase, which is just as if not more intense and nail biting, is close quarters combat. A circle around you and your enemy acts as a barrier, keeping you within swords reach of your opponent at any given moment. In this phase you can no longer use your gun, but you can now charge your sword in a different way that allows for stronger hits instead of potential dazes. Once you defeat the boss in both of these phases without dying, they will lose one of their lives. The bosses have three or more lives, depending on the foe. Rider too has three lives as the standard. Here is the kicker though, if your opponent takes one of your lives, he or she regains her health for that current life and you start at the beginning of the first phase. But each time you take a life away from your opponent, you gain one of yours back (assuming you lost one). This keeps you in the game longer, making adapting to enemies more quickly all the more important.
This game is meant to be tough, but it is truly not unforgiving. Use your brain, be patient, and watch your enemy close enough, and you will beat them in no time. Each enemy varies vastly, making the pace of the game ever changing and dynamic. I would say I beat roughly half of the roster on the first try, while others took some more time. It’s one hell of a challenge, but boy is it a rewarding experience. Overcoming a difficult foe is extremely gratifying and will have many players impressed by their own actions. Some bosses are simple, like The Edge, who fights in a similar fashion to that of Rider. He keeps you in close quarters almost the whole time, and is quick as can be. Others, like The Burst, rely on tech and long range to keep you on your toes. Many of the guardians either despise you or embrace the challenge you bring to the table, each giving off different vibes in reaction to your escape. They never go into detail, but The Voice usually gives some insight to that of your upcoming enemies.
The Voice, who actually aids your escape unlike the rest of the faces you will meet, is the main narrator of the story. He is an odd figure, donning a rabbit mask and wielding a mic stand. He despises much of the guardians you come across as well, as he too is (was) imprisoned. Rider does no speaking himself, rather conveying his message through his facial expressions, so The Voice really helps breakdown the story between bosses. In between fights, you travel from section to section while The Voice chats it up. These moments are great, but bitter sweet. During these walks, you have the option of controlling Rider or hitting a button to let him auto-walk to the next location. When walking, the camera will often change perspective, which causes your movements to become irregular if you are manually walking. Instead of being dynamic, the movements are static, and thus unresponsive to the change which can make traversal clunky. The other issue during these segments are the jagged, rough steps Rider appears to take. His movements just look plain awkward. The saving graces are the fact that every scene you cross is damn pretty, and complimented by one of the many thrilling tracks from the OST. The songs just scream awesome, and keep the hype train going from fight to fight.
The game is relatively short, but begs to be replayed, mastered, and interpreted. Its story is rewarding, as it stews a sense of questionable morality across its nine fights, all of which are stellar. There is a fight post story that is actually the least enjoyable in the game, but thankfully it comes after the credits and does not taint the amazing main story line. The music is fun and engaging, and really drives the action to further heights. The tight fighting, smooth frames, and flashy visuals keep your eyes glued to screen every second. Furi is just plain bad ass. It is fun, rewarding, and at the end of the day it is one of the coolest games I had have the pleasure of playing. I want more, and definitely plan on revisiting it in the Furier mode which plans on beating me into submission, but I got a bit cocky during my first playthrough so I am ready for more. Blink and you’ll miss it, Furi is one of the coolest and brightest brawlers you can get your hands on in this generation of gaming.
NINTENDO SWITCH NOTES:
Furi to this day is still one of the most memorable games I have reviewed. It bleeds cool and has lasting appeal through its presence. I wrote my initial review, passionately so, on the Xbox One version that launched in 2016. Just a little over a year later, bright and early in 2018, Furi now finds a new home on the Switch. Furi by nature is an incredibly fast paced game, with lots of action taking place on screen during fights. Because of this, I was eager to see how it ran on the portable console, figuring that Furi would test its limits on the small screens. To my delight, the game is still running and looking as good as it did my first time around, making it a kick-ass addition to the Switch’s line up.
Flashy and fun, Furi stands tall in handheld mode. While I noticed some hiccups during cutscenes, I never really noticed any framerate slowdowns or stutters during actual fights, which is impressive considering how intense and constant they are. Not only that, but the visuals look nearly identical to the console counter parts in my opinion. The colors are still bright as all get up, the textures are clean and smooth, and it looks as if no major sacrifices needed to be made to get it up and running. That is not to say there are not some changes to the port. For one, the difficulty in the standard mode is slightly lessened from other versions. As a result of feedback, bosses health has been reduced by 20% for the long range combat portions of fights. It still feels very balanced, coming off as just difficult enough but making replaying after losing a fight more inviting and not dragged out. Aside from that, there are a few changes to some shot patterns and leaderboard availability.
Furi stands tall on Switch. All my initial thoughts remain the same, as do the praises. Now you get to take this badass adventure on the go, but just try not to rage quit on a plane or bus, it might not look too well!
Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of this review.
Final Score: 9.5/10
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