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SummaryOverlooked and Overshadowed
The GoodSoul of the Samurai was released from Konami at the zenith of the PSX. Just about everything developers could get out of the system, in terms of visuals, sound, and gameplay, had been exhausted. And along came this game with a very unique style of gameplay; a style of gameplay that would help catapult Sony's next system, the PS2, into great success. What style of gameplay does Soul of the Samurai use you might be wondering. Well, most of you reading this have probably played a game in the Onimusha series.
Konami developed quite a fun game, but many descriptions of this game relate the style of gameplay to Resident Evil.... but are they really similar? Only in the very basic way the character moves in relation to their direction on the screen is it similar to Resident Evil. Movement is much more animated and quicker, and the camera tends to work with the player instead of inhibiting their experience with frustratingly "cinematic" angles. I am also critical of those who compare Silent Hill with the former title - the gameplay and controls are nothing alike! Thusly, the best way to describe Soul of the Samurai's style of gameplay is to employ some historical hindsight - it plays nearly exactly like Onimusha. And this is a very good thing.
Moving along to other aspects of the game that are well done, we can talk about the visuals. The characters, you can choose to play as either a man or woman, are modeled in 3D but the backgrounds are neither modeled in real-time 3D or are images of rendered 3D. Instead the developers went a truly artistic route and painted each individual background. The style of art is realism, so don't expect to see woodblock carvings, but it does seem that water colours were used. The result is beautiful and integrates into the game without incident.
The music is a mix of modern rock/synth and classic Japanese sounding music. (Ambient music in the village turns into rock beats when bad guys jump out and attack). There are no highlights to the soundtrack, but at least you won't mind listening to it.
The plot of the game revolves around a murder at a dojo and a chance meeting between two warriors, (already mentioned as the two playable characters). They uncover a plot that has something to do with the dead coming back to life - at least that is what I thought the skinny green guys walking around try to kill me were. But a thin plot with revenge and justice at its heart can never be a bad thing.
The BadThere is nothing wrong with this game, nor is there anything great about it. Playing Onimusha then playing this will feel like taking a step backwards - everything will seem familiar, but everything will also seem a bit less polished.
Two valid complaints though was the lack of voice acting and the lack of any substantial cutscenes. Any noises or sounds from the main characters, even grunts, would have been welcomed. And the lack of cutscenes will definitely surprise some gamers, especially those that feel that cutscenes are more of a reward than an element to move the story forward.
The Bottom LineWhy don't more people know about this game? Is there something wrong with the game? Was the development rushed? Is the gameplay broken? Are the visuals poor and the soundtrack annoying?
The answer is "no" all of the questions above. So why don't more people know about Soul of the Samurai? Because a game from Capcom titled Onimusha was released just a short time after this game. So now some more of the pieces of this puzzle should be falling into place. A combination of time of release, poor promotion, and no substantial cutscenes all combined to make this miss the intended audience. But it is worth giving a look, especially to those that respect videogame history and the evolution of gameplay.