A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that they should take heed to the "Mature" ESRB warning on Afro Samurai. The game is excessively violent, gory, profane, and shows partial nudity. Explicit sexual references are heard in the dialogue. Violence and profanity are most common, with the former showing body parts slicing in half and copious amounts of blood spurting out of the wounds. Characters make drug references and smoke cigarettes. Finally, the African-American protagonist is portrayed as a broad stereotype.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
If you thought Samuel L. Jackson's previous projects were laden with profanity and violence, such as the Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction flicks, wait 'til you lay your hands on AFRO SAMURAI, an over-the-top animated adventure based on the television mini-series of the same name. If you're unfamiliar with the TV show, Afro Samurai follows an afro-donning, cigarette-smoking samurai (voiced by Jackson), who goes on a mission to avenge the murder of his father in a futuristic depiction of a feudal Japan. This lone warrior hacks and slashes countless enemies with his trusty sword.
Controlling Afro from a third-person perspective is pretty simple, with light and heavy attacks, kicks and jumps, and a reward for pulling "combos" featuring a mix of these moves: enough "Focus Points" accumulated by savvy ninja moves lets you press and hold a button on the controller and enter a slow-moving, black-and-white fighting mode, allowing Afro to pull off special attacks.
Is it any good?
This game honors the same beautiful graphical style as the show with smoothly animated movement, graphic novel-style storyboarding sequences, and dramatic slow-motion effects that all contribute to the game's charm. Add an original hip-hop soundtrack from The RZA (a.k.a. Robert F. Diggs, of Wu-Tang Clan fame) and you've got one interesting game from an audio-visual perspective.
But this "Mature"-rated game is not for young eyes (or ears, due to excessive cursing). Afro's vengeance spills copious amounts of blood as he takes down baddie after baddie -- it's possible to decapitate, dismember, and impale foes, with red stuff gushing and splattering with each slice -- even onto the "camera" for added impact. While fighting is the name of the game, there are also some less-gratifying puzzle-solving elements and "platforming" tasks that challenge players to balance on planks and platforms, jump and swing on poles, and so forth. Another issue is the auto-camera that follows you around this world, which sometimes obscures your view in tight places (usually indoors). Shortcomings aside, this game's high-production values (including its stunning art style, memorable set pieces, and great soundtrack) and over-the-top combat should more than satiate adult gamers with a yen for this kind of virtual violence.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Afro Samurai's controversial content is more acceptable because it's an interactive cartoon instead of attempting to be a photorealistic violent game? And do celebrities such as Samuel L. Jackson and Ron Perlman add credibility to this game? Are we more forgiving of its mature content because the cinematics are "artsy"?
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
- Price: $59.99
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Namco Bandai
- Release date: January 28, 2009
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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