“You were captured. Look what they’ve done to you… The jailer is the key, kill him and you’ll be free. Fight your way free in this ultra-responsive, fast-paced sword fighting and dual-stick shooting game. Boss design by Takashi Okazaki. Original soundtrack by Carpenter Brut, Danger, The Toxic Avenger, Lorn, Scattle, Waveshaper and Kn1ght!”
– The Furi Steam page (http://store.steampowered.com/app/423230/)
Ever since I played through Shadow of the Colossus on the Playstation 2, I’ve had an appreciation for games that just send you on an epic journey based entirely around boss battles. I don’t know what it is exactly that hooks me in the most – the boss battles themselves, the often epic scale of each encounter or just the satisfaction of working through a list of foes ‘Kill Bill’ style.
After playing through Titan Souls last year I’d been eagerly awaiting my next boss-smashing encounter, so I was glad to see that developers The Game Bakers had finally released Furi, their stylish third-person boss-slaying adventure. It amalgamates two things I love – great boss encounters and action-packed gameplay.
Furi casts you as an imprisoned sword-wielding warrior, trapped in a series of floating islands that tower above Earth. There’s no back story as to why you’ve been imprisoned – you just are. After being helped free by a stranger wearing a giant rabbit mask, you’re tasked you with killing the nine ‘Guardians’ who are keeping you prisoner in order to break free from your shackles and make your way down to Earth.
I didn’t find many flaws during my time playing Furi, but I couldn’t help but to feel a little disappointed with the story. The main character is a silent protagonist, which has worked well in games like Half-Life and The Legend of Zelda thanks to the depth to the world around you and the strong supporting cast. However, interactions in Furi are limited to boss battles and the strange character who frees you; whilst the characters are full of personality, actual story progression feels a little muddled with each character instead having their own side-story that doesn’t feel like it fully ties into the overall plot of the game.
It’s not that the story is bad, but rather that it just isn’t fully fleshed out. There were moments when it would shine, especially when I started questioning my character’s own actions and also during the post-credits boss battle, but it just wasn’t constant enough throughout the entirety of the game.
Fortunately, outside of the story Furi really shines. The gameplay has a lot of depth with its blend of multiple game genres – not only is it an up-close sword-swinging action game, but it also plays like a twin-stick shooter at the same time.
When fighting up close you simply press the square button to strike out at your opponent. You can block their attacks too, and if you time your block perfectly with the glow of their attack you’ll receive a HP boost whilst also opening up a great opportunity to counter-attack. If you take on enemies from a distance with your pistol the game takes a twin-stick approach, the left stick moving your character and the right stick aiming up your gun shots. It’s the safest way to take out an enemy, but it’s also the weakest. You can charge up your attacks to send out a more powerful variation, though I’ll admit I didn’t really take advantage of it during my playthrough.
Furi depends on quick movements and even quicker reactions from the player, so it’s fortunate you have a quick dash/teleport move that can quickly take you out of danger. You’ll need it too – some of the bosses will send flurry of bullets your way that can completely cover the entire screen. It’s insane; there are times when the game feels more like the bullet-hell schmup Ikaruga rather than an action title. Thankfully the game’s controls work perfectly, with each action perfectly mapped on the control pad. If I ever got hit or missed an attack I knew it was always my own fault and never an imprecision with the controls – it’s something I could appreciate given the tricky nature of the game.
The only bugbear I really had was with the lack of camera control; some levels feature a lot of walls, and whilst you can see a silhouette of your character through them, it didn’t show enough to indicate if a boss was about to attack you. There’s a big emphasis on countering enemy moves in Furi, so not being able to see the tell-tale signs that indicate each attack left me at a disadvantage at times.
Of course, whilst you’re well equipped to take down the hordes of bosses coming your way, they are even better equipped to kill you. The bosses themselves are the stars of the show in Furi, with each boss not only incredibly varied in design but also with their fighting styles too.
Each boss has a health bar which you need to deplete; once you clear their health bar, they’ll essentially lose one of their lives. Each boss has a set count of lives that you have to wipe out, with each life representing a different phase of the battle. You can tell how many phases there are to each battle based on the amount of squares under the enemy’s health bar, though the same applies to you too – you only have a certain amount of lives before it’s game over, though thankfully each time you clear a phase of the battle you gain an extra life up to a maximum of three.
Each phase of the boss encounters become increasingly difficult, with not only a wider range of moves to watch out for but also more powerful ones too. You never know what’ll come your way either, with enemies unleashing their attacks from up-close as well as at range. There are also attacks which cover a certain area of effect, challenging you to get out of the danger zone as quickly as possible, as well as quick-time attacks where you have to constantly waggle the control sticks to avoid receiving heavy damage.
When a boss reaches their last health bar, the environment will darken and you’ll face a bombardment of bullets and attacks. It’s almost like a moment of desperation from your enemy, with the boss typically only requiring one more hit before falling. Still, it’s tricky to survive everything sent your way and it’s certainly an epic way to end each encounter.
All of the enemies in Furi look insanely cool, though it’s no surprise seeing that Afro Samurai designer Takashi Okazaki worked on their design. My personal favourite was the second boss of the game – an imprisoned woman with a robotic, laser shooting helmet who travels around the level on a sort of motorised unicycle. It may sound ridiculous, but it’s looked so awesome in-game. As you progress through the battle she slowly breaks free from her restraints, bringing with her all new attacks including the use of a giant scythe too. Brutal.
Another boss I really enjoyed taking on was the time-bending, headphone wearing old man. He actually reminded me of ‘The End’ from Metal Gear Solid 3 – he even taunts you by suggesting that he’ll die of old age before you beat him, which in itself could be considered a nod The End. He focuses on using shields to protect himself before taking you on in actual combat himself, proving that age doesn’t make a difference in the world of video games.
I really appreciated how game managed to convey the differing personalities of each of the bosses through their fighting styles. You’ll come across bosses who are full of anger, arrogance, wisdom, insanity – heck, a particular boss even seemed to have an aura of innocence about her. This was then cleverly reflected in combat, with attacks and interactions that showed a more human side to each of them. It actually made me feel guilty when I had to kill them; Furi will certainly have you questioning your motives throughout the game.
All of the bosses are great though, providing a plethora of different challenges that makes sure the game manages to stay varied despite the fact that no aspect of the gameplay really changes. You don’t even upgrade your character, unlock new moves or even find new equipment throughout the game – you’re literally the same from start to end, and I think it really compliments the style of game Furi is.
Visually, Furi looks amazing thanks to its cel-shaded style that’s reminiscent of some of Suda51’s games like Killer7 and Killer Is Dead. Everything looks absolutely stunning, with the environments particularly standing out with the spectacular variety on offer.
Sometimes you’ll be going through a torrid and gloomy prison, whilst the next you’ll be venturing through a beautifully lit up cliff side. One moment you’ll be walking across a golden desert with sandstorms blowing around you and an Epcot styled giant sphere in the distance, whilst the next moment you’ll be bouncing between platforms on an icy mountain as speckles of snow fall around you. Besides a few instances of screen tearing, Furi looks utterly phenomenal and is a real testament to the hard work the game’s art department clearly put into the game.
Another strong point is the game’s sound design, with both the soundtrack and the voice acting absolutely on point. I’m a big fan of synth music, so there was a lot for me to love about the tracks featured in Furi. The voice acting was perfectly performed too, be it the angry tone of the prison guard who wants nothing but to punish you or the horrifying wails from the aforementioned imprisoned scythe wielding boss.
Furi isn’t a long affair, with my playthrough lasting around five hours. You do unlock an extra difficulty upon completion (that’s absolutely insane might I add), as well as a ‘Speed Run’ mode that challenges you to complete the game as quickly as possible to try and climb the global leaderboard.
Whilst Furi isn’t the best game you’re going to play this year, it’s certainly one of the coolest. It may be slightly lacking in the story department, but everything else is completely on point and it’s an absolute pleasure to play.
To me, Furi felt like the video game equivalent of the movie Drive – you have a brooding hero, an ultra-cool synth soundtrack, a fantastic colourful style and plenty of violent combat to keep you thrilled from start to finish.