Last Level Press

Nutshell Review: Seven Samurai 20XX

Reviewer: Cliff Davenport

I’m not one to condemn any title, game, film, or otherwise, before I’ve ever experienced it just because of what its creators set out to do.  I’ve been surprised by remakes and classically-inspired titles before, and sometimes very pleasantly so.  Sammy Studios’ hack n’ slash PS2 title, Seven Samurai 20XX was (spoilers!) no such surprise.  In fact, it falls squarely under the “some assholes just can’t leave well enough alone” banner.  

With a disjointed narrative that’s actually got more in common with another Seven Samurai reincarnation, the anime Samurai 7, (confused yet?) 20XX invites players to take on the role of Natoe, a reluctant samurai in a neon-lit retro-future in which, I swear, every inhabitant must have scavenged their wardrobe from the depths of Michael Jackson’s changing room.

Seriously, these are the main characters.  That jacket is straight out

of “Thriller”, and you know it.

You can thank Jean Giraud for that stylistic choice, a man better known for his work on the artistic design of films like Alien, Tron, and, most telling of all, The Fifth Element.  

It all makes sense now.

At its core, Seven Samurai 20XX is a linear, third person, hack n’ slash button-masher, and in that regard, it’s truly unremarkable.  Its controls are simplistic and intuitive, if rather uninspired, and the in-game environments are rendered to a fairly standard quality for the contemporary genre.  Visual issues abound, however, as players immediately realize their total lack of camera control and 20XX’s complete inability to properly render its own code without crowded fights devolving into stuttering, slow-motion messes full of action-obscuring light flashes and explosions.  

Gameplay’s most interesting feature is the Nitou-Ryu guage, which players rapidly fill throughout combat encounters, and activate to enter Natoe’s Nitou-Ryu sword style, in which “two swords are better than one” seems to be the underpinning philosophy.  It does manage to give players a distinct advantage while active, increasing Natoe’s speed, reach, and ability to chain combos together to a genuinely impressive degree.  The problem is, it doesn’t take long for this mechanic to lose its luster, and during more challenging late-game engagements, players will find themselves forced to rely upon it overmuch, simply biding their time between dual-wielding flurries, as the single-sword style quickly becomes too slow for practical use.  20XX’s  apology for this misstep?  Jaunty finishing dances.  Sadly, I could find no .gif of this.  I apologize, and offer my seppuku as penance.  

“That’s a start…”

Localization is another issue that frequently knocks what little immersion this title attempts to hand to players right out of their palms.  The word “samurai,” for example, is almost nowhere to be found in the game’s largely text-based dialogue, replaced instead by the word “hunter.”  Weird, right?  Paired with the game’s decidedly Engrish chapter titles (one of which reads, “Chapter 2: Art of Junk Life”), it’s tough not to wonder whether we across the pond were ever meant for this game at all.  

All that said, however, 20XX’s combat system just doesn’t seem to fit with the narrative at hand.  Its single playable character comes as surprise enough already, given the very title of the game, but the fact that said character is always alone during battles is downright nonsensical.  It never fails; during every fight throughout this game, all six of Natoe’s absentee allies find somewhere else to be.  Every.  Single.  Time.  It would be downright comical if it weren’t such an infuriating buck in the face of the narrative’s very theme, from source to finish!

Readers unfamiliar with Akira Kurosawa’s legendary film, Seven Samurai, which damn near inspired a genre’s worth of imitators, may approach Seven Samurai 20XX with wider arms than I did, I admit, but I gave this game its chance.  I really did.  Through grit teeth, I put up with fight after fight after ear-gratingly badly voiced cutscene.  And then it threw this at me.  

Mr. Rodman, this isn’t North Korea.  

What am I supposed to do with that?! Artistic liberties (that phrase feels so inadequate right now) are one thing, but I sincerely suspect now that someone on Sammy Studios’ design team harbored a hidden malice for this project.  Nothing else can adequately justify such an image.   To say that Seven Samurai 20XX fails to live up to its legacy, despite the supposed involvement of Kurosawa Productions during its development, is an understatement the likes of which I try to avoid.  At the end, however, I suppose there’s mercy to be found in this game’s short, five-hour length and deserved unpopularity. Unless you’re among the most rabid of Kurosawa fans, or just really tired of Dynasty Warriors, I can’t advise any other course of action upon seeing this game at your local shop but to keep right on walking.   

Rating: 2.8

Visuals: 3

Audio: 3

Controls & Mechanics: 4

Atmosphere & Experience: 2

Entertainment Value: 2

“I…I don’t want to be remembered anymore.”

  Consoles: PS2

  Developer: Dimps

  Publisher: Sammy Studios

  Release Date (U.S.):  Mar 12, 2004

  Release Date (U.K.):  Apr 20, 2004

  Release Date (JP):  Jan 8, 2004

Final Verdict:


Last Level Press © Copyright Cliff Davenport  Est. 2013.  Links | Legal Notices

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