BACK TO THE PAST AND GREAT AGAIN!
The story of Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is a pretty great one. Following the events of season five, Jack has been in the future for almost 50 years and is still trying to kill the Evil Aku. Throughout this story we ran into many characters from the show and man was it awesome. We got a little chunk of the main story, but there were a few things left out like the more dark tones and blood which didn’t make sense to me since the game was rated T for Teen and ESRB listed Blood and Violence as a warning for the game. This was something that was much more heavily focused on during season five and I loved it. You had Jack who had been stuck in the future for 50 years, going crazy, with everything taken from him. So why wasn’t this tone more heavily implied in the story?
On a positive note, seeing characters like the Scotsman, Scaramouche, and Sir Rothchild was really cool, but what made seeing these characters even better was the fact that the original voice acting team was back in full force! Hearing Phil LaMarr, Tom Kenny, Rob Paulsen, Tara Strong, John DiMaggio, and Greg Baldwin was just wonderful. It really brought back good feelings and reminded me why I love this series so much. Not only has Samurai Jack been a groundbreaking series for years…but the voice acting crew just makes you believe in the characters struggles and heartbreak this story has to offer.
Though the story was roughly based around the events of season 5 and not the full brilliance of the show, what really pulled me in was just how beautiful this game was on my Switch Lite. On the Switch Lite, games can only reach a resolution of 1280×720, but damn did the backdrops and levels still look amazing and so much like the show. This is not an open game, it is very much an “on the rails” style action game, but I still found myself stopping during levels and just looking at the wonderful world of Samurai Jack. The beautiful scenes and backdrops really made me feel like I was in the futuristic world ruled by Aku.
During the game, you would face off against hordes of enemies in an over the shoulder style gameplay, but at times the camera would pull away and showcase a side-scrolling style. The shift in vantage point made the backdrop to the level even more beautiful. This was something that stuck with me the whole time I played the game, I really couldn’t believe how much they made the game look and feel like something straight out of this amazing animated world. With each level, the presentation just got better: larger levels and battle came with larger backdrops and more beautiful colors and feelings to the level design. At this point, I was pretty much dumbfounded at the overall love and effort put into the level design and this just better shows how much AdultSwimGames and Soleil love this show and game. These studios should be very proud of the amazing job they did and I hope that this is just the beginning of what we will see from this studio.
EVEN THE PERFECT SAMURAI CAN HAVE FLAWS
Moving on from the beauty of the game, the gameplay was extremely smooth and really felt like a true role playing game. This is not something I expected from a Samurai Jack game, especially when it comes to the combat system and upgrade. The combat was somewhat basic as you hack and slash your way through tons of enemies, but as you go along slashing you pick up coins and spirit points that unlock more combos and upgrades in your skill tree to make you a more powerful Samurai.
The skill tree is fairly large, giving you the ability to upgrade your Spiritual, Physical, and Combat skills. Each one of these skills improve different aspects of your gameplay: the Spiritual skills can upgrade your damage and inventory size, while the Physical and Combat skills will upgrade your health, combos and more. The only thing that differs for the Combat skills is the fact that you have to use coins at Da Samurai’s shop to level up your weapons, then you can upgrade your Combat skills based on the level of your weapon.
Though this was a nice addition, I did find something I hate about having more weapons in the game…the fact that they fall apart as you use them. You can find these weapons in the world after defeating certain enemies or you can buy them from the shop, but I found myself mainly focusing on my magical blade upgrades more since it didn’t have durability or needed to be repaired as the other weapons did. As I was upgrading the other weapons like the hammers, staffs, and more it almost felt counter productive that I kept having to repair these weapons as I used them. Many times I found myself putting in the time to upgrade them to only have them break on me in the middle of a large scale battle. There are other games that have used this same mechanic and I have never liked it. I guess durability adds to the realistic value of the game, but I have always felt it was a ridiculous and total waste of my time.
Lastly, there were a lot of times the visuals in gameplay went from crisp and clean to muggy and watered down. This is possibly because I was playing the game on Nintendo Switch Lite, but it really bummed me out. During multiple battles, Jack must face off against a huge number of enemies, for the most part this was fine, but when there were a lot of enemies on the screen and a ton of action happened the frame rate seemed to slow and the resolution would almost drop from 720p to 480p. This is a small problem for some but since this game was already so beautiful and I’m a huge Samurai Jack fan, I felt like it really hurt my experience in the game. If a game is beautiful, I for one will give it props all day long, but when the visuals get bogged down by poor frame rates and muggy visuals just cause there is a lot going on during gameplay it makes the game feel like it wasn’t ported the best to said console, or was rushed to release with possible fixes coming in post launch fixes.
Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is a faithful tale of what Jack has gone through just to get back to…well, his own time. Playing this game made me better appreciate the world Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of Samurai Jack, brought to life over the last 19 years. Though the game does have its rough patches, I had fun from start to finish and couldn’t have asked for a better Samurai Jack title. I can only hope this is not the last we see of Samurai Jack on consoles and have to say this is a must buy for any action role playing fan!