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Samurai II: Vengeance Review: Revenge Is Yours In This Sword-Swinging Bloodbath

Just when we think we’ve seen the goriest game iOS has to offer from something like Predators, this samurai slinks into the App Store and proves that we’ve got a lot to learn. Samurai Vengeance II not only improves on the original’s gameplay through a simplified D-pad structure, but it has also polishes the cell-shaded graphics and amps up the violence. The result? A revenge journey that spans seven chapters which no fan of iOS games will want to miss.

The lead character is a samurai named Daisuke. The story unfolds like a comic book, relating the events occurring across a war-torn landscape that led to Daisuke wanting revenge against his rival Orochi. And like everything else here, the cutscenes are over-the-top, entertaining, and a welcome interruption to the frantic, blood-spattered gameplay.

. . . But that’s not to say that the gameplay needs interrupting. It’s here in the controls that developer MADFINGER has made the biggest improvements. Those that have played Samurai: Way of the Warrior will remember that, while the game was a good time, the swiping scheme required to slice and dice enemies definitely took away from the enjoyment. With this sequel, we’re treated to a simple D-pad control scheme, and since it’s an increasingly popular style for apps these days, no one should be surprised or confused. The virtual stick on the left controls your samurai’s movement, while the buttons on the right give you two attack buttons, as well as a dodge function that proves indispensable if you want to succeed. Utilizing all these commands is very necessary, especially since it could be argued that the game is a tad too difficult even on the normal difficulty setting. When a wave of angry swords comes your way, dodging in and out, performing combos, and staying on the move is the only way to stay alive. Daisuke’s health refreshes once you’ve defeated a wave and get a chance to catch your breath, but those moments come quite infrequently.

Beyond the brawl-style combat, we’re also given some boiled-down RPG elements. New combos and increased health can be purchased with KARMA points, which are earned by busting open barrels or just killing enemies. That’s all there is to upgrades, and while it’s enough to keep things moving forward, there’s definitely room for more character customization options.

The main factor that keeps Samurai II: Vengeance in the realm of “great” rather than “excellent” is its tendency toward repetition. Each chapter is as linear as can be, and once you unlock some successful combos, there’s little reason to not just keep using it over and over again, which can get old . . . But despite this drawback, the visuals and backdrops against which the repetition takes place are nothing short of jaw-dropping. We’ve never seen cell-shading look this good, and the renderings of the Japanese settings are more than enough reason to keep moving forward. The eye candy is increased when you’re rewarded with a special combo kill, like cutting an enemy in half from head to toe or cleanly severing a head. The camera zooms in and out, sometimes slowing down time, to capitalize on the epic moments. It’s excessive, and that’s why it works.

If this kind of bloody brawl is your cup of tea, then the deal is sweetened by Game Center integration and a dojo that functions as the endless mode. As a complete package, MADFINGER delivers more than enough ways to kill for $2.99. The game is worth playing just for the visuals, and the fact that slicing and dicing is quite a bit of fun is a bonus. If you’re offended by a bit of blood (okay, a TON of blood), stay away. But if you have the typical fascination with samurais and what they can do with a blade, then this is the ticket. As a perfect example of how a sequel can improve over an original in every way, this is a rare treat.

Our Score: 4/5

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