“I can’t wait to see the next boss”. These words and similar are often said to one’s self when playing games of grandiose, where various tasks and elements are sprinkled in-between each climax to a chapter. Furi is a game composed of many-a-chapter’s-end, directly one after another to provide a groovy loop of addicting fights by mastering the same set of skills you had from the beginning of the game all the way to the very end. You do not level up nor does your equipment get upgraded. You just become aware of your skills improving as you overcome the tests thrown at you. Self-published & developed by The Game Bakers, the independent company brought both substance and style together with succession. Accompanying the stellar electro soundtrack is the character design by the popular anime Afro Samurai creator himself, Takashi Okazaki, bringing a certain level of quality to match games from companies in which Furi is a love-letter to, such as works brought to us over the years from Suda51 & Hideo Kojima. Furi isn’t a typically long game, but is one that never stops being satisfying. It’s somewhat of a cyber-samurai action game with hints of twin-stick shooting; a hybrid pulled off quite well.
Upon the game’s boot to the title screen for the first time, players will be greeted with choices pertaining to menus & subtitles in choosing one of more than a handful of languages as far as text is concerned. When it comes to the audio it defaults to French, but English and Japanese are the other options as well. I can say all of the audio choices get the job done. For native English speakers who want the audio to be the same, but are concerned about quality, you don’t have to worry. Likewise, English players wanting to get that authentic anime experience by hearing Japanese instead can do so by enabling subtitles. The latter option certainly works as even though Furi is created by a French team, its influence is inspired by Japanese games and the anime vibes are also strong.
You find yourself imprisoned and confronted by a jailer, but then released by a mysterious figure who dons a bunny headpiece who then insists on you killing the jailer who kept you in chains. By doing so, you will be “set free”. In-fact, all the battles are with these jailers. Killing them will open up a portal into the next world to repeat the process. The person who I will call “Bunny Breath” serves as Furi’s main narrative. He is there to tell you why he has chosen to come with you and goes into detail about your next opponent’s motives and who they are while you pace yourself to the next battle. It’s this loop of starting the next world space with a gradual walk into your next battle that keeps a particular momentum going throughout the entire game. There are numerous locked camera angles in place as you walk toward your destination which gives it a very cinematic feel. There’s nothing to pick up and exploring is limited to the point where you will only find a certain camera angle just by walking to a small area where you’re really not supposed to be. It can be cool just to see they added a view there, but it’s very linear otherwise. Actually, your only moves available is to just walk. Players are able to press B to auto-walk to the next battle as the cinematic narrative takes place. It isn’t until your next boss battle where all of the moves are at your disposal.
In the heat of battle, players wield both a sword and a gun. As with traditional twin-stick shooting, the right analog stick is used to both shoot & aim simultaneously as long as they please with no cooldown. Holding down R or ZR will charge a shot which will be fired upon release guided by a laser sight. This will not only inflict more damage if it connects with your opponent, but may also pause them in their tracks for a brief moment as they stand back up from the ground. Sometimes it might be best to chip away at them by just normal rapid shots as they’ll often dodge a charged shot depending on the scenario. Sword slashing is done by either pressing Y or X. Dodging is performed by B or either of the two left shoulder buttons and is crucial in avoiding particular projectile or ground effects. Parrying with your sword is performed by pressing A, which requires the best timing of all. A successful parry will also add back a sliver of health. Aside from parrying, all moves can be charged. Just like the gun, charging your sword will inflict more damage and can break a guard triggering a quick cinematic move. Charging a dodge will zip you across the arena farther. Both your sword and dodging can work in junction with each other. Charging your sword attack while dodging and vice-versa is a good thing to keep in mind.
All battles include a type of lives system, but with a twist. The player will always have 3 lives represented by blue squares underneath their health bar. A jailer’s number of lives will vary. There are two major differences between the player’s lives and the jailers’. First, the player is always able to fill in a depleted life square by taking one away from the jailer’s. A jailer cannot regain a life back. The other difference is that it isn’t so much the lives of a jailer’s as it is the number of stages a single battle includes. For instance, if a jailer has 5 lives, their form and strategy will change for every one you take away, progressively becoming more challenging with new tactics. Health is restored to both participants once a life is taken on either side. If a player’s life is taken, they will have to repeat the process from the beginning of that boss’s form/stage only. While the player only has health, jailers will have a shield on top of theirs. Depending on the boss and their strategies, there are essentially two types of situations in battle. Generally an arena battle takes place in all the stages as long as their shield has not been damaged to completion. Players will find themselves dodging projectiles and parrying attacks during this part. It isn’t until their shield is removed that players will engage in a more intimate battle, often a sword fight taking place in a circular zone which is outlined. When it comes to parrying, players will get both a visual and audio cue as to when to perform it. Both a spark and chime will hint the player to parry about a half-second after. It may take some getting used to, but just look for the clues.
When the main game came to an end, it was then where things finally made some sense as far as the story goes. Bunny Breath is always there to guide both of us through the journey, but I couldn’t tell if he was truly looking out for me, too, or only himself. On one hand, he reminded me of Ravio, a friendly fellow from The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. On the other hand, he reminded me of the creepy persona from the film Donnie Darko. Just who is this guy?! It left me conflicted. The writing in Furi kept me intrigued the entire way through, but with a silent player and figuring out why I was fighting in the first place made it a tad difficult to connect with who I was and what my true objective was. At any rate, just going with the flow still had me interested. The gameplay, art style and music still delivered.
A neat touch is no matter where you are in the game, the title screen will always be themed to the level you are on, play that level’s music and receive a quote from Bunny Breath on the level he gives it. A fresh little detail. In fact, the music being one of Furi’s focus is highlighted by the fact that the artist’s name is mentioned in the lower-right part of the screen when the game is paused on a level. With music coming from a variety of artists, all of them seem to match what the game is going for and none of them feel out of place.
Furi is a game with tight controls, rewarding gameplay, and a nice soundtrack. While the graphics aren’t pushing hard, the art style will certainly make up for it. The plot’s narrative may leave some confused, but players will make sense of it when it comes to the end. I strongly suggest waiting/playing through the credits, because…. that matters.