Overall, If you’ve played any of the Kingdom Hearts games, the gameplay for Samurai Jack will seem very familiar, the combat mechanics and character leveling are almost the exact same. The tenor of the game is more in the first four seasons (light and airy) and not of the last, much darker, season, even though the set-up of the game is the Ashi-as-Aku battle with Jack, in the middle of Season 5. All of your allies are back to help you along, as well as many of your enemies are back such as an unhinged Demongo. The one enemy I haven’t seen yet is my favorite, Scaramouche (oh there it is babe!), but I’m hopeful that he’ll show up at some point.
Your main weapon is Jack’s katana, with a number of ranged weapons such as throwing stars, knives, and a limited selection of old-school firearms. Sword combos are easy to understand, very easy to trigger and have really intuitive haptic feedback. My favorite ranged weapon was the simple bow, even though there are ranged weapons that have greater damage. The main reason I liked the bow was for its aiming mechanism; instead of a target cross, you get a slightly dimmed screen and a tiny circle of light where the arrow is aimed at. With this, I landed almost every aimed bow shot I took.
One major problem I have had with the game, is camera control, especially when you’re on tight pathways, the camera will lock on you, halfcocked, which makes it hard to see where you’re going, and if you try to aim a ranged weapon while the camera is locked, it makes it hard to see where you’re aiming at.
Some notes on gameplay
- It’s nice that the store (Da Samurai!) comes along on a regular basis AND can repair your weapons, unlike Breath of the Wild, where they just break
- Mission navigation reminded me of how Medieval progressed, very linear
- Boss fights weren’t all that impossible, but did have some gimmicky mechanics
- When you’re in an area fight, it locks the location so you can’t leave until all enemies are good…in smaller battles this is annoying, but does help when you have more complex battles
- The skill trees are nice, and well organized into three major areas, so you don’t feel overloaded, or get lost in where something might be. Makes more sense than your typical Destiny or Final Fantasy skill tree
- Climbing is very intuitive; you walk up to a climbable surface and the game puts you on it. The “where you should go indicator,” a small grouping of lights could be more noticeable as there were a number of times where they blended into the background
- Respawning is nice that it lands you just where you died, and you don’t have to grind back to where you were
Finally, as a Carnegie Mellon grad, I loved seeing that “haggis” was a health potion that gave you half your health back! My overall impression is this game is a pleasant way to pass a couple hours, with a nice, simple interface, that has moderate replayability, especially if you’re just looking to kill an hour or so and is definitely a Valentine to Samurai Jack fan.
Those are my impressions, what are the critics saying?
Generally, critics liked the game with MetaCritic gving a respectable 67$ Battle Through Time a respectable 67% and Steam a 9 out of 10.
Alex Santa Maria, writing in IGN overall likes the game, saying, “There are plenty of quirks that come with the game’s curious dedication to the past, but the overall package excels despite them.”
Talking about the rendering of the world and characters he said, “it’s been a long time since cel-shading was the peak of making games look like cartoons, and the angled and stylized character models on display here really add dimension to the cast…making the whole campaign feel like an extended episode of the show.”
Maria continues about the mechanics, “it plays like nothing else available today, and the fast-paced sword swinging activates old reflexes I thought I’d long forgotten.”
CJ Saldeco reviewed the game for GameCritics.com and overall gave the game high marks, especially noting, “Sure, at its core, Battle Through Time is a retelling of the TV series with some deviations, but it absolutely nails what makes Samurai Jack a modern animated masterpiece, and it was a delightful surprise to play through.”
One especially negative interview, showing up in Slant Magazine, under the byline of Aaron Rico, summed his feelings up thusly, “The ability to walk a mile in Samurai Jack’s sandals simply isn’t worth the cost, given Battle Through Time’s clunky 3D rendering of Tartakovsky’s distinctive visuals, its empty retelling of individual episodes from the series, and repetitive boss fights…all of which is to say that players would be better off firing up their Hulu apps if they want to get a sense of Samurai Jack’s breadth and wonder.”