Everywhere, I see people finding old PlayStation 2 games and calling them “hidden gems”. So much so that I’m actually tired of that phrase and it makes me queasy when I see or hear it. In fact, I threw up just a little bit typing that out for you. Instead of using that phrase, I’m going to start calling these types of games, “Games my dumbass younger-self missed.” I think that gets the point across more poignantly. I was twenty or so when I got my PS2. I was just looking for survival horror, open world mayhem, and some extreme sports game.
It wasn’t until I grew up a bit and started looking through catalogs and at old reviews that I realized I passed up a lot of amazing games. I grew up on westerns. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood were like my second and third fathers, so I honestly don’t know how I missed a great and interesting title like Samurai Western.
Just think of this game as an interactive Spaghetti Western in the vein of Red Dead Revolver. Maybe just a little more out there. You play as Gojiro Kiryu in the Wild West, hunting for a man named Rando. As you look for him, you encounter all sorts of bad men that must taste the end of your blade. Instead of giving you information, you slice and dice them all the way to oblivion. I enjoy a good revenge tale as much as the next guy, but I disliked them breaking the story up into stages.
Instead of seamlessly going from level to level, you endure someone reading from a book about how Gojiro has affected them and what they’re going to do about it. I’ve never liked that during games that rely on some sort of story. It takes me out of the moment and I have to be pulled back into it, and by the time I am, the Stage is over. Rinse and repeat. Metal Gear Solid V did this to me, and it still upsets me that I have to jump all over the place and never get a nice flowing story.
A game that makes you dodge bullets and fight men with Colt .45’s needs tight controls, and they most assuredly are. However, the camera can get you killed or caught on the geometry of the level. Since you’re only armed with a very sharp melee weapon, you have to be quick on your feet or you’ll be riddled with bullets. Square attacks and R1 and Circle dodge and deflect. Pressing these buttons almost constantly is the only way you can get through a level. Tons of gunfighters, knife throwers, bomb throwers and Gatling Gun enthusiasts stand in your way. You can dodge or even deflect bullets, but you have to button mash quickly.
Thankfully, the developers put a tell into the game that lets you know when someone is about to shoot. When you see smoke come from anyone, press R1 immediately to stay alive. You can pick things up to throw at enemies and you do this with X. You can also jump with triangle, but these moves are not as important as the first two. To finish a stage, all you have to do is kill everyone, but some difficulty spikes make it very frustrating, so be ready to woo-sah every now and then.
The game’s look is phenomenal. They captured the old spaghetti western look and feel with the graphics, dialogue, and voice-overs. The developers gave the cut scenes a light flicker so that it looks like you are watching an old Clint Eastwood movie on the big screen. The campiness of the dialogue and the premise of the story itself are great. Just the fact that a samurai is attempting to take out gunslingers with a blade makes this a must play. The lead characters all have a nice unique design, but the grunts that you kill by the thousands don’t really differ too much.
After awhile, you get a bit tired of killing the same clone over and over and over. However, once you clear the level or get to the boss, those bodies turn out to be worth it. One interesting thing to me was the fact that you can unlock certain hats to wear. These hats affect your stats for the level so when you’re picking your hat and weapon, keep an eye out for your defense, power, and the like. A few points either way can make or break you in these fast paced levels.
This really is a great title. I’m thrilled that I tracked it down and added it to my collection before the prices skyrocketed. It’s so unique that it surprises me it didn’t take off like other “different” titles during the era.Destroy All Humans comes to mind. Playing as a little alien that sounds like Jack Nicholson is about as “different” as a cowboy hat-wearing samurai beating gunslingers in the Wild West. I wish the game had a little more replay value. I’m not big on beating my own high score over and over.
Once you beat it, you’re done with it, and you’ll wonder why more games aren’t as “out there” anymore. Maybe it’s because it obviously didn’t sell well, even though it is a truly fun game. Hopefully with the success of Detroit Become Human, off the wall and unique games will start making a come back. I know I’ll support them, and I’m sure many more gamers will as well.
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