Furi is a game all about style. Graphically and mechanically this bullet-hell meets twin-stick shooter oozes style out of every pore. With Afro Samurai creator Takeshi Okazaki the game is a mix of homage from a number of games. A Dark Souls in cell-shading. It stands out from the crowd by creating an anime-level of fighting visually which requires a level of patience and thought from the player. A simplistic fighting game held from perfection by strange mechanics and scripted attack sequences breaking the flow but redeemed by its style and phenomenal music. With its arrival on the Xbox One I get the chance to dive in and experience the action myself.
The whole of Furi centres on boss fights: 10 main battles, with an 11th bonus fight and a whole extra boss on top of that unique to the Xbox One, totalling around 4 hours of gameplay overall. Little past the boss fights adds to this story: You play as a silent warrior, unshackled and sent out to take on ‘jailers,’ the bosses of the game. The specific how and why of the journey is left hazy for most of the experience but a game of this style needs little story to perform with.
Deliberately simple, you are given four mechanics to work with: shoot, slash, dodge and parry. There is no way to level up or improve these skills and all but the parry can be charged for a more powerful attack. You will become intimately familiar with these as each boss in the game is designed to be a unique tactical battle, not the usual headlong beating of most fighting games.
Fights typically take two forms. Starting off, you are given an overhead view of the arena. With enough grinding on the boss you are given a much more intimate battle. These melee-only dues transition into a more typical fighting game style. This duelling style leaves little room for downtime, and everything is designed around keeping up this pace, with a massive electronic soundtrack with artist including (if the press kit is correct) Carpenter Brut, Danger, The Toxic Avenger, Lorn, Scattle, Waveshaper and Kn1ght.
But Furi takes this simple concept much deeper. You will not be able to win a boss battle by simply dealing the most damage before the enemy can react. Much like Dark Souls has epitomised, the battles are all about predicting your opponent’s move, evading danger and punishing any opening you are given; knowing when to back off is as important as knowing when to attack. With the multi-staged battles Furi gives itself plenty of room to stretch a rather limited move set which is does, for the most part, incredibly well.
And this is what I would say makes Furi stand out: The sheer joy of perfection. Perfect parries, last second dodges, and well-timed charges all brought me joy. I almost consider it less fighting and more dancing with your opponent, a precise dance of button presses to beat each boss’ routine. While obviously technical fighting mechanics are associated with Dark Souls, there are a huge number of homages in this game’s design.
And a game this spectacular deserves spectacular problems, all found when the mechanics fail. When it fails, Furi becomes a horribly rigid game. Some bosses feel much more of a grind, with more predictable attack patterns and success becomes more due to luck than skill. If you find yourself stuck and lose three lives during a single phase the whole fight restarts. Trudging through several phases just to get to where you were gives you no real room to practice until you get back, with the repetition becoming more boring each time. It is not helped by the parrying feeling inconsistent when trying to move and block and while Furi’s design is stellar, it can fluctuate between being good fun and anger-inducing very quickly.
But the janky mechanics should not stop you buying Furi. The game as a whole is consistent and there is definitely fun to be had in the colourful cast of crazy boss characters and their unique styles. You will find this most rewarding when you build your rhythm, mastering the precision-based combat. Don’t let the tedium keep you away, Furi is a game unlike any other, and well deserving of a solid 8.