The boss battle has been incorporated in gaming for generations. Every gamer remembers the first time they encountered the likes of Bowser, Liquid Snake or Sephiroth. Each time you met with these extraordinarily powerful foes, you felt excited, anxious or even frightened. However, once you have conquered your seemingly impossible foe, the sense of accomplishment would increase tenfold. These are the feelings developer The Game Baker’s are pursuing in their newest action game Furi. Furi is a hybrid of genres between sword combat and twin-stick shooter that will test your mettle and dexterity. The Game Baker’s have created something special, but not without a few hiccups.
In Furi, you play as an unnamed swordsman who has been apprehended by a group of jailers. A man, donning a purple bunny mask, sets you free in order to escape from the multi-level prison with each level guarded by a jailer. The jailers see you as an incredible threat and will stop at nothing to ensure your capture. The swordsman must go level-by-level and defeat each and every jailer one-by-one in order secure his freedom.
Each level thematically represents the jailer who is guarding it. As you make your way from battle to battle, your companion (the man in the purple bunny mask) gives you a detailed yet enigmatic synopsis of each jailer and the environment they are housed in. The unique character (by Afro Samurai creator Takashi Okazaki) and environment designs bring a stylistic flair that shines throughout each level of Furi’s intriguingly designed prison in the sky.
Each character’s design plays an integral part of the three to four hour (five hours if you’re bad at games like myself) story. Without spoiling too much, there is a reason why each one looks the way they look and it may or may not be because of the unnamed swordsman. These carefully designed characters and environments tell a better story than the actual game attempts to tell. Every mysterious detail your companion discloses to you as you walk slowly to the next battle culminates to an end that is astonishingly cool in concept but falls short due to an underwhelming final boss battle that was more unnerving than exciting.
Save for the final boss battle, each one before that was an absolute blast to play. The combat is incredibly fast and direct as you switch between isometric action shooting to sword dueling forging tense moments that will both challenge the players competence and create enjoyable moments throughout every encounter. Each boss bears multiple life bars, all of which must be depleted in order to move on to the next opponent. The amount of life bars varies between each boss. In my experience, planning a strategical attack against a boss with fewer life bars was slightly more difficult than a boss with more. However, each boss contained at least one pattern that spiked the difficulty to an extreme amount. One minute, you will be slicing and dicing your opponent with ease and then the next, your opponent wrecks you with a flurry of gunshots or an unbelievably powerful slash that drains half of your health. Furi revels in how difficult it can be, but some portions felt difficult for the sake of being difficult. Either way, each battle keeps you on your toes as you dodge, parry, shoot, and strike each jailer.
While each battle felt exceptional in its own right, each boss — save for one or two bosses — inevitably ends with dodging, parrying, and shooting an overwhelming amount projectiles on screen resulting in some of the most frustratingly difficult parts of the game. It was almost jarring how easy the previous sequence was compared to the final sequence. These sequences also created a sort of repetitiveness that I felt a bit mundane compared to the rest of the game. Dying at these particular sequences (or any of the sequences) brings you back to the beginning of the battle. The amount of frustration that ensued was alarming, but it made every move feel substantial.
The controls are easy to utilize to your benefit, especially since they are surprisingly responsive. Pressing any given button will directly initiate one the swordsman’s defensive or offensive abilities. Press X, the swordsman will dodge. Press circle, the swordsman will parry. Press square, he will slice anything in his path. The responsiveness of the controls gives each movement meaning. Every move and mistake mattered and the consequences of making the wrong move were blatantly advertised as your health bar depletes.
From the moment I started Furi, the sounds of its remarkable music instantly impressed me. From the ambient electronica, to the bass-heavy EDM, each track was impressively crafted to fit the atmosphere of each jailer. Thanks to the Carpenter Brut, The Toxic Avenger, Waveshaper and more, Furi’s music is a tour de force in gaming soundtracks. There are not enough games in this era that have soundtracks quite like this.
Furi is a great game with accessible controls, unique character designs, magnificent vistas and one of the best soundtracks in modern gaming. However, all of its greatness gets bogged down by repetitive gameplay, difficulty spikes, and a lackluster story that is very intriguing in concept, but ultimately concludes in disappointment. Leaderboards, a “furier” difficulty level, and a ranking system may have you coming back for more, but a single playthrough may have nullified any hope of going back. If you are expecting a walk in the park, you will learn of your misinterpretation within an hour of playing. If you like a game that will challenge you fairly at every door you enter, then Furi is the game for you.