When it comes to samurais a lot of my love for them came from watching Samurai Jack on Cartoon Network in my younger years. The show first came on back in 2001 and ran for several seasons before it ended prematurely. Over a decade later it was brought back for the final season to wrap up the story. Much like the show video games based on the property have also been on a long hiatus with the last one being released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2004. Now sixteen years later publisher Adult Swim Games and developer Soleil have released Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time for all of the current generation platforms. Does it capture the magic of the show and become a must-play for Samurai Jack fans?
The first thing I want to say in this review is that I can’t believe that I’m getting to review a Samurai Jack game. As someone who is a big fan of the show, I never would’ve thought in my younger years that I’d actually be reviewing a game based on it one day. Now that I’m done gushing about that let’s actually talk about this game. Something I think that needs to be said about any of these games that are based on a show or previously established property is that you may want to go into it with prior knowledge. Sometimes you don’t but in this game’s case I think you probably should otherwise you might be a bit lost. That’s because the game takes place during the final season of the show so a lot of plot points and characters won’t be familiar to those who didn’t watch all of the seasons. You can probably still enjoy the gameplay but hardcore Samurai Jack fans will get the most out of it.
The basic premise of the story here is that Aku, the demon arch-enemy of Jack, ends up tossing Jack through a flow of time and Jack has to find a way to get back. Over the course of the game you’ll travel through familiar locations and meet many familiar characters such as Ashi, Scotsman, and more. Many foes await you on your journey and some of them will even be friends who are now under Aku’s control. It’s an overall fun, enjoyable tale that any Samurai Jack fan will enjoy.
Battle Through Time is a third-person action-adventure game where the gameplay switches up between 3D and 2D at times. It very much felt like a throwback to the types of games that I played in the 2000’s but that doesn’t mean it’s bad or outdated. The controls on the Dualshock 4 felt really good to me as I moved between hacking and slashing each enemy. You get various weapons to use such as a gun, your trusty samurai blade, and other various melee and long-range types and all of them felt smooth to use. You can assign different weapons to your D-pad and swap them on the fly making the combat even more fun to engage with. The gameplay didn’t feel rough at all and the animation work in particular was very good. It’s exactly what I would want out of a game based on this show and the developer seems to have nailed it. As you defeat enemies, you’ll accumulate Skill Fire which can be used to upgrade Jack’s health, unlock new combo moves, and more. I really like that the combat and the difficulty settings make this easy enough for anyone to enjoy but also offers depth in the upgrades and such that more seasoned players like myself look for.
Of course, I can’t stop talking about the combat without mentioning the one thing in the game that I wasn’t happy with and that’s the weapon durability. This is a mechanic that I’ve never enjoyed in any game that I’ve played that has it. As you use your weapons they slowly degrade and you’ll have to go to Da Samurai and pay to have them fixed. This is just an annoyance I don’t enjoy and it’s honestly something I wish would just disappear from video games. The strange thing is that Jack’s sword doesn’t degrade and it’s the only weapon in the game that doesn’t. Because of that I found myself sticking to using it more than any other weapon and I just don’t think that is the way the developers would want you to play otherwise why include the other weapons at all.
The game’s visuals utilize a stylized 3D style that is different from the show but still looks good. Don’t get me wrong this very much doesn’t look like a current generation game and the visuals are part of the reason this game reminds me of early 2000 video games. But the cutscenes, animation work, and environments such as Aku City all look good for a game based on Samurai Jack. On the audio side one of the nice things about the game is that it features the same voice actors from the show, such as Phil Lamarr and John Dimaggio, making it feel that much more authentic. Sadly, the entire game isn’t voiced with only the cutscenes and certain other parts featuring it. Any other time you talk with someone in the game you’ll just be having to read the dialog which is a bit sad and clearly makes the game feel like it was done on a limited budget.
Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time honestly surprised me with just how good it was. I always worry about the quality that a licensed video game will have because we’ve seen it done wrong so many times. That isn’t the case here as you are getting a very enjoyable hack-and-slash action adventure title that pretty much nails the Samurai Jack feel. It does look a bit old school in the visuals and I wish that I got to hear the actual voice actors more throughout the game. Those things alone though aren’t enough to dissuade me from saying that any fan of Samurai Jack should pick up this game at some point.
*Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time$39.99
- Fun, action-adventure title that captures the feel and look of the show very well
- Features the voice actors from the show
- Stylized art-style looks good
- Lots of fun little touches that fans will love
- Combat is easy to grasp but offers depth for more hardcore players
- Doesn't feature voice-acting throughout the entire game
- Series newcomers will likely be lost in the story
- I hate weapon durability