Back in the day, I was utterly obsessed with Chinese martial arts movies and Japanese animation. Whether it be Jet Li acting out the incredible fight choreography in Fist Of Legend, or Jubei’s epic and beautifully animated confrontations in Ninja Scroll. I fondly remember having my mind blown at the 39 minutes of lost footage from Bruce Lee’s Game Of Death, and what it was intended to be before Raymond Chow and Robert Clouse butchered it to cash in on his legacy.
Furi happens to be a collaboration of all these great things and more. You play as a platinum-haired neon ronin of sorts known only as “The Stranger,” whose aim is to escape a towering intergalactic prison. In each area awaits a guardian reminiscent of Bruce Lee’s climb up the Pagoda or Jubei’s showdown with the Devils of Kimon, as you face each one in deadly combat. There are no levels to play in between, just boss after boss until there is no one left to stop you from leaving.
When you first fire up Furi, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed. Each boss has considerably more life bars than you do with no room for checkpoints in failure. My initial thought when facing my first encounter was that these fights take far too long to get through. That was, of course, until the penny finally dropped, and I began to understand its mechanics as I honed into the simple, yet effective control system.
Slice, dash, parry, and shoot are the only moves at your disposal, and each of these can be charged to a greater effect (minus the parry). However, parrying your opponent’s attack opens up a potentially devastating combo opportunity if timed correctly. Spiritually akin to Nintendo’s own Punch-Out!!, it doesn’t take long to begin deciphering your rival’s patterns in order to take big advantages of small opportunities.
Your trusty laser is the answer to long-range combat that typically works somewhat like a twin-stick shooter. You start to make the most out of the coliseum-esque arenas by running and dodging around in a manic gunfight, while avoiding a kaleidoscope of bullet hell projectiles. This soon leads into close quarter combat as a smaller perimeter of space locks you both in, keeping the action intimate as you clash weapons against your adversary. While the gameplay is formulaic to some extent, each boss feels vastly different to one another.
I absolutely adored the character design of the bosses. Although I instantly noticed similarities to Afro Samurai, I never realised until later that the art design is actually penned by the same crazy imagination of Takashi Okazaki. Take “The Strap” for instance, a psychotic woman bound at the limbs while cosplaying as a Disney Pixar lamp on a Segway. Then there’s the time-manipulating pensioner known as “The Line” who wears an orange nappy while donning a pair of Beats-style headphones. Each guardian has their own little quirk but despite how they sound, they do come across as a genuine threat. What adds to the anticipation of each encounter more so, is how they are loosely portrayed to you by “The Voice” – a strange rabbit mask-wearing fellow who talked you into escaping in the first place.
It’s the combat that truly fleshes out each guardians personality, and every encounter forces you to make the most out of your skills. In the middle of the madness, brief indicators give you a defensive sense of what to do and when, without ever treating you like a fool. This keeps the experience fair, without the impulse of just blindly guessing your next reaction. Take the parry system for example, while at first, it may seem very difficult to time, the light of your opponent’s weapon along with a distinctive sound gives you more than you need to match the rhythm. Before you know it, your countering flurries of attacks to a satisfying beat while waiting for that crucial moment to strike.
That’s what I liked more than anything about Furi. It can feel incredibly challenging when facing the unknown, but with a little familiarity, you soon begin to tear it up. Phases of enemy patterns that seem impossible at first feel satisfyingly handled with experience, leaving you with a great sense of accomplishment that only a good boss battle can provide.
In regards to the story, its simple within its premise but quite abstract in context. It’s all very well written and its narrative only drives the mystery behind the presence of “The Stranger” and “The Voice” further. This gave me the incentive to dig a little deeper into its lore once I finished it, especially due to a certain choice you can make towards its endgame.
While it’s obvious to see that Furi has been developed under a modest budget, the visuals do leave a positive impression overall. Not due to its technicality, but with its vibrant, cell-shaded otherworldly style. It has Suda51 written all over it with a sense of unsettlement that Killer7 provided. You can see the effort that has gone into creating an atmosphere to the world as you wander across alien landscapes between bouts. I did encounter a few moments of stutter that can hinder such a fast-paced game like this, however, it never felt too frequent in my experience and it didn’t deter from the fun that I had with this great little boss rush battler.
The music is bang on, too, and fits so well with the combat with a constant variety of tracks. Every boss feels like the last, and the music only adds to the fact. I would highly recommend changing the voice to Japanese though, as I found the English voicing really irritating during the first fight, and changing it to Japanese just worked perfectly within its style.
If any of the references above tickle your taste buds, then Furi is a no-brainer. It’s a high octane blast of a game that will leave you feeling like a space samurai with a force to be wrecked with. It certainly isn’t for everyone, and by Odin, it can be quite the challenge, but its simple controls and fair but brutal learning curve definitely provides a rewarding learning experience. And, once you finish it for the first time, play through it again and see how far you have come. It may even tempt you into speed running the Furier mode.