Boss battles are oftentimes some of the best things about a game. So what’s better than a boss battle? What about a game entirely about boss battles? Theoretically, that should make for a great few hours, although execution is equally as important and boy does Furi show that.
Furi’s story is about as forgettable as the game is beautiful. The game centers around a nameless, silent protagonist as he wanders from boss to boss (called Guardians), defeating each on a mission to escape his new prison. Furi drops players in the protagonist’s shoes just as he’s escaping his jail cell that the Guardians presumably placed him in for one reason or another. The story isn’t exactly the focus of the game, but rather a reason to go to the next Guardian and explore the beautiful locales that Furi exposes you to. Because of this, the poor dialogue and dull story are pretty forgivable.
Between destinations, a guy with a rabbit’s head talks to the player, encouraging them to kill the Guardians and justifying their actions. Throughout my 3 hours with the game, I just wanted him to shut up. At first I thought he was interesting, but after the second boss, I found myself wishing that there wasn’t any dialogue except from the Guardians themselves. The protagonists’ actions make it appear as though killing the Guardians isn’t exactly an effortless, task. He’s struggling internally, and this struggle just isn’t explored well between battles.
Each boss battle plays out in a similar fashion. The boss tells you why you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing, or in some cases tries to reason with you, battle starts, and then you begin the fight. Once the fight begins, it’s almost like watching an episode of Dragon Ball Z, depending on what difficulty you’re playing. If you’re playing on Furi, the harder of the game’s two difficulties, then you’ll both be whizzing around the arena, dodging each other’s attacks, chipping away at multiple bars of health and dodging large swaths of bullet-hell esque energy orbs. It’s tons of fun, if you get a good rhythm going. If not, then Promenade, the easier of the two difficulties, offers a few slashes and a small bullet-hell sequence by comparison before you move on to the next encounter.
As fun as the combat is, and as cool as it is feeling like a DBZ character fighting some cosmic threat, the biggest issue I have completely undermines the combat. That issue is difficulty. Furi starts you off with two difficulty levels – Promenade and Furi – with the last unlocking after a completed playthrough on Furi. I started the game on Furi because I tend to play games on Hard or Medium, never on Easy. I want a challenge. I don’t want my games to be a walk in the park. However, Furi on this level is far too challenging. Boss battles are incredibly long, lasting anywhere from 15-25 minutes straight through or possibly longer if you die. I died a lot. This became incredibly annoying, enough so that I was forced to turn down the difficulty if I wanted to complete this review.
Promenade felt like I was playing on a kids mode. This difficulty strips every challenging aspect from the game, reducing fights from epic 15 minute battles of wit to an, at max, 5 minute walk in the park. The disparity between these two difficulties is far too large and I felt like I was being punished for choosing the easier of the two.
On Promenade, the combat becomes less about tactical strikes and more about repetitively waiting for the enemy to perform one of a few moves and countering or dodging at the opportune moment. While the combat is repetitive by nature, on Furi, this is far less apparent, because of how much you’re focusing not on what to do, but when to do it. You have to think about when to strike or you might get caught up in a devastating combo. You have to think about when to dodge or you might get hit by an orb of energy or a wave of light. You have to think about when to parry or the enemy will knock you back and possibly kill you.
Once you get past the wonky difficulties, Furi is an absolutely beautiful game both in motion and in screenshots. The character art, done by Afro Samurai creator Takashi Okazaki, is absolutely phenomenal. Each of the Guardians personality oozes through their clothing, whether it’s the armor-clad knight, or the winged angel, they all look good. The environments look beautiful as well. Even though I said walking through each section was a bore, the thing that makes it moderately tolerable is the fact that these few moments of respite gave me a chance to just put down my controller and gaze at this beautiful game. This is one of those titles that I could come back to a few generations down the line and still be impressed by how good it looks.
All in all, Furi is a heavily mixed bag. The difficulty completely undermines the premise of the game, turning it into a boring, tediously easy slog through boss after boss until you reach the game’s decent ending. If you’re not playing on easy though, then Furi becomes a compelling game that makes each boss fight feel conclusive and the player feel powerful once the protagonist ends it with a final stab. If you’re in that camp, then Furi is right for you.
+ Fast-paced, fluid combat
+ Superb musical score
+ Beautiful character art and environments
– Forgettable story
– Colossal disparity between difficulty levels
– Penalized for playing on easier difficulty