When I first heard about Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story, the idea sounded intriguing. But as with many good ideas, it’s all about execution.
You play as a ronin during Japan’s Meiji Restoration. The historic Japanese setting is honestly the most appealing part of the game, although the graphics leave a lot to be desired. Still, I can gloss over that if the gameplay is good.
However, the story is also lacking. You come across a swordsmith named Dojima whose daughter is taken from him and basically held for ransom until his debt is paid off. Your character, for whatever reason, decides to take it upon himself to help repay the debt. Mind you, this is someone who you don’t know. And being a samurai, you’d think your character would just go kill the bad guys from the start and rescue the girl.
Anyway, during the day your character crafts swords. At night, you explore randomly-generated dungeons that happen to be inside of some kind of magical tree. Whatever. The story is nonsensical, but is the gameplay any good?
Yes and no. Katana Kami feels a bit like a Diablo dungeon crawler set in mid-1800s Japan. That’s the good part. The bad part is… most of the rest of the gameplay mechanics. The controls are clunky. The action is repetitive. The menus are horrible to navigate.
Worst of all, the computer-controlled enemies are practically brain dead. You can be right on top of them half of the time and they won’t bother to attack you. They also have a habit of getting stuck on walls. Because the game has poor collision detection, you can actually attack them through walls.
As previously mentioned, the game has randomly-generated dungeons. These consist of generic-looking, oftentimes repeating environments. Stuff like pots and other objects are destructible. Also, there is plenty of loot, but none of it is all that interesting.
Which brings me to inventory management. Constantly needing to repair your sword and manage inventory is more of a pain than anything. To make matters worse, the menus that you have to navigate to do these things are needlessly frustrating.
There are both health bars and vitality bars. You only have a certain number of health points. To restore it, you need vitality. Also, your health will slowly regenerate if you have your sword sheathed. Again, though, the enemies are dumb, so you shouldn’t have a hard time anyway.
Basically, this is a PS2 game running on the PS4 with a veneer of next-gen graphics. In 2020, that’s unacceptable even as a throwback to a different era. To come full circle, the idea for Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story is solid. The execution is not.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.