Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume One is an episodic hack and slash brawler based off the Afro Samurai anime and a sequel to the 2009 Afro Samurai game. The game follows Kuma's journey during the unseen timeskip at the end of Afro Samurai's final episode to get revenge on Afro for killing their Sword Master and turning his back on his adopted family. If you are unfamiliar with Afro Samurai, don't bother reading this review because honestly only fans of the anime will get any semblance of satisfaction from this game.
Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma is a linear brawler—almost linear to the point where it could be considered on-rails—with a combat system that is similar to Batman: Arkham Asylum. Kuma's basic combat potential is fairly limited to one kind of attack and a counter that is prompted by the corresponding button appearing over the enemy's head.
From there Kuma uses three different combat styles, which are gained as players progress through the game: Afro, Kuma, and Master, which are based after the fighting styles of the characters. Dealing hits without taking damage builds up a numerical combo meter. Once a certain number has been reached (five for Kuma, 10 for Master), Kuma can perform a finisher. In Kuma style this instakills a single enemy, barring enemies with special requirements. In Master style it's an AOE instakill. Afro style has a vaulting attack meant to break through blocks, and Kuma style allows access to a rage mode that gives players five instakill attacks as long as they don't get hit.
Throughout the game Skill Points are earned, which can be used upgrade styles with power, speed, health, and extra moves. At times certain move upgrades are necessary to complete the level.
While this sounds like a lot of variety in combat, it's less than Afro Samurai where Afro could kick and block attacks. Plus the skill floor of Afro Samurai 2 is very low, meaning combat has a lot of variety but is, in the end, simplistic.
Many of the enemies encountered require a certain attack to defeat them. Samurai's require the use of Afro's vault to break their guard. This would create a combat environment where players need to quickly switch between styles to handle swarms of various enemies attacking. Unfortunately there's usually only one or two kind of each enemy at a time, and this design has the adverse affect of turning combat into a Simon Says game between the hack and slash. Ultimately, Afro Samurai 2's combat comes off as watered down and mindless. And you aren't even doing that much fighting.
Most of Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma focuses on its story told either through manga-esque still images or cutscenes, and these are the bulk of the game with about 70% of time devoted to watching the story unfold.
The story is admittedly pretty up to snuff with the anime. Kuma's story of revenge parrallel's Afro, a point made clear and apparent throughout Volume One. Kuma takes the avenging role Afro had, with Afro becoming Kuma's Justice and Brother 3 his Ninja-Ninja of sorts. It's a simple plot, but the story of Afro Samurai was always just framework for flashy animated chanbara. And this is what Afro Samurai 2 lacks.
While I can't confirm it, it looks like Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma is mostly made of re-used assets from the first game. The models look pretty dated, and their animations are extremely limited during cutscenes to the point where it looks like someone opened Garry's Mod, placed the in-game models into an environment, and slapped a voiced track over it. While the manga pages are a nice touch, the visuals of Afro Samurai 2 grossly pale in comparison to the anime and ruins one of the most important parts of the Afro Samurai series.
Plus there's a ton of graphical glitches, such as buildings disappearing at certain angles and the locked camera getting stuck behind objects during cutscenes. All this make Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume One look and play like a Playstation One game.
On a positive note, RZA returns as producer for the game's soundtrack, though the audio mixing is so bad that voice, BGM, and sound effects volume change frequently, and you can't alter the levels manually without returning to the main menu. Which is just plain stupid.
In a way, Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma is more like Telltale-style adventure than anything else. It's linear, your path is always guided, and gameplay is fairly limited. The combat is enjoyable, there's just not enough it. It's obvious someone pushed to have this game made. It's not even developed or published by the original game's publisher, and it's been six years since Afro Samurai: Resurrection. I really can't fathom why or how this game was made, but it's likely only diehard fans will play through Volume One and stick around for the rest. I know I sure won't.
Reviewer received a code for the PC version of this game.