An Exciting Intro to Pokemon Unite
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Developer: The Game Bakers Publisher: The Game Bakers Format: PC (reviewed), PS4 (reviewed) Released: July 5th, 2016 Time played: 14 hours, 33 minutes PS4 copy received free on PlayStation Plus PC copy purchased at full price
I remember lying in my bed with my fiancée at my side when I saw Furi for the first time. We’d both been binging every single E3 2015 show as they were being broadcast, and we spent every brief interval looking up YouTube trailers for any game which we had somehow managed to miss. When Furi appeared on the screen I was very much taken aback by the deep impression it left me with. It appeared vibrant, colorful, stylish, and intense, but most of all: Intimidating. My phone had, unfortunately, ran out of charge just moments before, meaning I was unable to make a note of the title and thus, as time went on, I forgot about the game completely… That was until August of 2016 when it made a surprise appearance as one of that month’s free PlayStation Plus games. Determined to experience it for myself and not let it become an obscure and forgotten memory once again, I downloaded it and immediately began playing. And oh, how happy I am that I did!
Graphics & Soundtrack
Furi is quite distinctly one of the most memorable games I’ve ever played in terms of style. Graphically, as simple as it may be, I found it to be beautiful to a mind-blowing extent. Shading barely exists in the game, with every surface and detail being mostly made up of solid colors, in order to make every environment distinct and clearly defined amidst the action. Each character design is uniquely eye-catching and clear-cut, with the flourishes of their extravagant animations having always retained my full attention. These interesting and unorthodox designs, mixed with their stylistically bewitching world, made Furi stand out to me within the realm of gaming. This was particularly due to the fact that the gaming industry at Furi’s time of release was filled to the brim with generic, gritty, and grey-looking indie games, attempting to mimic the typical designs of AAA releases from the years prior. What set the game apart even further, however, was its soundtrack.
Strongly reminiscent of Hotline Miami and its successor Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, the soundtrack to Furi is a pumping 80’s fuelled romp filled with a variety of compelling ambient numbers and extremely intense electro tracks. Presented by artists including (but not limited to) Carpenter Brut, Danger, and The Toxic Avenger; I feel confident in stating that Furi’s exclusive OST is powerful, thrilling, and intoxicating in ways that many other soundtracks cannot hope to match.
In many ways, this soundtrack helps the game’s combat reach an exhilarating new level. There’s nothing quite like pulling off a series of perfectly timed parries to the beat of a song or dodging attacks as a track builds up and going in for the kill the moment the bass drops. Extremely difficult combat-based games like this are thrilling in their own right, but their success or failure hinges on the gameplay being accompanied by a rich soundtrack to retain the pacing. Thankfully, this synth-dominated OST featuring so many different musicians, means that every track is filled to the brim with passion and energy, with no dips in quality to be found.
Now, onto the game itself. Furi places you in the role of a nameless soldier, known to the game’s fandom as “The Stranger”, who has been imprisoned upon a floating island high above a planet for an unknown crime. With the aid of a mysterious figure known only as “The Voice”, (whose design was heavily inspired by Frank, a major antagonist from the psychological horror film Donnie Darko), you must progress from area to area, slaying a different boss upon each island in an attempt to escape your captivity.
Whilst I expected a good boss rush game upon starting Furi, I wasn’t expecting it to also be packed with an expansive amount of lore. The exposition and back-story for each character are surprisingly in-depth if you read into it, though most aspects of the story still manage to maintain a strong level of subtlety and secrecy, in a similar vein to the often elusive back-stories found within the Dark Souls franchise. This layer of vagueness leaves large swathes of the story up to your own interpretation throughout the experience, but rest assured that the story is still present enough to have an impact on the player.
It’s also worth noting on the topic of story-telling, that the writing itself is very well done. Just about every sentence in Furi could be quoted as a standout example of the game’s oozing style. Thanks to this writing quality, with the accompaniment of some truly mellifluous voice-acting, you’ll find yourself immersed to a significant degree at just about every turn. It could not be more intriguing.
Gameplay-wise, you should expect to encounter extreme difficulty playing through Furi, as every single stage was designed with a challenge in mind, once again bearing resemblance to the Hotline Miami series. Each boss utilizes a variety of different tactics and move-sets, meaning that each one must be beaten with different parts of your character’s kit if you hope to stand a chance against them. This leads to the game requiring proficiency in every part of your skill-set, meaning you can’t get far by only being competent and specialized in just one individual mechanic; A spread of talent is required. Thankfully, the control scheme is intuitive and the bosses have very recognizable attack patterns, so even if you falter in an attempt you’ll be able to get back out there and feel more prepared for the next endeavor.
Variety is not the focus in Furi, so your loadout only ever consists of a single gun and a sword, though both of these weapons have multiple mechanics each to keep the gameplay varied and challenging. Your gun is shot by pointing the right analog stick in a way that should feel familiar to any twin-stick shooter player, but it can also be charged for a powerful shot by holding down either R1 or R2 when using a controller, (something which I highly recommend for the sake of having the smoothest experience possible). The sword, on the other hand, allows you to tap your attack button for a slash attack which can stack up to a four-hit combo, or you can hold that button in order to charge for a powerful slicing attack instead; Creating a neat parallel between the ranged and melee combat’s layout.
When an enemy performs a melee attack towards your character, their weapon often produces a white flash, giving you a brief window of opportunity to perform a counterattack, which in turn allows you to riposte your opponent. Interestingly, countering an attack causes your character’s health to recover slightly, meaning that being defensive has multiple positive implications, lending you the opportunity to go on the offensive more frequently.
The Stranger also has the ability to dash through and around these enemy attacks. This can be done whilst you are in the middle of charging up a sword slash, permitting you to get close to your enemy and evade their offensive while you prepare to mount a new assault. But all of these abilities may mean nothing if you’re unable to avoid your enemy’s onslaught; Something easier said than done, as there are a number of times where your enemy’s ranged attacks can alter the genre of the game somewhat, causing Furi to become more akin to a bullet-hell that a traditional twin-stick shooter.
Possibly the only real downside to Furi is mobility. Movement feels fantastic and straightforward when you’re in combat, but when it comes to the traversal between levels following the end of a boss fight: You find yourself walking sluggishly, with a rather clunky walking animation. These moments of brief respite do allow you to take in the game’s beauty along with the meaning of The Voice’s commentary, but the static movement animations can oft be quite distracting, as they feel lethargic and unresponsive when compared to the rest of the game. Thankfully though, Furi allows you to hit a variety of different buttons in these traversal sections which cause the player character to automatically walk towards the next fight, meaning it’s just a matter of time until the game once again becomes thoroughly engaging when the music starts kicking and the bullets begin flying.
As aforementioned, the game is insanely difficult. You always have less health than your enemies, meaning that trading blows is rarely an option and that you must always surpass the skill of your foes in order to make progress. Your character has three health bars, whilst enemies tend to have between four and ten. Each of the enemy’s bars are split up into two segments: A blue segment, in which you will be fighting at range, and an orange segment, in which you will be fighting up-close and personal. Your own health bar thankfully regenerates if you manage to clear both of these blue and orange segments, but if a boss beats you first and takes away one of your bars; Their health will regenerate instead. Of course: Losing all three of your health bars leads to failure, meaning you must start the boss over from scratch. An astoundingly small counter window also factors heavily into the difficulty, meaning that perfect timing is a requirement for victory, making survivability an even harder task to accomplish.
As a small footnote: Performance-wise, Furi is quite unusual on the PS4. There are bouts of gameplay and cutscenes that run at a solid 60fps, yet there are segments, (mostly depending on the arena you are fighting within), that runs at a seemingly capped 30fps only. It’s always a solid framerate so it certainly isn’t a huge issue, but it can be quite jarring getting used to the change in delay between countering at 60fps and countering at 30fps. Bizarrely though, it doesn’t matter what framerate you are at: The back of your character’s hair always appears to be locked at thirty frames per second… How odd.
I didn’t encounter any of these issues, however, when I repurchased the game a couple of years later in 2018 on my computer, via Steam. On PC, Furi is really well optimized, managing to run at 60fps with a 1080p resolution even on some relatively older rigs. Of course, the game can run even better than that thanks to the option of uncapping the framerate, though a lack of 4K resolution support does throttle the game’s graphical potential somewhat. I’m happy to say though that even now we’re in 2021, the game has aged well in regards to both visuals and performance, so it may well be worth your time even if you’re worried that your computer may not be able to handle it.
Ultimately, Furi is a stylistically phenomenal escapade, whose tight and intuitive gameplay always makes for an interesting experience, regardless of which boss you find yourself up against. It’s quite simple to learn but insanely difficult to master, thanks to the gradually escalating challenges it pits you against. Thankfully, trial and error will always help you surpass them given enough time and focus, and admirably: All of these little obstacles and hindrances never prevent the game from feeling enjoyable. Furi never feels unfair, unbalanced, or like it’s working against you as a player. It’s never difficult just for the sake of being difficult, and you’ll always find yourself having fun no matter the odds you’re working with.
Furthermore, with the PC version being as well optimized as it is, (whilst still retaining controller support for the most player-friendly experience possible), there’s no real downside to picking Furi up this late on. The PS4 version may provide a few jarring issues in regards to framerate, but considering Furi’s low price versus its high quality, I’d say it’s well worth putting up with if you’re a console gamer, just for the sake of having this experience. I hope that if you give it a try, you find it every bit as enjoyable as I did!