Long ago, in a distant land a famed storyteller named Genndy Tartakovsky created Dexter’s Laboratory and then Samurai Jack before finishing his decade long cartoon network run with Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Samurai Jack served as one of Genndy’s best vehicles to showcase his skills with fast paced action and visual storytelling with long moments of silence.

Samurai Jack went on for four impressive seasons before embarking on a twelve year hiatus. When it returned, it was far more violent and even graduated from being on cartoon network to its more mature sister station Adult Swim. This game takes place during the final moments of the last season and adds an alternate view of how things could have gone. 

Bows are crucial to survival

Bows and other ranged weapons are crucial to your survival!

*Spoilers for the game and show may follow*

 

Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is developed by Soleil Ltd and published by Adult Swim Games. Released on August 21st, 2020 Battle Through Time is available on PS4, Nintendo Switch, XBox One, PC through EGS, Steam, and Apple Arcade. There’s even a Physical and Collectors editions available through Limited Run Games. *Review Code provided by, Reviewed on PS4*

Samurai Jack Battle Through Time opens right where the series finale ends with Jack mid-battle against Aku and Jack’s lover Ashi. Ashi discovers she, a daughter of Aku, can also use Aku’s powers and opens a portal into the past for her and Jack to escape into. This is where the game diverts and Aku launches an attack that separates Jack and Ashi for the duration of the game. Battle Through Time tasks you with going through various locations from the series in the hopes of finding Ashi and getting back to the past and defeating the evil wizard Aku once and for all. The game does a fantastic job of carrying the tone of the show over into the game. Memorable characters, villains and locations are all present here with the Scotsman, the Imakandi, Rothschild the dog, and even Demongo.  

Sound

All the original voice actors are back. With fully voiced cut scenes and one liners given to most NPC’s when you interact with them its nice to hear everyone get back into the roles. That said I wish every line was voiced. As a player with fat fingers I often accidentally close out of conversations and have to restart them to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  Here, it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity just having the Scotsman audibly say “Ay Laddy” but then have to read him say something actually crucial to the task at hand, especially if he’s going to repeat that every time I run into him on other levels. I loved the sounds of chopping away at enemies and the background music was so immersive that I never turned my own music over it, which is rare. They did a great job with the sound design, for example, when you come across the shopkeeper you can hear his music before you even see him and it only gets louder the closer you get.

Knives Out

Besides deadly enemies traps can also spell the end for our samurai!

Gameplay

Battle Through Time is a 3D action game based on a 2D show and originally the style switch was off-putting, but by the second level I’d come to love it. The game feels like a 3D episode of the show. Across 9 Levels you fight enemies, collect cursed runes, and destroy crystals/boxes that house gold and skill fire that can be used to upgrade your three skill trees and weapons. Boombox wielding “Sam Moo Rah” turned barkeep Da samurai serves as the in game shopkeeper offering backup weapons, repairs and even the option to level up individual weapon mastery. Jack also comes to love Haggis that serves as the health potion in this game. 

Samurais cant jump

Fall damage is very real. Platforming is essential in traversal!

With a variety of weapons at your disposal, Jack can dispatch foes with his magic sword, bows, throwing knives, and even guns. The combat in Battle Through Time is lovingly crafted nothing feels out of place. Combos can formed using any variation of light or heavy attack but without missing a beat you can throw in a ranged attack from your secondary weapons or even grab and toss anyone within reach. Everything other than the magic sword breaks over time so be ready to buy multiples or repair your weapons every chance you can get. Another great attention to detail is that during combat, as you start to lose health, your gi falls apart similar to in the show. On the early levels I would make it out of the missions on the brink of death and Jack would certainly reflect it with his signature bun down and his robe tattered only covering his midsection. I also started on the highest difficulty and I died a lot. 

Each level adds more enemy variety into the mix. Each enemy the robot bugs, alligators and even bounty hunters has its own unique attacks and damage it takes to kill them. They also seem to have pinpoint accuracy so blocking and dashing needs to be always be on the brain. There are these great sequences, where similar to the show, Jack gets ambushed and has to chop through swarms of enemies in rapid succession. On the flip side, some levels and boss battles have noticeable difficulty spikes so intense I had to drop the difficulty down after an hour of trying. After completing the main quest, Mission Mode unlocks letting you test your skills across three separate wave based battles: Free Missions, Boss Missions, and Endless Missions that can’t be unlocked until you have beaten the game again on the hardest difficulty.

In Conclusion

Samurai Jack is the perfect game for Samurai Jack fans and anybody looking for an action game that won’t overstay its welcome. Its seven hour campaign feels like a welcome addition to the Samurai Jack universe. From its excellent moment-to-moment combat to its great story, Samurai Jack: Battle through Time is a great addition to your games library.

 

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