Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma, video game, box art, samurai, sword, Afro, Kuma, teddy bear, ninja

Interview: Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma

We had the opportunity to pose a few questions Redacted Studios about Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma. Who were we to turn down a chance with the ‘undisputed leader in dynamic dismemberment’ when it presented itself?

Title overview

Name: Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma
Developer: Redacted Studios
Publisher: Versus Evil
Release date: To be announced
PEGI rating: Not listed
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
More information: Redacted Studios website

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Ben says…

The original Afro Samurai title was met with a mixed response with most commentators saying that while it looked great, it was let down by fiddly mechanics. Charting the journey of the titular character on his quest to be the number one warrior and avenge his father’s death, I have to confess I didn’t play it – but I’m a big fan of the cartoon series on which it was based.

When we heard that a sequel was in development, we contacted Redacted Studios to see if we could get a bit more information out of them. Thank you to David Robinson – President, Director of Development and Founder – for taking the time out of his schedule to answer our questions.

Can you tell us about Redacted Studios? Is it the same team that worked on the first Afro Samurai game?

David: “The main heads, David Robinson and Chester Vergara, which brought you the first Afro Samurai, are in fact part of Redacted Studios. Along with them are members from the original dev team. Redacted Studios is fully aware that continuity and consistency is key to making this second instalment a success, and to achieve that, we have our best guys back.”

Is there any involvement from the writers of the manga or the makers of the anime?

David: “Much like any other licensed property, there is of course an ongoing relationship between the creator of Afro Samurai and Redacted Studios. We won’t get too much into revealing what new surprises we have for our fans and fans of the franchise, however, we can reveal that the process of creating and brainstorming ideas for new content for the game was and is something the creator, Takashi Okzaki, is heavily involved in with.”

The anime had a famous cast and music from RZA. Will any be returning for the game?

David: “This game wouldn’t be an Afro Samurai game without the talent of the likes of Samuel L Jackson and the music influences from RZA and although I can’t go into any detail, it’s pretty much a given. We can’t wait to let people know about the talent we’ve signed up for the soundtrack and the voice-acting that we have lined up for this game, but right now I can’t reveal much.”

Is there any extra pressure when working on a licensed property to please fans?

David: “Yes of course, especially when it’s a revered property like Afro Samurai, where the fan-base is die-hard and opinionated. For many different reasons the first game didn’t turn out like it should have and although it paid lip-service to the brand as far as the art style and visceral combat was concerned, which those fans loved, it wasn’t a very gratifying experience overall due to various bugs and camera control issues. Although existing fans of the franchise were very forgiving about this, newer fans, gaming fans, were not so forgiving and as a fan myself I knew that it should have and could have been a better overall experience. This is why, when the opportunity arose to develop another game, a game that would also extend the Afro Samurai story further, I became almost obsessed with the idea because I knew that this was my chance to make a much better game that stood up to fans expectations and would draw in new fans that could discover this universe through a kick-ass game.”

The original Afro Samurai was met with mixed reviews. What was learned from this and what is being done differently this time?

David: “As I mentioned before we knew the first game had many issues. Sure we got the art and the music right, but after doing a very open and honest in-depth post mortem we came up with a list of things we could improve on.

“For a start the camera system caused a lot of issues for players and after a while it actually got in the way of enjoying the combat mechanics, so we started from scratch with a brand new engine and even added some cool features to heighten the combat experience like the unique death-cam point-of-view (POV) or as I have nicknamed it the ‘Go-Pro’ way to die, where the final seconds of combat are witnessed from the victims point of view. Gameplay has changed from little more than a button-masher into a game that has traversing and exploration (a la Tomb Raider) mixed with the satisfying combat mechanics inspired by that seen in Batman: Arkham Asylum (of which we are all huge fans of).

“Another thing we’ve improved on is repetitive gameplay. In this new game, you get to play as a different character, Kuma, but you also get to jump into the roles of Afro and several other characters during the unfolding story, so you mix up your combat and your moves, etc. to keep things as fresh as possible. In addition to this we have a brand new, hard hitting and action packed story that weaves in and out and we’ve also upped the ante on the enemy artificial intelligence (AI) as well as ‘boss’ characters.”

Are there any elements from the first game that will make it into the sequel?

David: “You’ll see a few recognizable characters from the first game that return and make an appearance for sure, but pretty much everything else will feel fresh and new.”

Not much has been revealed about Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma, aside from the story focusing on Kuma – Afro’s older brother. What can players expect?

David: “Players can expect to be deeply immersed in the story of the origins of Kuma (Jinno), which is filled with moments of betrayal, revenge and redemption. All while entrenched in a freshly revamped combat system and other new features that we will reveal at a later time.

“The advantage of keeping the same core of guys from the first game is that we are able to not only focus on areas we feel needed a bit more polish but also that we each have an idea of how we can bring a much more compelling experience for our fans.”

Tell us more about ‘dynamic dismemberment’… it sounds fantastic!

David: “‘Dynamic Slicing’ is back with a vengeance. In the first game, players needed to build up their meter by successfully pulling off combos in order to use this mechanic, which we pioneered. Well, this time around, players will be able to use it whenever they want to, and to balance that aspect of our combat, we’ve redesigned how players interact with enemies with a more robust combat system that requires skill and timing.”

Afro Samurai 2 will only be distributed digitally. What was the thinking behind this choice?

David: “As an independent studio, we have to really watch our budgets so we can continue to spend money on developing the game. In this digital age, there’s really no reason to produce a physical version of a game. It’s more convenient all round for people to download the game and we avoid the cost of goods (physical packaging elements) by going digital which in turn means we can spend any profit from the game on the next iteration of the franchise.”

What does the future hold for the Redacted Studios team?

David: “We have a few concepts that are very close to our hearts that we hope to get into production as soon as we get Afro launched. There are so many opportunities in the game space to tell interesting stories about very cool characters. We have some pretty cool contributors to Redacted’s creative team. We hope to launch some of those ideas into the press soon.”

Thank you once again to David and the rest of the Redacted Studios team for answering our questions.

So what do you think? Sounds pretty positive from here and the team are taking on board and learning from past criticisms. It’s making me even more excited to see how Kuma’s adventure pans out. Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma is coming soon for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and we’ll bring you more news as we receive it.

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