Style. It’s an element that can really sell a creatively driven entertainment product to people, and add to the reward they feel for experience it. Style sticks around, in the minds eye and the sounds you hear when you go to sleep.
Drive had style, both in it’s aesthetic choices but also in its psychological feel. It’s style is what made it also feel cool.
Hotline Miami was much the same, an experience that synced a range of its artistic assets to give the game a feeling that complimented. It enhanced the experience but also the emotions of the player. It’s hyper violence felt good when everything went smoothly and made the person playing feel great when the accomplished something.
Furi follows in their examples. It’s a game that is entirely about style, that is to its favour and not its detriment. Every single part of Furi is in sync, it pulses, flows, and buzzes exactly the right way.
Ostensibly, it’s a string of boss battle encounters interconnected with a seemingly simple narrative. Yet it’s much deeper then that sounds. Think of a techno-electronica infused Titan Souls, with influences from games like God Hand and No More Heroes, sprinklings of classic Samurai tails, and elements from a bundle of other titles. All are smudged together to form a sort of onion. Go with me on this.
Every step forward reveals multitudes of layers, depth to depth. Each boss encounter is deeply challenging, with even the games tutorial fight taking a good number of tries to master and surpass. Fights have two phases, the first starts off at long range, being a duel stick bullet hell style affair with spots of melee injected.
The right stick aims and auto-shoots a basic blaster, R Trigger allows for this blast to be charged. You’re also armed with a sword strike, projectile dodging dash and parry. The dash and sword strike also being chargeable for more options.
The second phase is a more up close melee focused fight, leaning more into tight dodge and parry timing.
The thing that sets Furi out is it’s constantly imagination, both functionally and artistically. Each fight is wholly unlike the last, playing with ideas and mechanics. Take the afore mentioned tutorial boss for example. To tackle this character you have to knock down his health bar to initiate the melee phase, then once you’ve whittled his heath down a second time the boss adds a new layer of abilities to tackle.
Every encounter involves bosses with a range of forms and phases, each twisting and playing with the rules of play. Growing in complexity and testing the players knowledge and skill. It’s unlikely you will move past a boss the first time around, much like a Dark Souls, Furi is a game about learning and reassessing. Thinking about how you tackle each moment.
Boss encounters can also be very long, even if you manage to take one on through to a flawless victory, you should be prepared to set aside a good ten to twenty minuets to best you foe. Make no mistake though, the game is intensely challenging. At moments even to the point of frustration. Much like a Super Meat Boy that feeling is more internally directed, your loss is your mistakes more than the games unfairness.
That is not to say that the experience feels perfect, while the games feels very tight to control, there’s occasions when inputs would not feel as snappy as you might like. More often then not this was during an attempted dash, making some projectile avoidance a little problematic. While each fight can feel hard, there’s always chances for correction. Some projectiles dropping health items and well timed parries causing additional health regeneration. Fights can swing from near complete wipe outs to shock victories. This giving the games fights a feeling of grandeur, your eventual victory greater accomplishment.
Furi is soaked in audio and visual lovely sauce too, electronic soundscapes thrill the spirit during intense action, evolving and distorting and the battle goes on. There’s not a moment when you don’t feel like you’re in al alternative reality 80’s nightclub, the walls pounding and lights pulsing. There are moments of solace and reflection too, a gentle flow of sound that follows as you slowly make your way across the distorted, dream like landscape.
Mystery constantly eating away at everything, just who is our silent protagonist and where exactly has he been imprisoned, if ‘here’ is even a ‘there’ to begin with.
Furi has as much to say about the human psyche as it does about bullet hell shooters and cool character designs. Speaking of which, Takashi Okazaki finally sees his work done justice, the cast feeling like a futurist take on Afro Samurai, adding yet more visual cool to a game that locks all it’s style in place. It does everything it can to make each and every moment feel stylish and entertaining and though some will be put off by a few challenging encounters, those who click with it will find Furi deeply rewarding and might find themselves playing it for some time to come.
You can find Furi on Steam and on PS4. Let us know what you think of it in the comments below.
Robin Smith is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2. Go say hi @seiibutsu.