Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time (Switch)

Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the entirety of Samurai Jack, my knowledge of the story is what the game offered.

Let’s start with the good: combat. Since this is an action RPG with hack and slash elements, the core gameplay loop is the combat. And if that is not good, or entertaining, then the entire appeal of the game will suffer. Fortunately, that core loop is quite solid in its presentation. You wield Jack’s magic sword and through combinations of light and heavy attacks, inflict carnage on your enemies. There’s also dodging, blocking, parrying, and counter attacks. It reminded me of Bloodbourne in that regard. To unlock new attacks, you have to upgrade your weapons at the store using gold. However that is not enough, in addition to upgrading the level of your weapons, you also have to level up your skill tree to unlock the moves themselves. The skill tree is quite large and features three trees: physical, spirit, and combat. You would think that physical would improve your sword damage but you’d be wrong. For some inexplicable reason, it falls under spirit. In fact, that tree is the best of them. During my playthrough on normal, I had nearly maxed that tree and had the other two half full.

What bugged me a lot in the game was that certain interactions were so painful to pull off. I had begun to question if they tested the game thoroughly, and upon reaching the credits, I was surprised to only see 5 quality assurance testers. That explains a lot of the problems. They simply didn’t play their own game enough to discover all the issues. For example, you can unlock the ability to jump super high if you hold block and then hold down and release jump. Yet on numerous occasions, Jack would not do that. It became a game of trial and error with me pressing these buttons hoping Jack would jump high. I’d say maybe half the time, it would work successfully. Another glaring issue is how utterly useless parry/block is. The amount of times I would get stun locked into an enemy combo while Jack is blocking is ridiculous. I’m holding block and the enemy is just destroying my health. Or, I would try to parry but it just wouldn’t work. I got roughly 26 parries on my playthrough. Same goes with counter attacks, time it perfectly and it wouldn’t matter because the enemy can somehow block it. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that some enemies will take hardly any damage unless you’re using the correct weapon type against them. And if you’re like me, you’re broke and out of weapons because they have durability and all of them have broken. The worst bit is the game encourages you to break your weapons because that is the only way to gain massive amounts of bushido. Bushido is used to upgrade your skill tree along with another resource which drops from defeated enemies.

The variance in enemies is nice enough for a game of this length. The issue comes in the final stage with what can only be described as lazy game development. Instead of giving us unique encounters, the final stage is you vs 50+ mobs of enemies of everything you’ve faced so far. This was fine in 1993 when Doom came out, but not in 2020. And the final boss, Aku, is such a disappointment. He was the easiest boss in the game. All that build up, and he’s a joke. The boss you fought just before him, Demongo, is easily three times as hard. What I did enjoy about the bosses was that you can’t hurt them unless you find their weak points or if you manage to counter. Like I said, I rarely countered because I could only successfully pull it off against bosses which are few. Depending on well you did during a stage, you’d get a point score and some extra gold for the next stage.

The scenery was enjoyable, and I’m sure fans of Samurai Jack will recognize many of the locations. The graphic style of the game was essentially cartoon and it worked well. Story was easy to follow along and was welcoming enough for even newcomers, such as myself, to make sense of what’s going on. I played on the switch, and despite my problems with the game, I had no game breaking bugs or crashes like I do on other switch games.

Overall, it was a fun if not short experience; my playthrough was 9 and a half hours. There is replayability if you wish to grind out the skill tree, and there are extra missions unlocked after beating the main game. If I had to compare it to another game, it would be the first God of War. Even the chests reminded me of that game. I recommend this game if you’re a fan of Samurai Jack, or if you’re just looking for a fun hack n slash game on the switch. This game is available on all platforms, and PC, and I find there’s much better titles on PC/other consoles than to get this. But for switch? Definitely get it.

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