Nowadays, the demands of players are such that publishers must adapt and offer a wide variety of experiences, combining action, puzzles and exploration. We thus see the multiplication of adventures that are eyeing in all directions (at the risk of sometimes remaining on the surface) and the indie scene is often the one that focuses on a genre to get the best out of it. With Ganryu 2, Storybird Studio immerses us in the world of beat’em up by delivering a sequel to the eponymous game released in arcades and on Neo Geo. A good old-fashioned action game set against a backdrop of Japanese legend!
Inspired by the fictionalized life of Takezo Shinmen, aka Musashi Miyamoto, Ganryu 2 – Hakuma Kojiro is set in 17th century feudal Japan. Taking place at different seasons of the year (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter), the game features one of the emblematic figures of the archipelago. Having lived from 1584 to 1645, this man – considered the most famous fencer in the history of the country – made a legend by delivering a legendary duel against Kojiro Sasaki on the island of Funa. This mythical fight continues to feed the stories related to the founding of Japan and it is with all this mythology that the title of Storybird is imbued.
FIGHT A GHOST
After his victorious confrontation against Kojiro Sasaki, Musashi Miyamoto decides to retire after a busy life on the battlefields. To meditate and try his hand at art and calligraphy, he settled in the province of Hokkaido, in northern Japan. One day, while he is in the middle of a medication session, the character is struck by a vision. His lifelong nemesis, Kojiro Sasaki, reappears as a spirit and demands revenge! Aware that a great danger is approaching, Musashi Miyamoto takes back his saber and goes to fight the demons of the entity in order to reach the island of Ganryu-Jima to defeat once and for all, Kojiro, the one whom everyone calls… Ganryu!
Like the original, Ganryu 2 is a straight-to-the-point title. Mix between Shinobi and Ninja Spirit, the title alternates between action and platforms. The avatar can kick, throw his kunaïs or even cut enemies while running. Movement wise, perhaps due to his past, Musashi can only perform a double jump and wall jump. This sequel to Ganryu therefore fully assumes its heritage without trying to modify the formula: we tap, we advance, we tap, we advance, etc. To diversify the progression, the swordsman still has access to special powers that can be activated when the energy bar fills up. The set appears a little rigid at first, but we get caught up in the game and the realization turns out to be quite correct. But the difficulty, badly dosed, can put off…
LEARNING BY FAILURE
Ganryu 2 is a work that leaves nothing out and that also forces you to get rid of its lack of precision. The hitboxes (or collision mask, in other words the sensitive area of the enemy) are not always very clear and it happens that small slowdowns come to mar the progress of the hero. If we combine this with the challenge of certain phases (barrels in the mine, certain bosses, the sudden rise in temperature of level 4, etc.), the game of Storybird quickly becomes a title hardcore which will only be tamed by the most daring and nostalgic who will have no trouble immersing themselves in the feeling of the 1990s. A fix to bring a choice in the difficulty would not be a bad idea, because the graphics are really neat, the animation is successful and the atmosphere, as a whole, is very immersive. The musical atmosphere, with very Japanese tones, also brings a lot to the experience. But it is obvious that an option for novice players, would only be to integrate waypoints into the levels, would not be too much. It is only at this “price” that all players will be able to enjoy the 5 levels of Ganryu 2, even if all the courses are not as inspired. The most resistant will in any case be happy to collect the many hidden Hanafuda cards before restarting the levels to improve their run. But you have to take Ganryu 2 for what it is, namely a work that breathes the 1990s and which turns out to be quite generic in terms of progression and level design.
- A ninja in action!
- Quite a variety of environments
- An interesting arcade approach
- The quality soundtrack
- The absence of crossing points (checkpoints)
- Accuracy issues
- Some slowdowns
- Fairly flat levels
- Character who lacks flexibility
- No difficulty choice
Released in 1999, Ganryu isn’t a game that made media history, but it had a really enjoyable vibe and action going for it. This sequel follows in the footsteps of its elder without trying to modernize the formula, which may seem out of step with current expectations. Without being a bad bugger, Ganryu 2 suffers from a poorly balanced difficulty which reserves it for specialists in the genre and lovers of a challenge. The absence of a checkpoint (passage point) is detrimental and forces the player to get out of quickly annoying precision concerns. We thus constantly oscillate between the pleasure of evolving and the frustration of restarting the entire level with each failure. It’s a shame because the realization, even if the inspiration is not always there, is quite correct. A small patch would shape the experience, but as it stands, the whole is largely perfectible.
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