E3 2016 Hands-On: Furi (PC)

Sharpen those combat skills, because Furi is bound to put even the best of players through the grinder.

Stemming from France’s own The Game Bakers, Furi is hellbent on testing the limits of the player’s combat skills and patience through a series of grueling boss fights. In fact, that’s all Furi is- a series of intense boss fights, among the likes of Shadow of the Colossus and Titan Souls. I recently had the luxury of tackling the E3 2016 gameplay demo, showcasing the first boss fight against “the Jailer”.

Furi E3 2016 Demo Screenshot 2

I somehow managed to complete the demo on my first attempt at the standard “Furi” difficulty. That’s not to say Furi is an easy title, as I’m chalking my experience up to years of training from Cave Shoot-Em-Ups and the tedious battles of the Ninja Gaiden series….or perhaps it was just a fluke. With very little explanation other than “Get out of prison” and “kill the Jailer”, I was already into the frantic first boss battle.

There are no fancy sub-systems to be found, as Furi limits players to just close-range sword strikes, projectile attacks, a brief parry and an evasive dash. Even in the most extreme of situations, these simplified mechanics keep players grounded and focused on their next strategic move. Combat dynamically shifts between close-quarters melee fights and long-range projectile wars. Each boss has a melee attack field indicated by a large circle around him or her; as long as the player is within this field, he or she is better off engaging their opponent in a sword-fight, as shots are either blocked or evaded. The few who are familiar with the obscure PS2 title The Red Star should feel right at home with the mechanics of Furi.

What may come as a rude awakening to some, Furi will not allow you to button-mash your way to victory. While only the first boss was present in the E3 build, each foe requires the player to stop and assess each technique before approaching for an attack. In the case of the Jailer, I quickly discovered he could parry most attacks; aimless swinging and shooting just resulted in a surprise lance-strike to the side of my head.

Furi E3 2016 Demo Screenshot 6

The protagonist’s movement is surprisingly limited, which forces the player to be on the defensive until an opening presents itself; dashes can be used to close the gap between you and your opponent, however there is a small vulnerability period at the end of each dash. If an attack is successfully parried, you recover a small amount of health, as indicated by the green aura around the protagonist. Not all attacks can be countered, as I fell victim to numerous wide-angle strikes from the Jailer, shown by a field of red stripes on the arena floor. In some cases, a perfectly-timed parry can reflect projectiles back at your opponent. Alternatively, players can shoot smaller bullets out of the air, with green ones yielding health.

It should be noted that not all projectile attacks can be countered or removed; in the event of the Jailer’s sudden “Mushihimesama Futari mode”, I found myself reluctantly dashing into the storm of bullets to avoid damage.

Furi E3 2016 Demo Screenshot 4

If you somehow catch a breath to notice, each boss- or “guardian”- has a segmented health bar similar to your own, with a main gauge and several blocks underneath indicating more stocks of life. With each depleted stock, the guardian will add a new technique to his or her repertoire of attacks; expanding on the Jailer’s Bullet Hell attack shown above, he only activates this after depleting 6 stocks of health- yes, six. Each phase of the fight is accented with a brief cutscene between the player and his or her opponent. If the player falls in battle, the guardian will regain a full stock of health and revert back to the previous attack phase. The demo only featured difficulty settings “Promenade” (“Easy”) and “Furi” (“Normal”), as “Furier” (presumably “Hard”) is only unlocked upon completing the game at Furi; while it isn’t clear from the demo, I’m curious to see if bosses gain new abilities in the Furier setting; Platinum Games and From Software have been known to go all-out with new boss mechanics at higher difficulties as shown with Bayonetta and the Souls series- Furi would greatly benefit from the same treatment.

Furi E3 2016 Demo Screenshot 3

In a flooding sea of games shooting for realistic visuals and earth-tones, I can’t stress how delightful it is to see a title with such style and personal flair. At first glance, Furi could be described as “Eastern future-folklore”, with its clash of loud cel-shaded visuals and stylized traditional Oriental imagery. There is a subtle air of Western-emulated anime themes in the artistic direction, akin to the Afro Samurai series…which makes sense, considering the characters are designed by Afro Samurai creator Takashi Okazaki. The complimentary pulsing electronic soundtrack features music provided by Carpenter Brut, The Toxic Avenger, Waveshaper, Kn1ght and more; anyone in Paris, France can listen to a selection of the featured artists together in concert on July 8th.

Furi E3 2016 Demo Screenshot 7

Furi is shaping up to be a promising hybrid of tactical combat and Bullet Hell shooters, a blended genre that 3D games haven’t mastered for nearly a decade. While the casual audience may be turned off to the relentless nature of its gameplay, the hardcore crowd and gaming masochists are in for a thrilling ride.

Furi is expected to release later this year for the PS4 and PC via Steam.

Images courtesy of The Game Bakers

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