Title: Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Official Site: https://www.adultswim.com/games/samurai-jack
Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch
Version Tested: PC
Release Date: August 21, 2020
Back to the Past, Samurai Jack
It’s been a bit since we were gifted the finale to the Cartoon Network animated show from Genndy Tartakovsky. For recall, Ashi, a Daughter of Aku, has freed herself from her father’s influence and control. She quickly snatches the captured Magic Sword and returns it to Jack. As she fights off Aku, they realize that Ashi has Aku’s powers, prompting her to conjure a beam portal for her and Jack to return to the past. Descending through time and space, Aku intervenes and casts the Samurai out of the tunnel and into a different timeline. It’s here where we begin our 3D hack-and-slash adventure as the samurai they call Jack.
“Oh, nice choreography, babe!”
Told through nine levels set within the show’s universe, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time serves up a nice dish of robotic slaughter while giving players some leeway to upgrade Jack through three skill sets. The Physical set focuses on the Samurai‘s agility and endurance; Spiritual embraces and evolves the human traits of Jack; the third set for Combat provides new combos for Jack to pull off on the battlefield. Blue Skill Fire, green Bushido Spirit, and a few jewels can be collected and spent toward upgrading the sets, leaving it up to the player to decide which skill is more crucial than the next and last.
Players can wield a variety of weapons through their explorations in the future that is Aku. Spiked clubs and bamboo sticks offer different fighting styles, and throwables like shurikens, reapers, and kaikens can bring slick action. The variety isn’t crazy in terms of what you can obtain through your inventory; plus I’m certain players will mostly use the Magic Sword since that is the one weapon almost anyone can remember from the show.
Once you get into the groove of controlling Jack, you’ll find the gameplay to be very similar to other hack-and-slash titles. The slicing-and-dicing mechanics made me feel as if I was the cartoon samurai in the midst of a crazy brawl. Enemies can be cut apart upon finishing them, and you can get creative with the combos you assemble and perform. Any game where enemies fall apart from your attacks is always a plus.
The Sounds in Battle Through Time
Battle Through Time features all of the cast members from season five of the show and some beyond: Greg Baldwin comes back as Aku; John DiMaggio makes a glorious return as the big ole laddie, The Scotsman; Tom Kenny scats and scratches as Scaramouche – to name a few. Not a lot of dialogue is thrown around, but it’s good to hear Phil LaMarr reprising his famous voice role as Jack. You do hear him quite a bit, actually, which is a welcoming factor since Jack was more laconic in the series. Although I am a little confused as to why Jack randomly says, “I need to find Aku!” when that is clearly the mission here, but it doesn’t occur too often.
I wasn’t too crazy about the game’s sound design since it didn’t really do anything to make it stand out on its own. Most of the simple sound effects were passable, and they tend to shine through in the battle sequences you will find yourself in. Hearing an enemy explode as I’m tackling down another one is a gratifying moment to both listen to and watch. Battle Through Time has a nice sense of synergy with music and action (much like the show, as well), but individually – in this game – they don’t always land on both feet. Overall it’s a fair design with not a lot of sparkle in its shine.
Tore Open a Graphical Portal in Time
Much of the game’s art is widely ripped straight from the show, replicated into 3D environments and generating full bodied character models as opposed to what we’ve been accustomed to from the show. It’s definitely different, but it’s absolutely awesome altogether. 100% cartoon-looking level design is elevated with clean color schemes can literally transport the player into a bizarre episode of Samurai Jack. Although I’d say that I’m probably half-watching an episode when cutscenes pop up, the game does an excellent job in putting together a world that greatly translates Tartakovsky’s creation to make it feel unique.
From the drone beetles to recognizable faces of the Scotsman, Da Samurai, Scaramouche, Ashi, and Aku, the character designs all look pretty cool in this video game universe. The 3D elements in the environments are great to look at, and you can get some wallpaper-worthy screenshots with Jack as the subject and the corrupted world beyond him providing fantastic scenery. Storyboard Artist Bryan Andrews returned to provide the goods, while Game Director Hiroaki Matsui focused on utilizing a system where the player can triumph in killing as Samurai Jack.
While the replay value is relatively moderate, the switch-up in difficulty levels and how one approaches combat can increase the general value of the hack-n-slash experience. Matsui commented on this in an interview with Nintendo Everything, saying:
The game has a flow for the player to acquire many skills while proceeding with the play. Jack’s mobility, physical ability, and battle technique will be expanded as the players continues through the game. Naturally, the degree of freedom as a warrior will increase, but in higher-difficulty modes, more challenging enemies are waiting for the player…”
Undo the Future
As aforementioned, the game can make a player feel like Samurai Jack, and this can be demonstrated from just about everything you do as the shaolin warrior. Running from platform to platform doesn’t get old, and using the Magic Sword to cut away enemies is a wonderful treat for fans. Those who are generally unfamiliar with the show will be lost with Battle Through Time‘s storyline, but the smooth samurai slaying can charm even the most causal of players, even for just one playthrough.
Jack is most certainly back in this Soleil-developed title that gives fans an alternate ending to Jack’s time-traveling saga. Without spoiling anything, it’s a very satisfying conclusion that I’m content with that any fan should check out. Depending on the difficulty you play on, Battle Through Time should take you about 5-8 hours to complete. The game basically comes and goes – once I was finished with, I just wanted more. Even though its slightly underwhelming, I’ll happily be back in the future for another Jack attack.
Verdict: Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is a bit shorter than expected, but it’s still a nice installment overall. It’s essentially an extended episode that shows fans a version of the ending that many wished had happened, and it does a decent job in succeeding in that. As a big fan of Samurai Jack, I thought this swift adventure was a good dose of action and emotion, despite the few flaws that can be overlooked. Nonetheless, it’s a fun nostalgia trip for any time-traveling enthusiast who remembers the tale of a samurai they simply called Jack.
- Voice cast from show returns, adding authenticity to the game.
- Combat feels good as you control and fight as Jack.
- Overall great design in level, environment, and character creations.
- Secret ending is a nice cherry on top.
- Most likely worth playing through once.
- Sound design is nothing special.
- Execution comes off rather short and underwhelming.