Stripped down to it’s essence, Furi is a game made up of straight up boss battles - and nothing else.
If Furi were a meal, it would be a multi-course meal consisting of filet mignon - perfectly prepared with just the right amount of seasoning - and then more filet mignon.
And then another.
Every one of these boss battles are challenging in the most serious sense. You as a player better come correct, equipped with twitch reflexes, mastery of your controller, and a keen mind and memory.
For the people in the back, let me repeat that - this game is challenging; hard even.
Like a rock.
Tough as nails.
You play the role of a silent-but-deadly swordsman, led by a Afro Samurai-looking bunny (this is not an accident as Furi's characters were all designed by Takashi Okazaki, who created Afro Samurai). Your goal is to escape the highest of the high security intergalactic prisons by defeating the wardens, each with their own unique character, level, and powers.
Technically, the game is masterfully crafted by The Game Bakers. Controls are king here, and they’ve nailed it. Movement straight forward using dashes to avoid attacks or crossing thresholds and a charge up dash that will teleport you half way across the screen. Combat is all about split second reactions to action on the screen; parrying attacks, exploiting openings or countering with melee, creating space between your target and shooting your plasma pistol at range including a charge shot (if you can fit it in somewhere). It’s all pretty much perfect within the confines of the game.
Graphics aren’t going to burn your GPU into the ground, but they’re a very cool anime-esque, cell-shaded look with vivid color palettes with splashes of neon. Things move quick, so a lot of the time, you're not stopping to admire the view anyways. Levels are tailored to their respective bosses and vary as much as the personalities of the bosses themselves.
Sounds isn’t gonna blow your mind, but the synth/techno tracks fit the game’s look, personality and pace just fine.
So basically, the game is very well executed.
The self-imposed limitation of “only boss battles” is a bold idea that I absolutely love (it’s what initially drew me in), and the boss battles are very well executed. Each boss has their own style of combat, and each boss has around 6 “stages” and each stage has a different variation on their style of combat. There are always similar components to all the bosses, such as a close in melee, some kind of machine gun, a shmup style 360 attack, shock wave attack, etc., but they are all implemented in a way that feels unique to the specific boss.
The boss battles can also end up being extremely long because of how much dying you’ll do with the steep learning curve and high level of difficulty built into the game. I’ve spent more than a couple hours on a single boss more than once. You get 3 health bars, and you have to make them last while you learn the attack patterns of each boss’ stage - which will eat up lots of lives and restarts - then master that stage, and rinse and repeat on the next stage. The fastest I think I ever defeated a single boss was 45 minutes, and the successful run itself probably didn’t last but 10 minutes or so, meaning I died probably around 30 times trying to figure out all of the patterns.
The battles never feel unfair, as there is always a counter to the attack against you, but everything moves so fast that it’s easy to see yourself lose all 3 lives in the first stage even after fighting the same boss for an hour. Nerves of steel are a requirement for the run that gets you through to the end.
To continue with the food cliches; they say that variety is the spice of life, and I think the “steak only” approach puts the game at disadvantage in a sense; the game struggles with the feeling of accomplishment that you normally get from beating a boss. There’s no slow build up like you’re used to; going from minions, to a save point, to kind-of-tough mini-boss, more minions, to another save point, building anticipation, then the boss battle and the payoff.
Nah. It’s a tough ass boss battle where you die a ton and might not make it out of the first stage some fights. When you finally win, Furi says “here’s your reward, another hard ass boss battle.”
When you’re given nothing but difficult task after difficult task, it’s easy to lose your drive to continue. As quickly as your victory comes, it’s just as quickly gone as you have your next boss to take on. If you’re looking for that tiny dopamine rush you get from mindlessly beating a bunch of simpletons en masse, Furi is having none of it.
You get to decide if it’s to the credit of it’s strong, original vision, or to it’s detriment.
For all it's difficulty, I really enjoyed my time with the game. It’s a really creative vision that I appreciate, and I do enjoy a well crafted challenge from a brawler/beat-em-up, so I dig it. But like the steak analogy, I can only take so much in one sitting, and it's not the kind of game I can sit down and play right through to the end in one sitting - I need breaks. Substantial ones.
It's like eating an elephant - take it one bite (or boss) at a time.
(Writer's note: I would like you to give me credit for not using any Furi-ous puns)