Genji does support the Sixaxis controller's unique gyroscopic features by optionally letting you perform your evasive maneuvers by jerking or shoving the controller in different directions. This is somewhat novel at first, but you'll also likely find your character dodging around unintentionally once in a while. There's no sensitivity setting to try to fine tune this feature, either, so the motion-sensing aspect of Genji: Days of the Blade feels thrown in, like a gimmicky alternative to the standard controls. The option is tellingly set to off by default. Meanwhile, the Sixaxis' omission of a rumble feature probably won't go unnoticed here if you've played Genji for the PS2 or the many other games like it, with their dramatic clashes of steel that seem to invite some sort of tactile feedback.
Genji's fixed camera angles effectively show off some of the game's vibrant scenery, but they often get in the way as you're trying to fight.
It's too bad the motion-sensitive dodging mechanic wasn't implemented better, since this might have freed up the right analog stick for moving the camera angle around. Genji's fixed camera angles certainly help show off the game's detailed environments and character models, but they're often not ideal for gameplay. Examples of this can be seen in the many sequences in which your character will be running toward the screen while hordes of enemies await just beyond your viewing area. Ironically, you'll be forced to spend a lot of time looking at the ugly, plain minimap in the corner of the screen because it shows you nearby enemies and helps you remain oriented as the camera angles keep shifting on their own. Although the minimap is useful, it won't prevent you from getting lost because it doesn't clearly point you toward the direction you're supposed to go next. A larger area map is also available, but it's practically worthless because it doesn't reveal any landmarks or anything other than the most basic layout of each stage.
The level design in Genji is really the biggest culprit. In spite of the lush scenery, the minimap reveals these areas for what they are--a bunch of rooms interconnected with a bunch of corridors. You can smash barrels, crates, and things in the environments, but they're woefully noninteractive overall. Early on, the game sets you up for some puzzle-like sequences when it explains how Yoshitsune's acrobatics and Benkei's brute strength can be used to overcome different obstacles. But the implementation of these special moves feels completely contrived because Benkei is only capable of smashing down certain and very specific objects in the environment, while his club will cleanly pass straight through everything else. It's disappointing to feel so limited in what you can do within areas that look so lifelike.
Genji also appears to be missing some intended content in a few spots, including a couple of cutscenes that seem to promise some sort of horseback chase sequence is going to ensue. However, there are no such sequences, which probably would have helped add more variety to a game that gets really repetitive. Apart from the boss fights, the occasional jumping puzzle is what breaks up the monotony of fighting the same few types of enemies over and over in droves. Take Genji's often-bad camera angles and combine them with cumbersome, decade-old platform-jumping level design, and you've got yourself a recipe for those types of sequences that, at best, make you feel thankful that you'll never have to play them again once you finally get through them. Also, we even ran into a significant bug fairly early on in the game that prevented us from progressing any further because we managed to fight through a particular sequence without picking up a key that's ostensibly necessary to leave the area. When we returned to the area later, the key was gone. So we couldn't go back, which forced us to return to an earlier save file. While most players probably won't have this experience, the confusing level design prevented us from knowing that we'd done anything incorrectly by not finding that key.
It bears repeating that the game certainly looks nice. It saves some of its most dramatic-looking sequences for later, such as one level in which you must traverse the enemy's huge naval fleet by literally jumping from ship to ship. The brightly colored enemy ships set against the glow of the sun reflected on the surface of the ocean are really quite striking. Subtle motion blur effects, excellent motion-captured animations, and the overall level of detail in the different characters help make this game pleasing to behold almost constantly. It's hard to decide whether the scenery or the character animations are the best part of the visual presentation because both look great. This is especially true if you're running the game at its highest resolution of 720p on a widescreen, high-definition display. Although the graphics are impressive, they're not earth-shattering and have some rough edges such as how the game's frame rate will noticeably bog down when a lot of enemies are onscreen. Some of the battles in Genji really throw a lot of enemies at you, evoking a Dynasty Warriors sort of feel to the hack-and-slash action. But as good as these parts look, the game seems to struggle a bit to keep up with it all. Note that the frame rate drops are apparent even when playing the game in lower resolutions.
Some frustrating jumping puzzles and confusing levels drag down this otherwise fairly fun action game.
Genji also features some excellent audio, including a musical score that's filled with traditional Japanese instruments and haunting vocals. Some of the tracks repeat too often, but overall, this soundtrack is very well suited to the game. Although the repeated hacking of Yoshitsune's blades will be most of what you hear, the sound effects are solid. Cutscenes are all fully voiced in English by actors with rather thick Japanese accents, which fits the theme, though the quality of the voice acting isn't that great. Thankfully, the ability to switch to a Japanese language track is available (with optional English subtitles). Other extras include a hard difficulty mode and the ability to watch any of the prerendered cutscenes or listen to any of the music tracks from a menu, which isn't much. And although this seemed to have little impact on the game's fairly brief loading times or anything else, you have the option to install Genji to the PlayStation 3's hard disk drive if you want.
The limited selection of games available around the launch of a high-profile new console means that a bright spotlight is cast on each of them. Genji: Days of the Blade is an example of this effect because this really is an average, forgettable game that's only interesting because there aren't many other PS3 games to choose from yet. It's worth checking out if only as evidence of what Sony's new system can do from a graphical perspective; however, its 10-or-so hours of repetitive combat shouldn't be the tipping point for anyone who wants to justify getting a PS3.