“Gotta get back, back to the past…
I distinctly remember the first day I saw Samurai Jack on Cartoon Network. It was August 10, 2001 and the nine year old me had just moved into a new house. Its traumatic opening where we see Jack’s family and home ravaged by the evil Aku gripped me in a way that no other show had at that time, at least, not until Toonami came around a year later. From that day forward, I stayed up late every night and watched as a boy who lost everything he knew and loved was forced to overcome many trials in order to get revenge for what he had lost. I drew a lot of parallels to Jack, especially when I saw him learn and grow from different cultures and people as he travelled.
Now, it’s been 16 years since the last proper game in the franchise as it was last seen on the Playstation 2. That is, if you discount the many terrible and embarrassing browser games that came out thereafter. Seemingly out of nowhere a few years back though, I was hit with an official trailer for Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time – a 3D hack ‘n slash adventure which sought to dig up all of my feels for the series. I watched it over and over and couldn’t wait to hear more. That’s why I got so excited when we saw an exclusive interview with the series creator at Summer Games Fest this month. For those who don’t see what all of the excitement is about, let me break it down for you!
You see, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time isn’t just another game that’s coming out. It’s the apex of one of mine and many other people’s favorite childhood show. It’s the realization of a universe long restricted by its platform. It’s being published by Adult Swim Games this time, so there’s a lot more leeway for mature content and violence than there ever was during the series’ early days. Each previous game was very much held back by the game development engine and budget it was given, which was usually from the bottom of the barrel as they were given tools and an allowance reflective of children’s games.
A lot of games back in the day were just re-skins of a popular game using the same engine and gameplay mechanics. Sadly, this made for Samurai Jack games that felt like anything but true to the source material. So, to see how Battle Through Time wells up the same emotions in me that I got from watching the show all those years ago, evolved for my older self, of course, is awesome to say the least. According to series creator Genndy Tartakovsky, this is what they always wanted the games to feel like!
Become Samurai Jack, the greatest warrior of the past, present and future. Journey through time to finally stop Aku’s evil reign in this new adventure told by the creators of Samurai Jack. Encounter your favorite characters from the show including The Scotsman, Scaramouche, Sir Rothchild and more!
Create Your Own Samurai Adventure
An untold Samurai Jack adventure that ties into the epic series finale. Team up with trusted allies from the show to face off against familiar enemies. Visit classic worlds and moments from your favorite episodes. Travel to a dark future to free mankind. Dive into the past to face off against terrifying monsters. Seek your fate as you travel across space and time. Equip and master over a dozen different weapons in combat. Increase your power even more by training and unlocking new skills to support your playstyle.Source
From the trailer opening up with a catchy hip hop soundtrack and modern combat mechanics to the 3D realization of Jack and his enemies looking true to form, the whole thing just caused my jaw to drop and the kid in me to start screaming. This game is clearly a labor of love and a masterful adaption of the TV show. I’d argue that this may be one of the very few video games based on TV shows or movies that may finally ‘get it right’.
Many of the game’s locales are clearly inspired by the show. The surreal, artsy world from the cartoon which never explicitly forced you into a sense of location is intact in many scenes of the trailer, but there is also a more grounded and realistic set of environments too. I imagine that when the game releases, we’re going to feel as though we’re fully immersed in that universe for the first time since the show. Speaking of environments, Jack will use what’s around him during combat as well. Genndy says Jack can even beat enemies with their own limbs.
Diving further into the combat, you can fight with your Katana, a bow and arrow, a magic pole or bo staff and even a trident. Little detail has been given as to how these other weapons factor into the story, but my guess is that Jack will learn and grow as he encounters different cultures and people, just like I mentioned earlier. You can even use guns this time around!
The series is almost 20 years old now and it’s about time someone does it right. I’ve seen some people mention that a game this high profile ought to be handled by Platinum Games or Ninja Theory, but I think that from what we’re seeing, Soleil Ltd is going to do it justice. You also have to remember that Genndy himself is directly involved in the development process and has even drawn new original artwork for the cutscenes, which I am personally very excited to experience.
Soleil Ltd seems really appreciative of the Samurai Jack property and even had posters in their office when Genndy went to visit and were big fans of his, according to his Summer Games Fest talk which you can watch below. They were even able to get most of the original voice cast to reprise their roles for production! He says that Soleil doesn’t seem like a company which will take advantage of the opportunity and exploit it for cash, so for now, we’re going to have to go with his word on the matter until we play for ourselves, but from everything we’re seeing so far, that statement is shaping up to be true.
I’m just hoping that some of Jack’s move sets are more dynamic and fluid like those of a samurai. The gameplay is reflective of the generation as all Samurai Jack games been, so we may see this restrict some of the gameplay’s potential. Fingers crossed this does not become the case!
Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is set for a summer release date, but no exact day was given. Regardless, this means we’ll be able to relive our childhood and become the popular samurai very soon! Until this, I’ll leave you with this: