I am really glad I got this one. It's fun, addictive and really easy to get into.
Samurai Gunn is an extremely fast-paced arena combat game in which players use a katana as their main weapon and may fire up to three shots from a gun as a support weapon. The gameplay relies on players' abilities to quickly move around the levels my means of running, jumping and executing their opponents in one lightning-fast strike. Shots from guns may be used to cover long distances in a straight line, but may also be deflected at the shooter by parrying them with one swing of the sword. Additionally, levels often include environmental hazards such as spikes and moving platforms which can squish any character against a wall, floor or ceiling.
An impressive amount of attention to detail is revealed through such things as bullet casings falling to the ground after each shot. What's more, the casings remain there and may be pushed by any character who steps on them. Another example is the water: if someone dies in a pond, the water acquires a red tint which becomes more intense as more blood is spilled, only to be washed away after a few seconds of no blood-spilling on the same spot. To top it all off, standing in water renders your gun useless even when when you get out of the pond, so keep that in mind.
The soundtrack is a perfect match for the action. Based on traditional Japanese instruments, it's reminiscent of soundtracks from chanbara movies and animes with a historical setting. At times, it reminds me of Samurai Spirits, only faster-paced (depending on the track). On that note, the sound effects are hugely satisfying. Most of all, the katanas cutting through the air (or your enemies, ideally). There's something about that loud metallic *schwing!* that makes you want to keep pressing the sword button for more, even if you're not hitting anyone.
Graphically, it's a beautiful game. The sprites are simple but perfectly distinguishable from one another and each is full of personality. There are three characters for each faction and, even within such simplicity, all of them can be told apart at a glance while keeping a common element that identifies them as belonging to the same group. The levels offer a rather wide variety of colours and designs. The intense lime green and clear brown of the bamboo forests, the purple rocks and pale green bushes of the mountain pass with its Buddha statues or the white snow, dark trees and clear water of the winter areas are all pleasant to look at and brimming with detail. Each gives the battle a particular mood or atmospheric feeling. And yet, they managed to do all this with no real distractions for the player, thanks to its retro-style pixellated graphics. Combining an old visual style with modern-day gameplay fluency is a path that numerous indie developres take, and it was yet again the right choice for this title.
All of it is wrapped up into an elegant presentation that fans of chanbara films and samurai pop culture in general will recognise and love. From the moment we see the title screen, we know what type of world we'll be thrown into. A red band with black silhouettes belonging to a bunch of samurais running through a field is an extremely effective introduction to a high-paced game such as this one and it also serves the purpose of creating a classy main menu. In-game, the brief stop produced by a kill, with the blackening of the screen save for the strip which shows killer and victim, is a charmingly abrupt way of making everyone aware of the death. The slow-motion plus zoom that frames the final kill in a fight always provides for an interesting composition and flaunts the game's colourful palette as well as its sprites, still lovely and worth of appreciation with their pixels brought to a bigger size. The menus are simple and use one font, and the signs which recount the kills at the end of a match have a neat parchment feel to them, with easily recognisable icons depicting each death and its cause.
I recommend obtaining this underappreciated gem while it's on sale, since playing it with friends is the best way to exploit its wonders. Survival mode is fun, engaging and addictive, but nothing beats the variety and unpredictability (or lack thereof) of playing against human competitors. As more people get this game, the more fun it will get for all of us who share it.