Gramps, this isn't the Seven Samurai that you used to know. Hell, even the little kids who have seen Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece are probably puzzled about how this could ever possibly relate to the classic movie. Those who fear that the spirit of Kurosawa's work may be twisted into an unrecognized form need only look at the movie The Magnificent Seven to see that you don't need swords and samurai to retell the story. Hell, you could do it with futuristic robots and steroid-injected bad guys if you wanted to, which is what developer Dimps did with Seven Samurai 20XX.
Based (very) loosely on Akira Kurosawa's movie, 20XX is a third-person action game that follows the journey of a young samurai named Natoe as he searches for six warriors that will help him defend the last known city in the world against an army of mechanical monsters. While the setting of the game may be a total change from the film, the storyline will remain relatively the same, thanks in part to the involvement of Kurosawa Productions and Akira's son, Hisao.
In the game, Natoe is equipped with two katanas and the ability to instantaneously dash from location to location. This comes in handy when you're surrounded by numerous enemies in battle. Two attack buttons (one major attack and one minor) provide for most of Natoe's move list. He also has the ability to jump, which is done by holding down the dash button for a second. Attacking is possible while jumping, and results in a downward slash that clears the immediate area surrounding Natoe. The game possesses a handy lock-on system that kicks-in automatically whenever you are close enough to an enemy. Unlike some games, you won't miss with your attacks that often in Seven Samurai because the game will recognize if you're trying to attack someone and compensate accordingly. Basically if you dash towards an enemy and they're slightly to your left or right, the game will redirect Natoe and your attack will still connect. This allows you to rack up impressive combos with style and flair.
Most of the time you'll be battling with only one of your swords out, but with the press of a button, Natoe will shout "Let's go!" and take out his second sword to activate his special-attack mode. In this mode Natoe is not only stronger, but can move much quickly than before. A gauge at the bottom of the screen will count down to zero, at which point Natoe will put away his second sword until the gauge refills itself. Natoe's blades plus his ability to dash make the game go at a pace that's unmatched by most action games, even Shinobi. While Sega's hack 'n' slash game relied mainly on dashing in order to stun enemies to setup a Tate, 20XX is designed to keep you attacking to rack up those high-number combos.
Despite the speed of the game, it's relatively easy to keep up with the action, and the controls for the most part are responsive and easy to learn. The one complaint I have about it deals with the jump button, which is mapped onto the dash button. It seems awkward to have two buttons which should be separate on the same button, but it's a very minor thing.
Visually, the game is looking mighty good considering it's early state. There were up to a dozen enemies on the screen all at once without any slowdown, which is quite the accomplishment given the aging PS2 hardware. While there were only a few different monster types in the demo at E3, Sammy has stated that there will be over 100 different enemies to hack up, all of them designed by Moebius, who has worked on films such as The Fifth Element and Willow. To round out this stellar cast, Ryuichi Sakamoto (Last Emperor) will be writing the opening and ending themes for the game.
Given that The Seven Samurai is one of the most revered Japanese films of all time, Sammy is taking a big gamble by slapping the name on their game. The title hasn't even been released and already people are complaining about the setting and theme of the game. Then again, these are the same people who haven't actually played the game. Despite how it looks, the game is still expected to follow the general storyline of the film, which should be good enough for most gamers, and this could be one of the better action games of the year. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.