Treasure is one of those game companies that’s always spoken of with a sort of reverence. Classics like Gunstar Heroes and Ikaruga showcased Treasure’s focus on player skill, encouraging mastery through repetition much as one would expect from the best arcade games. Today, Platinum Games has largely taken up that mantle with their character-focused brawlers. Every so often, though, an indie title like Furi from a suitably indie developer like The Game Bakers shows up that more directly pays homage to Treasure’s classics.
Furi is essentially a modern rendition of Treasure’s classic shooter Alien Soldier. You control the Stranger, a white-haired ronin who wields gun and blade in an effort to escape from a series of prison worlds. No minor foes will stand against the Stranger; there aren’t any mooks to slice up here, and none could pose a challenge to his skill in any case. Instead, each prison world is guarded by a single Jailer, a multi-stage boss that needs to be taken down in order to progress.
The Stranger is your usual badass hero, bringing to mind Afro Samurai in particular; he’s quick, he’s strong and he shows no mercy. His moveset is simple but effective. You’ve got a katana for close-range hits, including a timed parry and the option to charge up for a more powerful strike, and an automatic laser pistol for ranged combat. You can also dash to dodge attacks, briefly turning invincible in the process. This is a skill that quickly becomes invaluable, one you’ll need to master in order to make any significant progress. Sword, gun and dash are the entirety of your weapons against the Jailers.
You’ll need everything you’ve got; the Jailers,ten in all, are a varied and diverse assortment. There are men and women, humans and monsters, masters of the mystical and the technological, and each will try to stop the Stranger and send him back to his cell. Battles typically play out as a series of engagements consisting of long and short range phases. At long range, the Stranger will fight primarily with his pistol while dodging the Jailer’s ranged attacks in bullet-hell fashion, while in the short range combat revolves around using a katana to attack and parry while avoiding melee strikes. Both the Stranger and his foe have multiple life bars that are steadily depleted during the fight, and like in a fighting game, the victor will recover an entire life bar while the loser moves on to their next bar.
The Jailers don’t always play by the rules, of course; there’s at least one specialist that focuses on a particular phase and is much more powerful at that point in the fight, for instance. The variation from boss to boss is really what defines the game, as each battle has its own distinct theme and toys with the game’s mechanics in its own way. Not every long range segment is a torrent of bullets, for instance, while merely parrying and countering enemy attacks won’t see you through every short range battle. One particularly memorable moment even turns Furi into a side-scrolling fighting game!
Learning each battle is a treat, while the anticipation of what awaits is the driving force that will keep players going. All told the game can be expected to last around two to four hours, depending on how long it takes the player to pick things up. You’ve also got a speedrun option and several difficulty levels to mess with, along with unlockable art that’s tied to your performance in each fight.
Aside from some physics quirks involving the Stranger’s frizzy ‘do, Furi’s graphics are a sight to behold. The game boasts a sort of cel-shaded look and an urban aesthetic, again bringing to mind Afro Samurai. Each Jailer, of course, looks and sounds unique, and the arenas in which you’ll battle them are as diverse as their inhabitants. Furi also plays well, with tight and responsive controls, though it should be mentioned that the Stranger’s all-important dodge seems to be biased toward early rather than late inputs; expect to take some hits trying to dodge an attack precisely when it hits rather than shortly before.
Perhaps the best part of Furi is that the game is already being offered on PS4 as part of Sony’s PlayStation Plus program in July; it is, essentially, “free.” Your definition of “free” might vary given that’s a paid program, but chances are if you’re got a PS4 then you’re probably a Plus member, so there’s no reason not to give this one a shot. That’s not to say anyone should pass it up. Furi is a smart, stylish boss rush that stands out from the crowd. It’s a must-play love letter to the classics of old.