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PAX East 2013: Usagi Yojimbo: The Way of the Ronin Hands On

Source:   Matt Hawkins
March 29, 2013


PAX East was the place to see (and play) the hottest games for the PC and consoles. Fans of pen and paper plus collectable games were also covered. But iOS and Android had its fair share of presence as well.

Like Usagi Yojimbo: The Way of the Ronin, a smart phone game based upon Stan Sakai's most well known and beloved character. It's actually been out for a couple of weeks now, though the game was recently updated. Among the many necessary fixes were performance enhancements across every supported device, plus the size of the app itself has been slimmed down considerably.

The game itself is a side-scrolling brawler. Think Streets of Rage, though the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game is a better comparison. The graphics are actually quite superb; sprites are nice and big, and well animated. As for controls, it relies upon virtual buttons, common for arcade-like games on touchscreens. All that can be really said is how it does as well as one might except. No more, no less.

Gameplay-wise, you walk left to right, plus hack and slash, in a manner reminiscent of the aforementioned other examples of the genre. As you fight, you gain XP points, which can be used to towards items or unlocking combos. There's 60 different enemy types, plus 13 bosses. Some of whom should be familiar with longtime "Usagi Yojimbo" fans.

As for story, it's mostly based on the comic. As Usagi, you traverse 13 different levels, with each locale recognizable from past adventures, to obtain a mirror. It's one of three sacred objects that everyone is going nuts over, including Lord Hebi, longtime adversary of "Usagi."

It's perhaps worth mentioning that a few other familiar faces are along for the ride, to help our hero along, including Gen and Tomoe. Though there are plenty of new characters that are unique to the game as well. When asked about Sakai's involvement, I was told that he had final say on everything. So even though he didn't personally write the story or design all the brand new characters, he did give the thumbs up.

Again, there are 13 levels, but if one swings by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, one can nab a 14th bonus level. Between April 14 and August 4 is an exhibit featuring samurai armor and other accouterments from that time and place. One will also find a QR code that unlocks both the extra level, plus special armor for Usagi.

The game is fairly decent. I'm a big fan of "Usagi Yojimbo" and old school brawlers in general. My big fear initially was that it was a lazy cash grab, but that’s not the case. Though I can't say that I'm a fan of the controls, which cannot be helped given the hardware. But I was told that it might be coming to PC and Mac in the near future. Apparently it'll be hitting Steam Green Light very soon, which is the means in which the Steam community votes for which games should be distributed. Basically, one will soon be able to play the game with actual buttons, the way such games are meant to be experienced.

Till then, the iOS and Android versions of Usagi Yojimbo: The Way of the Ronin is the only way to go. The price apparently “fluctuates,” between $1 to $3 I was told. As of this writing, it can be found for the asking price of $2 in both the Apple Store and Google Play marketplace.


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