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Usagi Yojimbo: Way Of The Ronin

The Wrong Warrior’s Path

Usagi Yojimbo: Way Of The Ronin forgets that the keenest blades are the ones left in their scabbards.

By Anthony John Agnello • February 28, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

Miyamoto Usagi, the rabbit samurai star of Usagi Yojimbo, doesn’t suffer fools, bullies, thieves, or pretty much anyone that isn’t interested in being a decent person. Being a master swordsman in feudal Japan, Usagi has the chops to make squirrelly sorts behave themselves if they get out of line, but the foundational ethos of his entire comic is that peace is always preferable. The only activity in Happy Giant’s Usagi Yojimbo: Way Of The Ronin, however, is walking across a screen chopping on everything in sight, so it’s fair to say that the game missed the point of writer and artist Stan Sakai’s work.

An evil wolf named Jei is trying to unleash some old demons onto the world using the legendary mirror Yata no Kagami. Usagi, who just happens to be wandering by a wounded priest after the mirror is stolen, sets out to retrieve it and stop Jei. Doing so entails marching from left to right cutting things with all the grace of a mechanical bull with a butcher knife taped to it.

The whole thing is a sort of sequel/retelling of the Yojimbo volume Grasscutter, which has action aplenty, but is also brimming with humor and humanity. The best moments in the comic are when there’s no bloodshed and Usagi can enjoy the beauty of his home. That’s also hypothetically the best moment of Happy Giant’s game, but it’s not like you ever see it while playing.

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15 Responses to “The Wrong Warrior’s Path”

  1. Jess Ragan says:

    The worst part judging from the screenshot is that the look SCREAMS Flash.

  2. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    I’m sorry to hear this game isn’t particularly good.  For one, Stan Sakai has been creating Usagi for so long, his style has become of a kind with the best long-running game franchises.
       Which is to say, it’s come to the point where the rhythms and pacing of a Usagi comic is usually very familiar, with an easily telegraphed narrative arc.  But the characterizations and details Sakai includes keep the series continuously satisfying to revisit.  In both longevity and temperament I feel Usagi has a lot in common with Link or Mario.
       For another, Grasscutter was just a truly beautifully told and illustrated story arc.  If it’s going to be told in video game form at all, it deserves something more robust than an iOS game.
       A fully-fleshed out game with a level dedicated to each of the prologue stories:  Susa-no-O drugging the dragon with sake and slaying it to discover the blade in the creature’s tail.
       Yamato christening the blade when it saved his life from an assassination attempt.  And the really epic naval battle with the hero Yoshitsune that ended with the sword at the bottom of the sea.
       Sorry to get all cornered-by-a-sixth-grader-really-into-mythology about this, but Sakai does an incredible job with the story, and I recommend checking it out even if you have no interest in anthropomorphic bunny ronin.    

    • Spacemonkey, I could not have said it better myself. I will say that I’ve been impressed over the past two to three years with some of Sakai’s more subtle experiments with that oh so familiar narrative arc. The two-parter “Taiko” especially felt a little bit riskier than he’s been since Usagi split up from Jotaro all those years back.

      There are just so many great characters and such a great world, that it feels criminal to reduce it to a brawler. Something more adventurous is needed. Just imagine an Inspecter Ishida mystery game, man. Damn. That would be GREAT.

    • Girard says:

      What if I have an unhealthily robust interest in anthropomorphic bunny ronin?

    • uselessyss says:

      I remember reading Usagi Yojimbo back when I was in middle school, and thinking it was weird that a comic about a bunny rabbit could deal with such adult themes.

      I never went back to it, but now I’m thinking I should.

  3. Destroy Him My Robots says:

    Back in the C64 Usagi Yojimbo, there were peaceful wandering monks who would say a line or two when you bowed to greet them. One of those lines was “If you see Buddha on the way, kill him”, which I naturally didn’t understand at that age. And so I’d keep walking, hand on my sword, waiting for “Buddha” (a fat Budai/Hotei looking guy, of course) to pop up so I could cut him.

    Cool story aside, it’s a shame this isn’t a competent remake of the old game. It has some big, but easily fixable issues, and apart from that it was pretty great. Giving alms raised your karma, while killing helpless peasants reduced it. If your karma fell below 0, Usagi would just sit down and thrust his sword through his neck. I think that’s pretty fantastic.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha.  Gain 10,000 xp.  Gain three levels, experience pride at new group-target special attack.  Die in cheap insta-kill attack.  Suffer cycle of rebirth due to earthly attachments and start over from last save point.
         Video game protagonists are lousy Buddhists.  

    • Mike Mariano says:

      Yeah, the Commodore 64 game was awesome, even though I nearly broke my joystick trying to sheathe and unsheathe my sword.  I’m upset that it never made its way to the Wii Virtual Console when they got some other C64 games.

    • There was a similar line in Kill Bill. Something like “if you see a god, cut him.” I remember the Japanese was “kami,” but I have no idea if that was “god” “a god” or if that could even mean “Buddha.” Does that phrase actually have some kind of connection to Buddhism? Just a cool line?

  4. I’d always imagined a Usagi game taking the fighting mechanics of Bushido Blade and grafting them onto a larger story arc.  Too bad we’ll never see something like that.

  5. Eco1970 says:

    I like Ike.

  6. Matthew Merrill says:

    I think, while it does look “Flashy”, they were trying for a comic inspired look, but it doesn’t quite come through. My biggest beef was lack of challenge. Enemies and bosses health melt away in seconds before your eyes while I’ve seen Usagi take numerous hits without losing any health at all. Furthermore, you are awarded numerous combos during the game, but most of them are just as effective as hammering away on the basic attack buttons. To me, this game comes across as an interactive story, focusing on including every character from Usagi lore with the fighting segments being extremely easy transitions to the next story section. I did like it enough to replay it, but I prefer Samurai II: Vengeance for my samurai hack n’ slash needs.