Developer/Publisher: The Game Bakers
Genre: Bullet-Hell Dueler
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
Also Available For: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One
When bullet-hell boss rush game Furi released in 2016, it rightly received a lot of attention. Everything from its artistic direction to its creative concept, high-octane gameplay, difficulty, and even soundtrack drew praise. In time, Furi faded from the public consciousness – as is natural for most games – though it maintained a bit of a cult following even after the initial rush of attention died down. However, French developer The Game Bakers evidently decided they weren’t quite done with it, because roughly six years after its initial release Furi has received another piece of DLC (alongside its upgrades to current-gen consoles) which adds a second playable character with her own playstyle distinct from standard Rider: Onnamusha.
The basics of Furi remain the same as they were six years ago. The gameplay, boss designs, sound design, visuals, and stylish action of the game are all still top-notch, and if you want more detail than that you can go find a full review from 2016 somewhere. That said, I find Onnamusha to be a pretty significant improvement to the game’s original formula, one that makes the already intense bullet-dodging, sword-fighting duels even more complex and satisfying to master. What separates Onnamusha from Rider is the three “stances” she can swap between: Spark, Storm, and Star. Spark and Storm may be swapped between at any moment, being an extremely fast but weak stance and a much slower but much stronger stance respectively. Star functions as a sort of overcharge or berserk mode, needing to be charged up by fighting in the other two before the player can activate it for a brief time. Once triggered, Star stance takes the best elements of the other two stances and turns them up to eleven, being faster than Spark and hitting harder than Storm.
Learning to juggle not only the basic input for swapping stances in the midst of Furi’s hectic fights but also the best timing to do so is absolutely vital to succeeding as Onnamusha. It takes some getting used to be sure, having a whole new button to keep track of on the controller, even (or perhaps especially) for veterans of Furi. Once you manage to do so, however, she is incredibly satisfying and thrilling to play as. Either stance has its own benefits in a variety of situations which allows a bit of leeway for players with different styles and approaches to the game’s fights. The fact that switching after spending a bit of a time in a stance gives a brief boost to the player’s blaster in the stance being switched to also adds another layer of considering timing to playing as Onnamusha. Honestly, though I haven’t actually tried to go back to Rider, I almost feel like he’d feel a little boring by comparison. I might also venture, in fact, to say that mastering Onnamusha’s mechanics makes the game easier than mastering base Rider.
I don’t know what happened at The Game Bakers to make them suddenly decide to gender bend their protagonists in both Furi and Haven, but I am absolutely here for it… for the most part. While I’m glad to be able to go Woman Mode, Onnamusha’s design is a bit too pretty, and feels occasionally at odds with the overall tone of the game. She’s nice to look at, sure, and for the most part she fits in well enough with the rest of the game’s visual language, but there’s just something about the specific way in which she is just as un-emotive as her male counterpart that’s just off-putting. I think if The Game Bakers had made her a bit less attractive, she wouldn’t feel so awkward in some of the cutscenes. Also, there are a number of lines which refer to Rider in a gendered way and were not adjusted at all to reflect Onnamusha’s whole deal, which seems a bit of a cop-out.
Ah well, at least The Song’s ending is gay now.
Overall, though, the Onnamusha DLC is a worthy addition to Furi’s legacy and a great bit of extra content for anyone looking for an excuse to play through again after half a decade. I can certainly think of worse reasons to go through a game with a great story with stunning visuals and music again than playing it a whole new way.
Furi has always been an amazing title, and the Onnamusha DLC adds more goodness that I might even like more than the base game.