As I noted in our preview, amid many celebratory adjectives, Red Steel 2 welds full 1:1 control to scripted animation. Hold the A button to enter a defensive stance, and you’ll be able to rotate and tilt the blade precisely as though you were actually holding it in your hands, whether to catch the light on its edge or meet an incoming blow. When it comes to attacking, though, the game will do much of the fine-tuning on your behalf, transforming a clumsy jerk of the elbow into a savage uppercut, a sloppy shadow punch into a running stab, a casual wave into a surgical backhand slice. The nunchuk’s analog stick, meanwhile, takes care of movement and evasion.
To say all this comes easily would be a push, but the system’s workability is rather a triumph when you consider that the same remote that serves as your sword handle is also your means of camera control and, at the touch of the trigger button, your pistol. The difficulty curve is gentle, every single move benefiting from its own, compulsory tutorial at one of the dojos that, along with gun and equipment shops and a certain bizarrely accented hacker girl’s hideout, comprise the hubs in Red Steel 2′s mildly open-ended environments.
Thwacking practice dummies does get a little tedious, but given the surprising range of gestural options and the importance of distinguishing between them in battle, it’s time very well spent. Cleverly animated pop-ups at once advertise the possibility of certain finishing moves and remind you of how to perform them.
The unpacking of the enemy roster – dominated by elderly archetypes like ninjas, tanks and gun drones – is also tightly choreographed to minimise player upset. You’ll seldom encounter a foe you haven’t been prepared for, and when you do, the challenge lies more in recognising and responding to the same cues at a faster pace than coping with the unfamiliar.
Earlier breeds of bad guy are a pushover, seldom blocking your assaults and telegraphing their own with gigantic wind-ups. Mid-level thugs have a little more science, aligning their blades across attacks to parry them (you can do likewise), and mixing powerful guard-breakers in among regular blows to punish turtling tactics. The elites, which include towering masked spearmen and gauntleted Wolverine impersonators, will take you down single-handed if treated too lightly, and it’s naturally these battles, with all five “sora katana” magicks and eight “hidden strike” combination moves at your disposal, that show Red Steel 2 at its best.