At dinner, some people don’t want to eat their entre, they just want to skip to dessert. And it’s the same with gaming; some people don’t want to have to fight their way through tons of grunts just to get to the boss battle. It’s for those people that The Game Bakers are making the upcoming third-person action game Furi (PlayStation 4, PC). Earlier this week, I had a chance to see the game in action, and to ask Emeric Thoa (the game’s creative director, producer, and game designer) and Audrey Leprince (its executive producer and writer) about how the game is played, what story it’s going to tell, and how they got Takashi Okazaki — who wrote and drew the original Afro Samurai manga and worked on both animes and the first, but not the second, Afro Samurai game — to design the Furi‘s unique-looking characters.
Let’s start at the beginning. What kind of game is Furi?
Emeric: It’s a boss fight game. It’s a skill-based game where you have to hit the buttons pretty fast and react with timing and reflexes, but one which will make you feel satisfied when you beat a challenging boss.
What other games do you think this is similar to?
Emeric: Our inspiration were games that have boss fights where the bosses were not gigantic but are instead similar in size and shape to the hero. Not like Shadow Of The Colossus, but more like Metal Gear Solid, No More Heroes, even the Punch-Out series.
But is it like Shadow Of The Colossus, in that you’re going from boss fight to boss fight, but the bosses aren’t Godzilla sized?
And you’re never fighting little grunts?
Is that what makes this different?
Emeric: Yes, but what also makes it unique is that you’re using a combination of beat-’em-up gameplay along with shoot-’em-up systems as well. So you’re going to do lots of shooting while getting shot at, but you’re also going to hit them with your sword.
For instance, in the boss we have today for the demo, you have to keep shooting him until he becomes weak and kneels down. Then you have to attack him with your sword, both dodging his attacks and countering them. And you do this over and over until you destroy him.
It also uses an aerial perspective that makes it kind of like a twin-stick shooter when you’re shooting, though it pulls in closer when you move in to hit him with your sword.
What happens if, after I weaken a boss and knock him down, I don’t go in and start smacking him, but instead I stayed back and kept shooting him?
Emeric: Nothing. He is protected by a shield, and the only thing that can harm him then in your sword.
In fact, if you don’t move in quick enough, he’ll get back up and you’ll have to weaken him again.
Could you just run up and whack him with your sword from the get-go?
Emeric: You could if you wanted, but you’d still have to weaken him for it to switch to the part when he’s down and you have to hit him with your sword. And once you’re in that part, you in it until it switches back to the way it was before.
It also depends on the boss. They’re all different. Some bosses will rush right at you, so you’ll have to use your sword right away.
You also can’t just button mash because the bosses are smart and will block your attacks. So you have to dodge and parry and counter attack.
I haven’t noticed anything in the way of health potions. Do you just have a set amount of health when you go into a battle and that’s it?
Emeric: No. There are no items, there’s no inventory. But you gain some life back when you do a successful parry. You can dodge attacks, but you do get some health back if you parry an attack.
There are also times when a boss will shoot waves of bullets at you, and if you shoot back and hit the green ones, they become health you can pick up.
Lastly, when you take one square of an enemy’s health, you get all of your health back.
When he was shooting those waves of energy at you, some were individual, but there were also some that were unbroken, and you seemed to quickly jump over them.
Emeric: No, you have a dash you can do.
Almost like a quick teleport.
Now Audrey, what is the story you’re telling in Furi?
Audrey: The basic plot is that you’re a character who’s been in prison, and been tortured. But then a character with a rabbit mask frees you, and you realize that to regain your freedom, you have to battle the prison’s different guardians while figuring out why these guardians are so motivated to keep you behind bars, why the guy with the rabbit mask wants to help you, and why you were in prison to begin with.
Are there options when it comes to your character? Like can you play as a man or a woman, can you customize their outfits?
Emeric: No, there’s none of that. There’s also no weapon or armor upgrades.
We’re a small team, so we decided to concentrate on the controls and on the combat system.
Audrey, you mentioned the guy with the rabbit mask earlier. But he’s not wearing a rabbit mask, he’s wearing a whole rabbit head. I assume that’s the influence of Takashi Okazaki at work.
Audrey: How did you guess? He designed all of the characters in the game.
What was it about his previous work on Afro Samurai that made you want him to design the characters in Furi?
Emeric: Well, since it’s a boss fight game, the characters are at the core of the game. We also wanted someone Japanese to do it because the game has a Japanese vibe to it. So we wrote to him, and he was interested.
Did his character designs have any interest on the gameplay? Like did you make a character attack in certain ways because of the way Okazaki made them look?
Emeric: Yes, that happened all the time. I would send him ideas for the characters, how they were going to attack, and he would send back these drawings that were really detailed and would give us ideas in how they would move or attack.
Did you ever ask Okazaki if he could get Samuel L. Jackson to do the voice of one of the bosses? [Jackson was both a voice actor and a producer on the two Afro Samurai animes.]
Emeric: Heh. No, we made jokes about that, but it’s nothing I would’ve asked for because Afro Samurai was very different from Furi….
Wait, you’re saying if Samuel L. Jackson called and said he wanted to do a voice for Furi, you would’ve said, “No thank you”?
Emeric: That would be difficult. I can’t say.
Did you also get someone cool to do the music?
Audrey: We have a handful of electronic bands, and they’ve all done new songs for each of the bosses.
Given that I’m a middle-aged man in a Metallica shirt, are any of them people I might’ve heard of?
Audrey: I don’t know. You could. So far, the only one we’ve announced is Carpenter Brut.
This next question is going to sound like a comment on your choice of music, and I don’t mean it to be, but can you turn the music down or off if you want?
Emeric: Of course.
And can you pause the game in mid-boss fight?
Good, good. Now, the first fight you’re showing me has taken a while. Does it always take you this long, or is it only taking you this long because I’ve been distracting you with my stupid questions?
Emeric: Heh. I’ve been taking my time with him. We figure it will take a new player between twenty and forty minutes to beat this guy.
And he’s the first boss you face?
Emeric: Yes. Some of them can take an hour, though once you’ve beaten them, and you know how to beat them, it doesn’t take as long.
Are there multiple difficulty options?
Emeric: Yes, there are. Along with the normal setting, there’s a setting we called “Promenade,” which is easier, a walk in the park. And once you finish the game, you unlock the “Hard” difficulty, which is not just harder but the patterns that the bosses use have also been changed.
Does that mean when you face this first guy again, you don’t have to shoot him until he’s weak, then smack him around, but you do something different?
Emeric: No, you still have to do that, his basic pattern is the same, but the ways he’ll attack you with his sword, and the waves of energy he shoots at you will be different. His timing is different, his attack patterns are different. So it’s a very different experience, and it’s a lot harder.
I assume, from what you’ve said, that there’s no co-op or multiplayer?
Emeric: No, it’s just a single player game.
Lastly, when will Furi be out?
Emeric: It will be out for PlayStation 4 and PC this summer.
Emeric: Not yet.