Jack’s apocalyptic Aku infested future setting is probably one of the most suited locations for a video game adaptation, which is why I was all aboard the hype train when Adult Swim Games announced the title last year. For the most part the game captures a lot of what makes the cartoon show so beloved, from the visuals, which look about as close to the animation as possible, to bringing the original voice actors on to perform their legendary characters of Samurai Jack. I can tell that the developers put quite a bit of love into this project, but it could have stayed in the oven just a little bit longer to make the final product a little more savory and worthy of holding the legendary mantle of Samurai Jack.
Battle Through Time opens with a scene from the end of the series tearing Jack away from his fated battle with Aku and sending him into a time pocket where he basically has to relive his biggest battles from his time in the future to get back to his battle with Aku. If you haven’t finished watching all of the original series I would not recommend playing this game until then, as it doesn’t do a great job of explaining who the characters are or how they got to where they are. And although Jack fights through most of his famous battles, it’s no substitute for the amazing cartoon that aired on Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.
All of the original voice actors from the show are here lending their vocal talents to the game along with a few 2D animated cutscenes from the animation itself. Unfortunately those characters don’t really have any meaningful interactions with Jack throughout the game. The stages you visit are based on locations from the show and it’s here that you will find characters like The Scotsman and Sir Rothchild who will offer you some useful advice or give you an item, but little else. With all the battles Jack and The Scotsman have fought together I was hoping to have a few team-up moments sprinkled throughout the game, but it never happened.
Thankfully the combat of Battle Through Time is as enjoyable as one who has watched Jack slice and dice Aku’s robot minions would assume. There are plenty of melee and ranged weapons for Jack to use, from his trusty magic sword and samurai fists to machine guns and the torn off arms of giant scarab robot beetles, everything feels unique and keeps the hacking ‘n’ slashing fresh for the ten or so hours it takes to beat the main story.
Each weapon has a durability meter and will break upon repeated use, much like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s weapon system. Thankfully, Jack’s fists and magic sword are unbreakable so I mainly relied on those two to get me through the rough patches.
Each level is based on a place Jack has visited in the cartoon. Thankfully there’s not much UI on the screen and what is there even disappears when you stand still, making it almost look like scenes ripped out of the show. There’s some light platforming throughout the stages, but for the most part each area is filled with monsters to slash through. To be honest it became a little repetitive, but being such a huge fan of the show it still felt great to be Jack.
Jack has plenty of abilities at his disposal that you can unlock after collecting various items and orbs from defeating enemies and opening treasure chests. There are a lot of different abilities to unlock, but many won’t be given to you until after you have beaten the main story and redone some of the levels to find all of the hidden secret items. This does boost the replay value a bit since it encourages players to take another stab at the game upon completion.
Each level culminates with a boss battle that fans of the series will undoubtedly recognize and there’s even a new original character hellbent on making sure Jack never reaches Aku. The boss fights were never super difficult (although I played on normal difficulty), but the endless waves of enemies before some of the boss fights would leave me depleted of my healing items. These can only be replenished at Da Samurai’s shop and those aren’t often located right before a boss battle. Needless to say, I died quite a bit because of this.
Speaking of Da Samurai’s shop Jack can also restore his weapons if they are on the verge of breaking and even upgrade his abilities for the right amount of coin. Also available for purchase are certain weapons which you might not find otherwise, such as the machine gun.
The game’s soundtrack is minimalist, much like the show’s, complete with strokes of the Samisen guitar and Japanese Taiko drums. This really lent to the atmosphere of the game that, much like the cartoon, takes inspiration from classic Kurosawa samurai films.
Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is a fun experience for the eight or so hours I spent with it. It does a good job of capturing the essence of what makes Jack’s story so loved even after all these years with its absence. The gameplay can be a little repetitive and there aren’t too many meaningful interactions with the wonderful supporting cast to make me wonder why they were even added to the game. So much more could have been done in this area to flesh out the overall game. Despite that, if you’re a fan of the show then you can expect to enjoy the game for what it is: a good ol’ hack ‘n slash samurai throwback.
Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time Review
- Graphics - 9/109/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
If you’re a fan of the legendary animated series then you’ll no doubt find enjoyment here cutting up Aku’s robotic army as Samurai Jack. Just don’t expect much more than that out of this title.