We do love a good parry. Furi’s is right up there with the best, returning projectiles to their sender, fending off attacks and, if timed perfectly, setting up a damaging, automated cinematic combo. That doesn’t happen too often, admittedly – frame-perfect timing will come only through mastery, and that will take time. Yet the greatest component of Furi’s parry doesn’t require perfection, just that you perform it successfully. Repel an incoming blow and there’s a flash of green, before your health bar replenishes a little. The parry is one of the purest expressions of risk and reward games have to offer, but rarely is the balance tipped so firmly towards the latter as it is here, where a successful counter not only leads to you knocking off some enemy health bar, but also restoring your own.
It’s entirely necessary, however, because – surprise! – you’re going to get hit a heck of a lot. Aside from interstitial, expositionary chats with a mysterious rabbit-suited accomplice as you strut from one fight to the next, boss fights are all Furi has. They are all that French studio The Game Bakers can use for challenge, variety, progression and pacing. It is not that they hit hard, per se, but that they hit in so many ways that mistakes, on a first playthrough at least, are inevitable.
Each opponent has multiple health bars, their moveset shifting and expanding as their stocks deplete. You do too – though you have only three, compared to the six sported by the two bosses in our demo. As such, Furi feels as much like a fighting game as a brawler, its action split into rounds. Win one, and your current health bar is refilled, your opponent moving onto the next part of their moveset. Lose, and your foe gets max health, staying in the same phase until you can beat it.
You’ve certainly got the tools to cope. Tilt the right stick and you shoot a volley of projectiles; squeeze the right trigger and you can store up a charge shot. A basic sword slash can also be charged up, stunning the opponent for a cinematic combo if it connects. Then there’s the parry, and a rapid, fully invincible, blink-like dash. It’s a rounded toolset, certainly, and there’s flexibility to it: a single enemy projectile could be dodged with your dash, reflected with the parry, or simply shot out of the sky. There are restrictions – certain attacks can only be dodged, countered or outrun – but it’s a varied system made by a developer that understands the importance of giving the player a flexible spread of options, not just a bunch of moves. The Game Bakers says it wants the game to feel like a series of duels. The two bosses in the demo the studio is taking to E3 are the same size as the player character, and they fight with the balletic elegance of a protagonist, rather than the brute-force destruction of a skyscraper-sized demon. It is, in Bayonetta terms, a full game of Jeanne fights, and is every bit as intoxicating as that sounds. There is drama to these battles, the music twisting and building as the combatants progress to the final phase, which delves briefly into bullet-hell territory before an up-close swordfight to the death.
This proves to be a sumptuous appetiser, although there are inevitable concerns over whether The Game Bakers can maintain Furi’s appeal across a longer runtime, particularly given that, on this evidence at least, your starting moveset will be all you’re given until game’s end. But in its current form Furi is a fast, stylish, responsive and, for all its complexity, surprisingly accessible take on the boss rush – a construct whose arrival used to prompt a roll of the eyes, but here promises a feast for the thumbs.
Art of fighting
Furi’s stark, neon sci-fi aesthetic is the work of Takashi Okazaki, creator of revered manga Afro Samurai. While Okazaki’s services were enlisted primarily for character and world design, his work has prompted a few changes in the game: The Game Bakers would send him brief outlines of boss characters and their abilities, but Okazaki would always add extra details that prompted the studio to make changes. The demo’s soundtrack is provided by Carpenter Brut, the electro knob-twiddler whose work appeared in Hotline Miami 2. The work of many more up-and-coming artists will feature in the completed game.
In Bayonetta terms, it’s a full game of Jeanne fights, and every bit as intoxicating