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

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