The Nintendo Switch continues to provide green pastures for indie developers to bring their games to, and it’s giving us a great reason to revisit a number of gems from the last few years. The genre mash-up of Furi is just one such gem, but as I took a break from playing on Switch and delved into TSA’s archives to check what we’ve written of the game before, I was surprised to discover that we don’t actually have an original review. It’s time to right that wrong (with a little help from Miguel, because I personally haven’t actually beaten the game yet).
To describe it as simply as possible, Furi is a boss rush game. There’s no platforming sections, no fighting through dumb drone-like enemies, just the intensity of a string of challenging boss fights. However, within each fight, The Game Bakers have packed tons of variety, blending different genres together in brilliant fashion with fights that evolve across several stages of complexity and speed.
Each fight takes place in a large circular arena, starting off with the camera pulled all the way out. You can fire from a distance with the right analogue stick or charge up a more powerful shot at the cost of mobility, but you need to be wary of what the enemy is doing. They can fire balls of energy at you, emit waves, both big and small, all of which lends it a bullet hell style, but also close in for melee attack that you need to try and dodge or block.
Deal enough damage to them and they slump to the floor, letting you engage them in a much closer ranged duel. The camera pulls in, and while you can still move around them in a circle, you’re more constricted. Being able to block and dodge becomes more important here, as you seek to find an opening in which to unleash your own attacks and drain their health back for a second time.
Both you and your opponent have a number of lives to use up – three for you and a few more for them – and so knocking them down simply moves you on to the next stage, the next evolution of their attack patterns until you finally manage to defeat them.
Incoming attacks are generally well signposted, with melee strikes seeing their weapon glow white and giving you time to block, or with wide sweeps of their weapon showing the arc of damage that you need to dodge. Of course, with adrenaline coursing through your veins, keeping a cool head and surviving a fight is tricky, even if you know what to do. Furi is a game that subscribes to the “really challenging games are really satisfying” school of thought, and it’s true that there’s a sense of accomplishment and relief to beating each boss. That doesn’t make the game’s difficulty infuriating at times, with an option to step it down a notch once you’ve failed a fight once.
While the first handful of bosses in the game offer little variety beyond their aesthetic and the patterns their crazy bullets fly in, the later bosses shine not only in their story significance, but the ways in which they play with your gameplay expectations. One boss is a purely melee encounter with a unique camera perspective, while another forces you to track them down in a wide open battlefield like The Fear from MGS3. The final boss you encounter absolutely destroys your expectations of what a final boss should be. It’s the perfect final piece of a narrative puzzle made of various shades of grey pieces.
The reason for battling past all of these characters gradually unfolds between each fight, you’ve got bigger things to worry about while fighting after all! The protagonist is a mysterious man, The Stranger with crazy hair and a big sword – the parallels drawn to Afro Samurai make sense when considering that Takashi Okazaki worked on the game – but he fights to be able to return to the planet he calls home. He’s egged on and pushed forward by The Voice, an odd looking fellow with a rabbit mask on. This drip feed of exposition comes through laconic and slow-paced walks through the environment that look cool, but there’s minimal player input even if you don’t just turn on the auto-walk.
As you watch the credits roll on Furi, you come to realise that the story is very much about the journey more so than the destination. Who is the protagonist? Why are they in this prison? Who is this weird bunny man that follows him around? As you consider these questions throughout the game, every character you encounter and the way they react to the protagonist makes these mysteries weigh heavier and heavier on you. I had no problems with these questions being left mostly unanswered, because the path I took to reach the ending gave me more than enough to think about and sit with me long after the credits finished rolling.
It is worth noting, though, that if your curiosity does gets the better of you there is a secret boss and ending you can uncover after the credits roll. I urge you to leave this stone unturned, though. Much like learning how the sausage is made, pursuing these answers will most likely be a journey of nothing but regret with a narrative twist that could and probably should have been left on the cutting room floor. Nobody needs to see where Mona Lisa goes after she gets up from Da Vinci’s bench.
And from the collective minds of Carpenter Brut, Danger, The Toxic Avenger, Lorn and Waveshaper comes a fantastic soundtrack that would be a worthy contender for Best Soundtrack. Oh wait, it already won that…
Playing on Nintendo Switch, the game is just as great as anywhere else. It fits excellently on the console in handheld mode, with only very, very occasional hiccups, and the nagging feeling that the smaller analogue sticks might not be quite so great for the twin-stick shooting. It’s so natural in handheld, that I only briefly played the game docked on TV – I’ve been able to do that for the last 18 months, if I wanted – and even there, performance is generally solid, even if I did feel the game slowing down a fraction when at its busiest.
A fantastic genre mash-up between hack and slash, boss rush and twin-stick bullet hell shooters, Furi is as unique a blend now as it was in 2016. It fits effortlessly onto the Nintendo Switch, but it’s a game that is waiting to challenge you and worth testing yourself against on other platforms.
Version tested: Nintendo Switch