Furi is the kind of game that will live and die by its initial impressions. By the time you have finished the tutorial boss in the opening moments, you will already have the majority of the information you require to formulate your opinion of the game. You’ll have seen the art style, you’ll have seen the ebbs and flows of combat, and you’ll have seen the majority of your moveset. If you find yourself initially turned off, Furi will not do much else to tantalise you further. On the other hand, if Furi immediately clicks with you, prepare to dive deep into it as the game doubles down on its stylishly intense combat.
To boil it down, Furi is essentially a collection of boss fights. While that doesn’t sound like an engaging proposition in the long term, Furi’s boss fights are multi-stage encounters with a series of formidable foes. Certain fights in particular can take somewhere in the region of around 20-30 minutes and consist of several different stages. For example, a single fight can start off as a twin-stick shooter, transitioning into a close-up clash of swords, before widening back out into a bullet hell fight for survival. You’ll need to whittle down your opponent’s shields using you pistol or sword (if you get close enough), then you’ll usually need to defeat your opponent in a parry-and-riposte style duel. Once you’ve done this, you’ll take a chunk of health off of your opponent, then you’ll move on to the next phase. The last phase usually culminates in a desperation attack from the boss, where you’ll be avoiding more projectiles than Piers Morgan sat underneath a dart board.
While the battles are similarly structured to each other, the elements work together to create an interesting push/pull mechanic. You can be on your last notch of health, but with a little concentration the potential is there for you to rally, push yourself back up to full health, and win the battle. With a perfect parry you will recover a chunk of health, and for every notch you take off your opponent, you’ll get one back. This possibility helps you to navigate the variations of each boss fight, giving you ample opportunities to best your opponent. If you continuously block your enemy or break their guard, you’ll be able to combo them, giving you a satisfying camera cut-away with adds to the cinematic nature of the fight.
There is a deliberate learning curve at play here that may put people off initially. While the first boss acts as a decent tutorial, it throws a bunch of mechanics at you and expects you to fully absorb them. One of the concepts that requires further explanation is that all of your actions can be charged up by holding down the appropriate button. This is especially handy when it comes to the dash ability. Trying to dash quickly can seem delayed if you hold down the button a fraction to long, as your character will only move once you release the X button. However, if you’re aware of this you can use longer dashes to make sure that you move the required distance out of the way of an attack. While the uninitiated may feel that the controls are not up to par, delving into the How To Play section shows that there is a lot of nuance to the combat and that the controls are responsive, if you’re using them correctly. However, the game should do a better job in teaching the player these mechanics without the need to stop playing and read up on the basics. Once you have mastered the controls, Furi becomes an enthralling series of duels. Your reflexes will be tested to their limits as you parry your opponent’s attacks, but you are rewarded with an exhilarating clash and the knowledge that you have bested your enemy in a straight fight.
Furi does have an easy mode for people who want to experience the story, but developers The Game Bakers do not award any trophies for playing through in the mode. On the other end of the spectrum, upon completion, you can try the game in Speedrun mode, which strips out the story and tasks you with completing the game as quickly as possible. There’s also Furier mode, which changes boss attack patterns and generally makes the game more difficult; in case you weren’t feeling challenged enough.
Your adversaries in Furi are designed by Takashi Okazaki of Afro Samurai fame, and the majority of them are sophisticated and interesting. The third boss in particular is highlight, from both his character design (best described as DJ Ghandi) and the design of the encounter. Each fight feels sufficiently different, and this is aided by the hyper-colourful, stylish characters and environments. The battle arenas are also well realized and perform beautifully, even if there is a little visual tearing on some of the larger arenas.
Between fights, you are awarded a little downtime to reflect on your actions, and to hype yourself up for the next fight. A character called The Voice appears in these sections as you walk between arenas, giving you a little background on your opponents and what to expect. While he encourages you to be merciless in your actions and to show no remorse or reverence towards your foes, something doesn’t seem quite add up. The bosses all seem united in their purpose for standing in your way (and imprisoning you at the start of the game), so something suggests that they aren’t the heartless monsters The Voice makes them out to be.
As the story won’t necessarily appeal to everyone, it’s a shame that there isn’t a way to speed up these sections. Your character walks incredibly slowly in order for The Voice to fit all of his dialog in and, while the landscapes are visually appealing, it would be ideal if players had the option to skip these sections or at least move past them at a reasonable pace. Personally, I found these sections a welcome piece of respite between highly intense matches, and I felt as though the game was hyping me up for the next one, like a boxer walking to the ring. However, I understand that this may prove a frustration for some people. You can hit the X button which allows your character to walk automatically, allowing you to treat this like a cutscene if you’d rather do so.
These kinds of minor grievances do start to add up. From the lack of explanation around its controls, to the unfriendly way in which players cannot skip the sections between combat, Furi is occasionally in danger of turning people off. However, the flair with which Furi delivers on its premise, from the art style to the well-designed, fervent fights, is more than enough to save it.
Furi manages to style its way through a series of flaws to produce a thoroughly satisfying boss brawler.