There’s real promise in Hana Samurai’s combat system, a variant on Punch-Out’s dodge-and-counter mechanics with greater freedom of movement. And it’s almost entirely squandered on a repetitive, tedious campaign that, even at fewer than four hours in length, manages to outstay its welcome.
The ability to shuffle around the battlefield makes little difference to your strategy: you’re locked into fighting a single enemy at any one time, and you’re generally better off standing still, waiting for their individual tell, then dodging and slashing accordingly. Occasionally you’ll have to evade or parry projectiles, while enemies will halt their run to mess up your timing; others will sprint and you’ll have to dodge that split-second sooner. This, sadly, is Hana Samurai’s idea of variety.
In an obvious bid to fatten up its slender runtime, there are no checkpoints and your life bar doesn’t refill between levels. You can collect or buy food to replenish your health, but drops become increasingly rare as the game progresses and enemies more plentiful. Die on a boss fight – as will likely happen before you’ve learned its attack patterns – and you’ll have to slash through every one of his minions all over again, an arduous process, particularly when factoring in a trek to the store to stock up on supplies.
It’s ugly, too, with wholly unappealing characters slapped onto lifeless backdrops that would barely have passed muster in the N64 era. Hana Samurai isn’t entirely without merit, but ‘Punch-Out with padding’ proves to be game design seppuku.