Many games try to do too many different things and end up being a hodgepodge of unsatisfying and unfinished elements. Furi is the opposite of that. Furi is an action game with only difficult boss fights, no exploration, no puzzles, no platforming, only straight up duels between you and a boss. As such, these fights must be spectacular because it is the only element of the game, and it stands out for all to see. Luckily, Furi lives up to that expectation and its combat system is possibly my favorite in any game ever.
While Furi does not have many individual components, its combat itself has a ton of different elements tied to it. First is the bullet-hell aspect, in which bosses shoot waves of projectiles at the player and you must dodge and shoot back. Of course, these projectiles come in many different varieties, standard bullets, tracking bullets, lasers, bullets that cannot be destroyed, shockwaves, etc. The next element in melee combat, in which the boss strikes in a variety of patterns in which the player must either dodge or parry the attacks. Each boss has a set number of “phases”, and in each phase the bosses have two forms. The first form is “zoomed-out” mostly comprised of bullet hell patterns with the occasional melee strikes, and once you complete that you move onto the next form. The second form zooms in and becomes a melee duel between you and the boss. The real brilliance of the combat lies in the lives system.
You get 3 lives when starting a boss. If you lose a life at any point in a phase, the phase entirely resets. If you lose all 3 lives, you start the boss all over again. It would be pretty daunting to go through five or six phases per boss with only three lives, but the developers had a great solution to this. Every time you defeat a phase, you get a life back. This gives the player an ample amount of opportunities to attempt each phase. This is great because Furi can be a little trial-and-error as you attempt a new phase. You have to learn each attack pattern and how to respond to it. The combat is a mix between pattern recognition and performing the actions necessary to dodge and deal damage. As you learn these patterns and the correct response, it is inevitable that you are going to take some damage. The fact that the player has a decently sized health-bar to take a lot of hits combined with the lives system makes sure that you get plenty of time to learn all the patterns. The feeling of absolute pride and accomplishment when I finally conquered a tough boss was immeasurable, and I love games that can evoke that feeling.
Although I said Furi is solely based around its combat, there are a few other underlying elements to elevate the experience. The visuals and music are absolutely stunning. The electronic tracks produced by a few different artists is reminiscent of the Hotline Miami soundtrack, pure intensity and gravitas. Each track was composed specifically for this game, so they match stunningly well with each boss encounter. I still listen to a few of the tracks from this game (I really enjoy the songs made by Toxic Avenger and Carpenter Brut). The bright visuals and neon-soaked and cell-shaded atmosphere of Furi are immensely visually appealing, and they make it easy to tell exactly what is going on in combat. The characters themselves are anime-esque, which makes sense considering they were designed by Takashi Okazaki, the creator of the acclaimed manga and anime Afro Samurai. Every boss is extremely memorable not only through gameplay, by visually as well. Finally, the story of Furi is actually pretty solid. You are imprisoned and your only goal is to escape by defeating the nine guardians. The reason why you were imprisoned is not clear until the end, and then everything starts to click. The game is pretty light on plot until the very end.
No game is perfect, and Furi is no exception. The first of its issues is that it is short. Your first playthrough will probably take around four hours, and subsequent playthroughs will be shorter because you know how to handle the different bosses. That being said I consider Furi a game that is meant to played at least a few times. I say this because Furi is unique when it comes to its hard difficulty, “Furier”. This difficulty does not just increase the health and damage of the bosses, but it gives them entirely new attack patterns. Each boss in hard mode is essentially a new boss from a gameplay perspective. Their attacks are similar, but they are changes enough that you have to learn them all over again, and they are tougher this time around. I don’t usually play through games multiple times, but Furi was an exception to that because hard mode was so enjoyable. Furthermore, because Furi is just action and nothing else, I can easily see myself revisiting it just for a quick boss rush in the near future. If I ever want some tense and fast-paced battles, Furi is my new go-to game.
All that being said, there is an issue with Furi being meant to be replayable. It’s the short sections in between the bosses. These sections are basically cutscenes, your character walks along while another character spews narrative at you. This serves three purposes: First as a cool-down period between the high-octane fights, second as a means to get some narrative and storytelling, and third it is meant to build up the next boss. This was fine my first time around, but on subsequent playthroughs this becomes unnecessary. You should be able to skip these sections because players who already beat the game don’t need to hear the story or about the bosses again, they just want some action. Of course, you could watch them if you want to again, but they should be skippable. Especially because there is about an hour of these sections in the game, and the game is only a few hours long. A large chunk of play time is devoted to these walking sections.
Furi is a very niche game. It is intense, it is challenging, and it is not meant for everybody. This is not strictly a bad thing as I would prefer a tightly-knit game like Furi to a messy and unfocused game. But Furi is strictly action, and that action is very fast-paced. So, if that doesn’t sound appealing to you then stay away from Furi. If what I’ve said sounds fun to you, then you absolutely have to play Furi. For these reasons I give Furi an 9/10. It is an absolutely phenomenal action game with an innovative combat system. However, if you don’t like rapid combat and challenging bosses, then don’t bother.