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Ganryu 2 – Hakuma Kojiro Review

Initial Release Date: April 21, 2022

Developer: Storybird Studio

Publishers: Just For Games, PixelHeart

Platform: Microsoft Windows

Genres: Action game, Indie game

"Review Copy Provided By Just For Games & PixelHeart"

I’m going to cut to the chase and just say that this is one of the hardest retro style games I’ve played in sometime and it commands your full attention otherwise you will fail and fail miserably…….and that is what makes this game a metric ton of fun! The game is a white knuckle, edge of your seat, pure side scrolling action that plays like Shinobi 3 in more ways than one. Reviving an IP that has been dead for the last 2 decades is always a gamble especially when you name the newer title “2” as most gamers will wonder if they will need to play the original to dive into the newer entry and often times (and in this instance) is not necessary at all. So, is Ganryu 2 a game that’s worth your time and effort? Let’s find out!

Ganryu 2 – Hakuma Kojiro is a sequel to the 1999 NEO-GEO original following the defeat of Sasaki Kojiro by the hands of Miyamoto Musashi. Set in the 17th century in a fantasy version of Japan on the island of Ganryu-jima, Musashi heads off to cleanse his soul by meditating and trying an alternate path in life with art. During his meditation, Musashi hears a voice that says to him “Miyamoto Mushahi, our fight is not over, I am waiting for you to finish our fight once and for all! All of Japan will pay for your insult! I’m waiting for you Miyamoto Mushashi!”. Deciding to take up the blade once more, Mushashi must travel across Japan to once again do battle with Kojiro and liberate Japan of his evil once and for all.

If you played the original Ganryu, then you will immediately notice how the sequel plays drastically different from the original as the original title played much more akin to Shinobi mixed with Strider and Elevator Action while Ganryu 2 is much more of a Shinobi 3 style of game that focus on you understanding your position on the battlefield along with your arsenal at your disposal and what the best approach to defeating all the enemies on screen will be. Mushashi can run, jump/double jump, slash his sword, throw kunai, wall jump, dash strike, and utilize Kami. You will need to master each of these moves as the game will throw enemy after enemy at you in an almost ruthless way as sometimes enemies will spawn in at random spots on the screen forcing you to be a bit more cautious and strategic in how you approach combat. Running in blindly attacking is a surefire way of getting yourself killed, especially since you can’t take many hits before Musashi dies so pay attention to where enemies are in relation to you and decide in the moment if a sword swing, dash strike, or kunai is what is needed to progress forward.

You can do a 3 hit sword combo when standing still and can also do a dashing strike that not only clears out any enemy in front of you but also knocks out any projectile thrown at you. If you double jump and press attack, then Mushashi will perform a windmill slash that kills anything he touches. You can throw kunai in any of 8 directions and can eventually get powered up spirit kunai, just keep in mind that you have a limited number of kunai and you should try to hold on as many as you can as they help a lot with bosses.

Kami comes in a variety of flavors with you being able to use a screen nuke, health recovery, gain temporary invincibility, and one giving you a attack buff which is useful against bosses. Gaining Kami is usually a level long affair as it takes several Kami items to build up your Kami and once filled you can press in the right stick to activate your Kami although I would save this for your boss fights.

There are 5 stages that you’ll be running through and each one is fairly lengthy consisting of two acts and two bosses. One of the stages will see you in an auto scroller where you are chasing down a boss in a giant mech and then that goes on to have you in a SHMUP style stage which is pretty cool.

Graphically, Ganryu 2 is one one of the most beautiful 2D games that I’ve played in some time with so much going on. Musashi looks incredible and stands out from the background with his green jacket and pinkish hakama with incredibly fluid animations for each of his movements. Enemies are impressive yet pale in comparison to Musashi, however, bosses are spectacular. The OST is cool but doesn’t have anything truly memorable.

As far as downsides go, the way enemies will randomly spawn in right in front of you where you are walking and where you jump is pretty annoying and then there’s the difficulty spikes which are relentless. If you make it to Stage 4 then expect to be absolutely floored with how the game will not only be throwing insane amounts of enemies at you all the while you will need to platform upwards while also avoiding projectiles and more……and this is just the beginning of the stage. The platforming in general can be problematic because of how the enemies will just spawn in and you aren’t able to react in time which will cost you health and eventually lives.

I also want to bring up the fact that there were many times where the game ran poorly with it having instances of slow down along with instances of the framerate drop from the smooth 60fps down to 25fps and below. This occurred the most in stages 2 and 3 and was quite jarring and messed up the often seamless flow of the gameplay. Another issue that I ran into was on stage 5 where the game would glitch out the animation of Musashi and cause his dashing animation to show ontop of his walking and jumping animations. I’m hoping a patch will fix these issues as they aren’t game breaking yet they are still annoying nonetheless.

Ganryu 2 is a game that you’ll want to grab if you are looking for some oldschool 90s hardcore action and don’t mind a sometimes unfair difficulty spike the further in you get. For all others, I would still recommend the game although just understand that the game is fairly difficult. Ganryu 2 stands as a great game that keeps upping the ante the further into the game that you go and never lets up and that is definitely a welcome change to when so many games these days hold your hand.

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