The Overlooked Gem of 2023: The Spirit of the Samurai

It’s both ironic and lamentable that amidst the deluge of highly-anticipated video game releases in 2023, I failed to notice an absolute masterpiece that combines beautiful visuals, a captivating storyline, and an innovative gameplay style. The Spirit of the Samurai, a stop-motion animated Soulslike Metroidvania infused with Japanese folklore, has managed to slip under my radar. Admittedly, Metroidvanias have never been my preferred genre, but the inclusion of eerie yokai, the ability to play as a “warrior cat,” and the stunning stop-motion animation have suddenly piqued my interest.

The Spirit of the Samurai introduces an action-adventure experience with a heavy emphasis on Soulslike and Metroidvania mechanics. Players will battle Japanese spirits, including the shape-shifting Jorōgumo, in various locations such as ruined villages, mountain caves, and desolate cemeteries. The entire game is brought to life using the distinctive animation style popularized by the late Ray Harryhausen, known for pioneering the Dynamation technique. This unique visual approach adds an extra layer of charm and authenticity to the game.

This game allows players to assume the roles of three different characters, each offering a distinct playstyle. Takeshi, a skilled samurai, possesses all the attributes one would expect from a feudal-era warrior. Then there’s Kodama, a brave but diminutive spirit who traditionally inhabits trees, enabling players to utilize nimble platforming mechanics to progress through the game. Finally, Chisai, a warrior cat, introduces a completely different set of skills and abilities. The ability to seamlessly transition between these characters provides a refreshing and dynamic gameplay experience.

As you navigate through The Spirit of the Samurai, your characters will gain valuable experience points (XP), enabling you to unlock new abilities, upgrade your attributes, and even create custom combos using the game’s unique combo editor. This progression system adds depth and a sense of growth to each character throughout the game, enriching the overall experience.

The game’s narrative centers around Takeshi, a samurai entrusted with the task of defending his village against an onslaught of Oni determined to conquer the land. Although the storyline appears straightforward on the surface, I anticipate that it will delve deeper into Japanese folklore, incorporating the captivating stories surrounding yokai. The trailer briefly showcases some grotesque creatures, and I am eager to uncover the origins and tales behind these eerie beings.

The Spirit of the Samurai is set to launch in 2024 and will be available on various platforms, including PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and surprisingly, even the Atari VCS. This multi-platform release ensures that players across different gaming systems will be able to experience this hidden gem firsthand.

The Spirit of the Samurai deserves recognition as an overlooked gem of 2023. Its stunning stop-motion animation, enthralling gameplay mechanics, and intriguing story rooted in Japanese folklore make it a promising addition to the Soulslike and Metroidvania genres. I regret not noticing its existence earlier, but I eagerly await the opportunity to immerse myself in this captivating world when it is released next year.


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