Genji is an authentic Asian slash-'em-up, and an extra special one. Imagine Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a PS2 game, and you're imagining something close to the spectacular visual experience Genji has to offer.

The gameplay and structure is largely based on Capcom's Onimusha series as you switch between playing a warrior monk and a samurai, and you slowly work through a number of towns, temples and arenas which are more often then not crawling with enemy samurai.

Each character has different weapons (swords, spears, etc.) and an individual distinctive fighting style. Similarly each character has his own strengths and weaknesses - strength, speed, agility - and so can perform particular actions unique to him. This is a fun way to play through two different perspectives - although to switch characters you have to return to the save-point, which means that there is some time wasted in travelling.

The majority of combat in the game involves simply banging the attack buttons repeatedly while you try to fight back against an onslaught of enemy samurai or vicious beasts. At the end of each section, you have to tackle a larger boss. You can get through most of the samurai attacks by randomly jabbing at the buttons but for the bosses you have to learn multi-button attacks.

Naturally this adds welcome variety and also a reason to master the combat controls. The combat itself is great fun, especially when you are surrounded by enemy samurai with only a very large sword to defend yourself.

The combat arenas are nicely interactive - you can jump off trees, onto roofs, and then down onto the enemy. There are a few mini-games and logical puzzles, which add to the overall diversity.

The main selling point for Genji though is its amazing visual intensity and stunning scenery. Game Republic have created a game with immense detail - from koi carp swimming in a pond, to blossom falling from a tree - Genji is a visual masterpiece.

The high-quality graphics are enhanced by a level of detail you would normally only expect from a Hollywood blockbuster. Whether it is mountains, towns, forests, villages, fields, lakes - the scenery is perfectly produced, and this makes the game ten times more interesting to play. Unusual camera angles and positions are also used to improve the games overall effect.

The cut scenes are equally impressive, with high definition and a photographic quality, which successfully transports you to twelfth century Japan. Genji also has a huge colour palate. At times, this looks a little brash and technicolor, but it mostly works beautifully.

Verdict

Genji is not a particularly challenging game, and does not bring any major new features to the action genre. It does though raise the benchmark of all action game's graphics considerably.

In fact, it is almost worth buying just to watch someone else playing.