Genji: Dawn of the Samurai (released as Genji in Europe) is a PlayStation 2 game released on September 20, 2005. It is loosely based on The Tale of the Heike. A sequel, Genji: Days of the Blade was released for PlayStation 3.
The story follows the adventures of Minamoto Yoshitsune as he descends from his mountain retreat and eventually embraces a quest to defeat the Taira clan, thereby avenging his father. Early in his journey, he meets the Tamayori clan who are the guardians of the Amahagane – stones of power that allow select individuals to release magical powers known as kamui.
Gameplay is third-person combat, similar to what is found in the Dynasty Warriors series (produced by Koei) and Shinobi 2 (produced by Sega). The player controls Yoshitsune or Benkei, and both characters are equipped with two basic attacks: Normal and Special.
Yoshitsune is your archetypical fast and agile warrior, making up in speed what he lacks in strength. He is able to jump on small platforms (which, if jumped on by Benkei, would collapse). He wields two swords, and can also use his sword to 'hang' onto a ledge before jumping again, allowing him a double jump of sorts.
Benkei is the more powerful but slower character, with greater range than Yoshitsune. He uses a large war club, which can also be used to destroy certain structures and heavy doors in the game.
There are two ways to improve your character: By levelling up normally through defeating foes, or by using Essences of Amahagane to level up certain stats. Both methods are independent of each other. Normal experience can be gained by defeating enemies - the more enemies defeated in a row and the more strikes scored, the higher the experience. Benkei and Yoshitsune share this experience total. Amahagane experience is increased by using three Essences of Amahagane to increase a stat (either health, attack, or defense). This level is independent for both characters.
Yoshitsune and Benkei both have a number of kamui bars under their health bar. The number of kamui bars a character has depends on the number of Amahagane collected in the game. While in battle, the character's kamui bar will build up and the player can release this stored power for devastating attacks which slowly evolve as the story progresses. While in this state, time slows down allowing the player to enter what is essentially a "critical counter hit" mode where each correctly timed button press will defeat a standard foe with relative ease. A player can also use kamui while already in kamui mode. This enhanced kamui causes enemies to move even slower than a single kamui.
Note that in normal battle, the counter hits that happen in kamui mode can also happen. The screen turns negative for a moment, and the character scores a critical hit. However, this is quite rare out of kamui since timing the button press would be beyond the range of normal human reaction.
Kamui is a special feat that uses the power of Amahagane. A Kamui maneuver summons a magical space in which you can avoid enemy attacks while simultaneously executing a devastating attack of your own. There are some attacks that cannot be avoided using Kamui.
Genji and Heishi
The word Genji is a reference to the Minamoto and is an alternative reading of the kanji. Equally, Heishi (or Heike) is reference to the Taira and an alternative reading.
The hero of the story, Yoshitsune is the youngest son of the late Minamoto no Yoshitomo, who was defeated and killed by Taira Kiyomori during the Heiji Rebellion. Never knowing about his father's death, He has spent a lonely childhood at the remote mountain shrine of Mt. Kurama. After one day being attacked by members of the Heishi Clan, who were seeking possession of his Amahagane, sixteen year-old Yoshitsune follows a mysterious warrior down the mountain to find his destiny.
A giant warrior monk who was loyal to the Minamoto clan and now roams the land, fighting against the Taira in the hopes of one day serving the Minamoto again. Benkei uses his superhuman strength to pulverize his enemies with a giant war club that is taller and heavier than most full-grown men. Even though they were defeated in the Heishi Rebellion, Benkei dreams of the day when the Minamoto clan might return to power.
The Amahagane bring Yoshitsune and Benkei together through a great duel. Benkei loses to Yoshitsune, and in doing so he realize his life's true purpose. He swears to protect the young Minamoto, and fight by his side as a brother in arms.
Known as the “Priestess of the Tamayori”, she is the only person who can use the magical power “Yosegane” rite to enhance the power of the Amahagane. She is targeted by the Heishi, who wish to take advantage of Yosegane. To evade them, she fled far from civilization and now lives quietly in hiding with Kiichi Hogen.
Yoshitsune’s older brother, leader of the Minamoto clan. He has planned to restore the Minamoto clan to its former glory ever since the defeat of his father Yoshitomo at the hands of the Heishi.
Leader of the Tayamori clan and guardian of the Amahagane. He helps to rescue Yoshitsune and teaches him about his kamui powers.
He is the chief of the Tamayori clan who are charged with guarding the Amahagne. It is the duty of this clan to see that they are not used for evil purposes. Kiichi Hogen is a master Buddhist mystic, and has enchanted Shizuka’s hiding place to help hide her. He is one who asks Yoshitsune to help the Tamayori retrieve the Amahagne that have fallen into the possession of the Heishi.
Taira no Kagekiyo
The Main Villain.
He is the single most powerful warrior of the Heishi. His power is rumored to exceed even that of Kiyomori Taira. Kagekiyo rarely shows emotion and executes his orders in a calm and ruthless manner. With Amahagne in hand, he possesses the power of a thousand men in battle. He was on the front lines during the Heishi Rebellion and his prowess played a great role in the Taira victory. Kagekiyo wields a special weapon that combines two blades in a single pommel, and with it he tirelessly hunts down Yoshitsune.
Taira no Kiyomori
Leader of the Taira Clan
Kiyomori is the leader of the Heishi. He used the Amahagne to defeat the Minamoto clan’s army during the Heishi Rebellion, and now governs Japan according to the whims of the Heishi. Not satisfied with his victory, he wishes to become sole master of the Amahagne and spread his power even farther. He also seeks the priestess Gozen Shizuka, the only one who can use the secret Yosegane magic.
Princess Minazuru Hogen
She trains with her father, Hogen, hoping one day become a full-fledged Tamayoribito. Although she has not yet developed special powers like Shizuka, she still a bright young girl who is well liked by all the townspeople. She often carries rumors and information from her town to Yoshitsune.
Hidehira leads the Fujiwara clan and governs Oushu, the second-greatest city in Japan. He has refused to become involved in the battle between the Heishi and the Minamoto.
Led by Kiyomori Taira, the army’s warriors use Amahagane. They also employ the Yourenshu, who control demons. Its forces currently are in control of Heian-Kyou, the city that will one day be called Kyoto.
Historical and literary references
The storyline of the game follows roughly the third section of the Tale of the Heike which deals with Yoshitsune’s rise against the Taira clan while the character’s early life is based on information from the Gikeiki. Many of the characters in the game also appear in the Tale of the Heike.
The game’s storyline and time period corresponds with the Genpei War where the Minamoto and Taira clans fought for dominance. The Minamoto won and established the Kamakura shogunate ushering in the Kamakura period. This is considered the beginning of the era of rule by the samurai and hence the reference in the title.