Review – Ganryu 2: Hakuma Kojiro

What is it with 2022 and the release of sequels to previously unknown Neo Geo titles? We started off the year with the release of the excellent Windjammers 2, and now a few months later, Ganryu 2: Hakuma Kojiro has dropped. This lead to the biggest question of all: what the hell was Ganryu to begin with? I’d be shocked if you had ever heard of its predecessor, let alone played it, considering it was a very niche side-scrolling action game released for the Neo Geo back in 1999, long after its peak years of relevance. Why the developers and publisher thought there was demand for a sequel is beyond me, but hey, I’m not going to complain. We could have gotten much worse.

Ganryu 2 Running and Slashing

Running and slashing at the same time feels great. I wish I didn’t need to double-tap in order to run, but hey, what can I do…

Ganryu 2: Hakuma Kojiro is a Strider-esque action-platformer. More so in the sense that you control a samurai/ninja hybrid complete with a very similar moveset as to what Strider Shiryu had back in the late 80s. You have access to a fast-paced katana attack that also serves as a projectile deflector, a finite amount of kunais, and a screen-clearing magic attack, which is great for crowd control, but a useless piece of crap against bosses (more on that later). In fact, the game follows Strider’s gameplay to a tee, even in its flaws, namely the mandatory double-tap on the directional pad or analog stick in order to run. We’re ninjas, for crying out loud. Why on Earth would I want to walk in a game where everyone is hell-bent on murdering me?

It’s hard not to fall for the game’s visuals, considering how well it manages to look like an even more detailed take on the iconic Neo Geo “24-bit” graphical art style. It’s even more commendable when you realize the game was coded in a modern engine (Unity). It looks great and it runs decently enough. I have heard of other ports of the game suffering from framerate issues, but I haven’t been able to see any issues in the Xbox One version. The soundtrack is also pretty good, being comprised of traditional Japanese instrumentation mixed with more modern sensitivities. Although, I expected a bit more, say, “pizazz” from it.

Ganryu 2 Combat

The funny (and also infuriating) thing about Ganryu 2 is that its enemies are a pushover…

I may have praised this game a lot so far, but I wouldn’t say I have managed to have as much fun with it as I wanted to. It tries way too hard to play and feel like a quarter muncher from the 90s, which can be seen in its infuriating difficulty spikes. Simply put, this is the game that throws you into somewhat manageable stages, only to punish you with a boss that requires insane amounts of skill and memorization in order to be defeated. As is common with games like this, bosses pack one hell of a punch and have way too much health right from the get-go.

I get why they’re so hard in an arcade game: they’re meant to be the hurdle that will require lots of lives (and coins) from the player. Were Ganryu 2 an actual arcade game in an actual arcade cabinet, I would have understood that. But as a consumer product with an upfront admission ticket, I feel like the game would have benefited from a difficulty slider. Its limited lives system goes against the “if you don’t succeed, keep trying until you do so” mentality seen in games like Dark Souls, for instance. In these titles, I can retry a fight as much as I want, without worrying about my limited lives. That’s not the case here. It’s three strikes and you’re out.


…until you reach the level’s boss.

At the risk of sounding like the typical scratched record begging for a difficulty slider, Ganryu 2: Hakuma Kojiro is the kind of game that would have been a lot more enjoyable if it actually had one. It gets so many things right, namely its great visuals and controls, but some of its difficulty spikes, most notably its obnoxious boss fights, will frustrate a lot of players. All in all, a pretty good arcade action game which reminded me a lot of classics like Strider… but I’ll probably just stick to its more enjoyable sources of inspiration.


Graphics: 8.5

Ganryu 2: Hakuma Kojiro takes advantage of a modern engine in order to recreate the original game’s art style with more detail and particle effects. It works pretty well for the most part.

Gameplay: 8.5

It plays similarly to arcade games like Strider, from the fantastic game feel whenever slashing down enemies in front of you, to how annoying it is to double tap in order to run.

Sound: 7.5

A pretty good soundtrack, all things considered, with tons of traditional Japanese instrumentation thrown into the mix. Although, I have to say, I expected a bit more “pizazz” from it.

Fun Factor: 6.0

This would have been a much better game if it wasn’t so downright infuriating to deal with the emotional rollercoaster that is its difficulty curve.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Ganryu 2: Hakuma Kojiro is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of Ganryu 2: Hakuma Kojiro was provided by the publisher.