Sengoku Basara: Samurai heroes from Capcom is perhaps not as well recognised as the Dynasty Warriors series from KEIO, however you could be forgiven for confusing the two, as they look and play very similar to each other, that is being a fairly monotonous and very formulaic hack-and-slash-em-up that you’ll quickly get bored with.
On first glances Samurai Heroes looks very promising; there are a number of well animated warriors to choose from, each having different strengths, whether that be for close-combat or ranged attacks. Each has their own story to tell, but typically these are throw away yarns that add very little to the game; it's simply there as a link through to fighting all and sundry on the battlefield.
The character models are fantastically detailed with flowing materials and sumptuous textures; in fact things look fabulous throughout the experience, with one attack rolling seamlessly into another. For those people that like showing off the eye candy to their mates, this is certainly a title to consider. It’s after this gloss has worn thin though that the shallowness of gameplay beings to rust through.
Every single level plays exactly the same, regardless of the environment, enemies or character you pick at the start. When entering the battlefield there are so many characters on screen at once that at first it can become a little confusing. There’s the anticipation of the battles being epic and filled with bloodlust - it just never gets fulfilled. There's actually no need to battle everyone and in fact you'll end up losing the skirmish by trying. If it gets your rocks off so-be-it, but to win the brawl it’s a matter of defeating key enemies and holding the strategic base points within a level. With enough of these captured the boss battle unfolds, which ends up being the same button mashing experience, but with a longer health bar - just don't lose or it's back to the very start. This repeats itself on every single map within the game – variety is not a word you’ll find in the instruction manual, on the box or anywhere else for that matter with this game.
Along with the story mode there is also the quick battle option where you can just get stuck in and kill things, without having to sit through the numerous cut-scenes and text. It’s still the same basic premise; it just means the action starts a little quicker. With no multiplayer to speak of, gaming with a mate is a no-go, which is a pity as a co-op off or online might well have spiced up an otherwise dreary game and would probably have lent itself well to the gameplay.
There is a definite RPG flavour to the title, with levelling available after victory in battles. XP is awarded for KOs, hit streak and camps maintained and these points can be spent on enhancing your character. There are also weapon upgrades, with further accessory creation that can be done with items collected on the battlefield. These are hidden inside Hatena Boxes containing regular materials such as coal and there are also regional specific materials that can only be found on certain battlefields. The greater the number of materials collected, the better the upgrades and accessories that can be created. This is one way of engaging the player to rip their way through more limbs and decapitations, however it’s just not quite enough to see things through to their eventual end. It does add a little something extra to the game, but it's still insubstantial and there are no complex menus or stats to worry the player away from the carnage.
Ultimately, despite the flair and lushness of the presentation, the game is pretty monotonous, with the same hack and slash, or in some cases run-and-gun gameplay over and over again. All the impressive flashiness can't save the game, even with the RPG element, from it being tedious and drawn-out. If eye candy and mindless violence is your thing, chances are you'll enjoy it for a little while, but gamers looking for a deeper experience may want to think twice or even thrice before parting with their hard-earned cash.
Marty has been gaming since the heady years of the ZX-81 and still owns most of the gaming systems purchased since those days, including the Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, SNES, Jaguar, Dreamcast and GameCube. Being a collection junkie (or more accurately, hoarder), he buys more games than he can possibly play, far too many of which are still sealed in their packaging. Marty favours RPGs and Driving games when it comes to genres, and is possibly a little bit too addicted to Disgaea. When not gaming he’s out frightening OAPs on his motorcycle, clad in black leather.