The year is 1565thee young samurai nears the end of his training, only one more thing he must learn. Many years he has prepared and has studied the complex arts the will mean him becoming a fully fledged Samurai and he can defend his people with honour. Travelling for hours in freezing snow, deep in the Japanese mountains he slowly reaches the end of his journey and the beginning of his destiny. The door slowly creaks open on the ancient Shinto temple as the dust slowly subsides. There stands the ancient book of Samurai, within is pages lies the deepest secrets, the most profound lessons and the way of the Samurai. As he slowly opens the book, he can see the pages come to life in front of his eyes. The words are there in front of him and they speak the truth.

“Press the X button and sometimes the Y button.”

Behold! Samurai Warriors on the Xbox 360 summed up in one small sentence. I would love to tell you that this game contained something more than pressing the X button over and over and randomly pressing the Y button for a change but this game is pretty simple. This may make it very easy for first timers to pick up but it will also lead to the feeling you have played it before. Imagine coming home with Samurai Warriors 2 in your hands and then noticing the game’s title on the box is pealing off. You carefully take it off to reveal…Dynasty Warriors! Like a Samurai warrior in Medieval warrior’s clothing, this game does not really move past the age old [Yes, it does feel like that -Ed] hack and slash that has been seen in Dynasty Warriors and the subsequent 3 or 4 hundred sequels, ripoffs and subtle reinventions of the genre. I will get all of the bad stuff out of the way first so we can look at the good points of the game.

Since 1997, when the first Dynasty Warrior game appeared on the PlayStation, the game has been improving its graphics, playability, lifespan and additional gameplay tweaks. Various spin-offs have appeared over the years and the most noticeable one is Samurai warriors. First appearing on the PS2 and Xbox back in 2004, the game is still fairly new and the fairly recent sequel on the 360 is the best version available. For the moment at least. Graphically the game is fairly pretty, some nice special effects and detail is not too bad but the obvious PS2 port roots rear their ugly head from time to time. The fogging is present in all of the levels, mainly to mask the poor pop-up that appears. While the maps are fairly large, it just prolongs the random running around and killing enemies over and over. Some of the special moves are pretty nice to looks at but nothing that would convince you that your purchase was making the most of your 360. The game does manage to throw a good amount of units on screen at once but nothing compared to Ninety Nine Nights. The fogging does betray the amount of units as, due to the handy mini-map, you can see all of them running around. Without the fogging it would have been great to see thousands of soldiers but alas, that is not to be. Graphically the game is not terrible but it is not going to win any beauty contests. The CGI looks nice and if only the game looked like that eh.

Samurai Warriors 2 does have some nice little sounds effects and musical jingles all the way through but apart from the twee Japanese music, it sounds like Dynasty Warriors. Slicing, chopping up things, punching soldiers, it all sounds like you would expect it to in a game. It is not going to scare your Hi-fi any time soon because the music just fits the game. Nothing more and nothing less.

As for gameplay there are 26 playable characters to choose from, all with their own weaponry, skills and magical abilities. The characters range from the slightly boring Mitsuhide Akechi (Your standard Samurai warrior) up to the very entertains Kotaro Fuma who happens to be a nasty ninja. With 26 to choose from, many of which are hidden for you to unlock, the choice comes down to how quickly you want to progress through levels. The game does throw at you the usual Beat-Em-Up style characters by having a big, slow man with a heavy weapon, skinny small girl who is fast and so on. Maybe if they had gone the serious route of Samurai’s instead of this half real world historical happenings, half confused pyrotechnics’s display, the game would have been vastly more enjoyable. At least the game does give us a fair few different modes to play with. Story mode follows the path via each character as they travel around, killing soldiers, talking to people, killing soldiers, collecting random items and killing more soldiers. All of the characters have different levels to play on but you do tend to meet most of them in all of the levels. Each character starts off at Level 1 with various stats in Life, Musou, Attack and Defense, fairly standard RPG trickery. As you kill endless soldiers you get given a variety of items and XP, which as it accumulates, you gain levels and increases to you main stats. Musou is another word for Magic, so you increase your Musou level from, you guessed it, hitting things around the face. As this builds up you can unleash powerful spells and abilities to, wow you guessed it again, kill more soldiers. The game is pretty huge with all of the extras available but the question is if you really can be bothered to get them all or not.

Story mode is simple and is where you will spend most of your time leveling your characters and unlocking the new ones. Controls are fairly responsive but nothing to get excited about. X is your Normal attack, A makes you jump, B unleashes your Musou attacks once built up and Y lets you charge your own Musou without attacking but it takes a while to build up. Left Trigger shows your map, Right Trigger makes you Evade. Left Bumper Guards or makes your strafe and Right Bumper puts you in Special Stance mode which lets you do a few special moves. You can reprogram the buttons if you feel like it too. Everything is there and it works, nothing special and the camera does a fairly good job of keeping and eye on you but you do have to give it a slap once in a while to get it back into shape.

Free mode is like story mode but without the story and you are allowed to choose any of the levels available, along with the characters you have unlocked and their levels, weapons and abilities. No pressure, no long winded stories, just killing things, over and over. Before every level and this applies to pretty much all of the game modes, you get to see the map in full and you can choose your Equipment sets (weapons and items you find lying around) Skills you have acquired from leveling up and buying at the local Samurai Warrior shop and you also you can have a private guard which helps you out. The help comes in the form of joint Musou attacks if they are close enough. You can also have a mount and ride around in battle if you really want to but you are far more efficient on the ground. Then you have Conditions which basically let you know what you need to do in order to win. Officers show you your friendly soldiers and lists the enemy soldiers as well. Officers are harder to beat and tend to drop better items when killed. When it comes to tactics, killing an officer drops the enemy morale, making them more likely to run off and increases you morale, making if more likely you will do all the work. Next up you have the Moves list which lists your moves. I wish I could say more but looking at a list of the same button movements over and over makes my eyes go funny. My personal favourite choice happens to be Main Menu, where you will spend most of your time no doubt.

Survival Mode just throws soldier after soldier at you until you die, the game dies or the world ends. Take the above modes, increase the random killing by 100 and you have Survival Mode. Amongst all this boring, sleep inducing gameplay, it would be great if Koei actually did something new and interesting. Well friends you now have Sugoroko (It basically means Back-gammon), which is a bizarre hybrid of Monopoly, Risk, mini-games and killing soldiers. With up to 4 players you take turns to roll a dice to choose your spaces, purchase land and charge people for landing on it, have disputes over land and challenge people to mini-games. You have to occupy territory and make gold, while battering the gold and land out of your enemies. Very addictive [You are so sad -Ed]. and if Koei had any sense they would drop the Samurai Warriors bit and bring this to Xbox Live Arcade I cannot explain how weird this is, so you have to play it to see. You also have the Vault option which shows off what you have found in your travels.

As another addition to Samurai Warriors 2, Koei has also added some fun Xbox Live options where you can battle with people over Xbox Live. You can use your own characters or start with full level ones. Ranked matches and player matches are in, as well as the usual quick match and custom match. You can also download a variety of extra weapons, guards and mounts if you fancy it but that is up to you. While adding Live features is a great addition, there are much more enjoyable games to be playing on Live right now but Samurai Warriors online is a diversion from the main game.

Overall Samurai Warriors 2 is not a terrible game. It is a very repetitive game which a few sparks of idea have been thrown (Sugoroku mode) surrounded with pressing the same button over and over again. If you can find it cheap enough then this game is a good, fun, brainless fighting game. While you may have seen this done before in every Dynasty Warriors game, Samurai Warriors 2 does manage to be the same old game with a Samurai based twist.

Originally Written By: Barrie Rogers

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