There are not many games out there that let you carve, slice and totally eradicate hundreds of people in the space of mere minutes, if there are, they’re usually titles that end with the word ‘warriors’ and either deter a gamer, or excite their internecine fantasies. Samurai Warriors 4 not only delivers with its tight combat mechanics and lengthy gameplay, but also breathes life into the hack and slash genre.
Set in the Feudal era of Japan, Samurai Warriors plays out key battles and events in exaggerated fashion, hosting more than 50 playable characters, each assigned their own move set. The main meat of the game is carried out in Story mode. Here, players select available legends and play through different stages to unlock further scenarios. The story mode this time round has you choose two characters to play from instead of one, and with a touch of the options button, lets you switch between the two in battle. At first, this feature seems a little redundant due to how easy it is to wipe out your enemy, but as the levels go on, you find yourself swapping between the two faster than one could swear Seppuku due to how hard things quickly get. You can also delegate tasks to your partner in a sort of ‘attack him’ or ‘keep me safe’ manner, which actually works quite well when you’re in a pickle sorting one guy out stretched at the other end of the map, and your leader is being ambushed by sneaky, sneaky ninjas.
Within stages, there are numerous amounts of missions to accomplish and bonus missions to achieve that are unlocked depending on how well you play out these missions, and sometimes dependent on the character you pick. For example, choosing to play as Toshiie Maeda in Nobunaga’s legend, you play out a mission unique to him. Certain partnerships also include unique dialogue, but this is strictly trivial and doesn’t add too much to what’s already there. That being said, it helps spice things up when you play through story mode a second to unlock everything and get that pesky platinum trophy.
The other mode available is Chronicle mode. This starts by allowing you to create your own character to join the already robust roster and travel the states of Japan to collect items, recruit and befriend officers, and participate in various missions to level your character. The character creation screen isn’t exactly something you’d find in say, Mass Effect or The Elder Scrolls series, but it does well enough to have your samurai fit into the game without looking bland. You start with three facial pre-sets that can only be described as normal, anime and moderately aged to then play around with the facial features to your liking. Once done, you’re free to roam Japan.
Set on a board game type platform, in Chronicle mode you jump from place to place participating in missions and meeting famous warriors throughout to recruit and befriend. Befriending an officer requires to select the right option when having a conversation with them. I say conversation; it’s more an event which sets up a sort of dilemma, and choosing the best option makes them either happy with you, or partially agitated. This doesn’t seem to affect much as you can find the friendship meter increase, even if you get the question wrong. Still, it’s a good feature to include and it gives you more of an insight into each character’s personalities. In addition, you also have a mentor who sets certain challenges to complete. Being a Swordsman for example, asks of you to defeat 100 officers and clear a bonus objective in a stage. As daunting as this may sound, this brings more of a challenge to the game and keeps this mode interesting. Considered ‘Grindy’ to some extent, you’ll still find you’ll do ‘just one more mission’ before you realise you’re in the land of the rising sun and your night has completely disappeared.
For the modes to work so well and for any hack and slash game to be considered successful the core gameplay mechanics must be precise, and oh boy, SW4 sure does deliver in this area. Infact, the highlight of the game may very well be its deep combo system and weapon upgrades.
All characters are split into four categories: Normal, hyper, special-skill and power attack and these play a big part in how your samurai moves. Normal characters tend to have a well-rounded set of moves whilst power characters focus more on singular attacks to decimate their foes. New to this system aswell is the use of the hyper attacks, which truly are an eyeful when executed appropriately. In standard ‘warriors’ fashion, the combos start with the square button and extend when pressing the triangle after counted intervals. For the hyper attacks, the buttons are flipped, and to lead, you start with the triangle button and end with the square button instead. These attacks are meant for crowd control and completely obliterate your opponents whilst looking devilishly cool. As you level up too, you’ll also unlock new moves and abilities.
To add more to the series, each weapon you collect has gems you can customise to upgrade and make your sword, daggers or even umbrella (they’re eventually going to run out of ideas) even more deadly on the battlefield. The shop allows you upgrade your weapons, reforge weapons into another’s and exchange gems. Here, you’ll spend time exchanging your gems into better gems using gold. Gold is way too easily acquired and you’ll find you won’t have a problem buying out most stuff, but this is a nit-pick rather than a gripe, as you still have to grind to get gems. Furthermore, there are a plethora of new items to collect which temporarily assist you during gameplay, such as health restoration or faster movement and ‘heirloom items’ that add a new spin on things when playing. To get these, you defeat the officer assigned to that heirloom. Magoichi Saika’s heirloom for example, allows you to summon rifle soldiers on the battlefield, as this is appropriate to his style of play- A nuance to the series, but a great one at that.
To conclude, there must be a reason why we have a western release for this game and the reason is underlined through Samurai Warriors 4’s lengthy story, detailed character design and superb combat system. Even the music is memorable and it feels like Koei and Omega Force have done everything they can to not only satisfy fans of the series, but try their hardest to attract new fans. Both local and network play has been included also, and I’ve never had issues online.
There’s no real reason not to pick this game up, even if you’re not a fan of the hack and slash genre, you might find this game can persuade you otherwise.