Thursday, November 6, 2014

Samurai Warriors 4 (PS3) Review

After what seems like a long wait since the third game, Samurai Warriors 4 has made its way to the west.  As most Warriors sequels, it brings a new mode, more characters and a few other changes while trying not to mess with its 1 vs. 1000 hack and slash style.  I like most of the Warriors games, so I was looking forward to this releasing, since I actually prefer Samurai to Dynasty.  While the game is subbed only, which makes it harder for me to pay attention to objectives, I was happy to see there was far less pop-in versus Orochi 3 Ultimate, which released around a month ago.

To add more to the hack and slash formula that has worked so well for Tecmo Koei over the years, they added a hyper attack.  It effectively replaces the strong attack, and adds a new combo string to each character.  It does not replace the strong attack as a combo ender for the normal attacks, so you basically lose 1 attack that wasn't very useful, and gain another whole string with new enders.

The hyper attack usually has your character dash a short ways while attacking.  It's great for groups of grunts, and that's exactly what it is for.  It's almost overpowered, but officers have little trouble batting it away.  Therefore, there is a split in your combos.  Hypers are best for big groups of weak enemies, and the normal combos are best for officers.  I'm totally fine with this.  I really like the new hyper attacks, since it seems much more like an anime samurai, attacking so fast you can't see it.  I should mention I love that trope a lot, so it almost caters directly to me.

In a similar vein to the 3DS Samurai Warriors game, you have two characters on the battlefield at a time.  You can switch between the two and, thankfully, give simple orders to the one you aren't using.  Each battle contains multiple objectives that can give you extra rewards for completion.  Having two characters makes a lot of them actually possible by yourself.  The objectives themselves are fine, but expect to play each stages multiple times if you are a completionist, as you can't see what the objectives are, or who you need to use to get them, until the stage is completed once.  It is possible to get them all the first run though, but that is an exception rather than the norm.

You can bring several items into battle with you that give various buffs.  Gone are enemies sometimes dropping these buffs, like double attack or defense.  This doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would, since choosing when to activate something makes it easier to get it when you need it.  Each playable famous officer also has a personal treasure that gives a special effect, and it has a cooldown, rather than the one per battle use of the regular items.  Getting said personal treasures is a bit more difficult, since each officer must be killed a certain way for a chance at getting it.  I'm not sure what affects the chance, but regardless, it will take lots of grinding to get them all.

The weapon and skill system is, again, slightly revamped from its previous iterations.  Skills have a max level, which is determined when you get it, and requires gems to upgrade.  You get plenty of gems and money, so that part isn't the issue.  However the skills and max levels of them are random, and you can't merge items to transfer skills.  No more making your perfect weapon... you have to hope that you randomly get it.  Ugh.  Thankfully, you can transfer weapons to other people, so you can spread around the love to characters you have yet to use, and make sure they can survive the battles you throw them into.

The stories are broken up into factions, focusing on a few select characters per each.  They also vary in length, from 4 stages for the lesser factions to 8 or more for the big ones (Nobunaga, etc.)  The presentation is fine, but I would prefer a more streamlined one, so it is easier to see what happened when, or at least put the years at the start of each stage.  I know the games aren't 100% historically accurate, but I'd still like to be able to figure out what happened when without drawing a chart.

The new mode for the game is Chronicle mode.  Seemingly based on the 3DS games, you create your own character and run around Japan fighting battles.  You can meet up and befriend famous officers, which you can also play as if you want.  It's pretty open ended, and the battle objectives don't matter as much.  Plus, making your own character in these games is really fun.  Though, I'd like to see a bit more instruction for Chronicle mode, explaining what affects what, so you aren't just moving around and fighting without purpose.  They even brought in the quiz levels from Hyrule Warriors, although they are much harder here.  The ask things like, "which is the eldest brother", or "who's name is written differently in Kanji?"  Not impossible, but not really geared toward western audiences.

Like most Warriors games nowadays, there is a good amount of content.  Going through the story modes takes 20+ hours, and chronicles mode adds a lot more.  It could end up being endless, given the random nature of it.  Plus, if you are going after trophies or completion, there is a lot of grinding and re-doing levels for the personal treasures, objectives and rare weapons.  The two player is done a lot better than previous games, since you choose if you want single, co-op or online when you select story or free mode.  No more remembering to hit start at that one point every single level.  The only real problem with two player is there is a small dip in draw distance and frame rate.  It's not as horrible as a lot of people would have you believe, but it is there.

Samurai Warriors 4 is, to me, a great addition to the series.  The hyper attacks are a lot of fun, and adding what amounts to a second combo string gives each character a lot of moves, plus the rage mode/spirit meter returns.  The new characters fit in, and some of them are lots of fun to use.  The story mode offers a good chunk of playtime, and the Chronicle mode lets you create your own character and adds even more content.  The random nature and length of the Chronicle mode will be off-putting to some, and the highly objective-based battles in that and story mode aren't the most seamless the series has had.  It's still lots of fun, and I recommend it to any Warriors or hack and slash fans.

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