Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: September 19, 2006
Koei's Dynasty Warriors is a long-running and popular series, and they now hope to recreate that success, this time in Japan's Warring States period. Enter Samurai Warriors 2, one of the relatively few games that mixes history and fiction with wild abandon.
Koei has made a veritable fortune off Chinese history. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms series is 10 games strong across various home consoles, not to mention a number of Asia-only PC titles as well. Dynasty Warriors is a formidable juggernaut here in the States. There are ostensibly five titles in the main series, but that's leaving out the Empires and Xtreme Legends spinoffs that a few of the entries enjoy. When you add in Dynasty Tactics, you've got a real phenomenon on your hands. In short, there are a lot of Dynasty Warriors and Romance of the Three Kingdoms games, and it's entirely possible that some fans of the series have never even heard of the novel upon which the games are theoretically based.
In 2004, Koei took the DW formula and applied it to another famous era, though this time in another country. Japan and its Warring States period got the treatment in Samurai Warriors. It enjoyed enough success that it earned a sequel, which will arrive on our shores on September 19th.
Samurai Warriors 2 changes up the formula a little, and the characters get a linear story mode from beginning to end. There's little room for variation in semi-accurate historical fiction, but fans of "What if" scenarios shouldn't get too upset. There are still side stories to complete that let you experience an alternate history. Koei has promised over 70 cinemas for gamers to check out while working their way through the story mode. Judging by Samurai Warriors 2's opening cinema, they're going to do a good job of combining high-impact, fast-paced action and moments that serve to build character depth.
Two-player cooperative play, always a fan favorite, made it into SW2 as well, and there's a four-player party game for when you have friends over. The two-player co-op is probably the bigger draw of the multiplayer modes, as it's always more fun to chop up hordes of enemies with an equally skilled buddy than the characters that the AI controls for you.
The AI in our preview build were decent but leaned a little too far towards "pushover." The other characters would fight valiantly, but still end up struggling in battle and forcing you to retreat to their position and back them up. On a brighter note, the enemies aren't that much smarter. The named enemies are tougher, of course, and won't hesitate to pummel you to death at a moment's notice.
The voice acting in our preview build seemed pretty complete. The English voices, as usual, run the gamut from annoying to strong. Mitsuhide Akechi and Nobunaga Oda are properly menacing, while others simply sound generically heroic. The music is appropriate to the situation, with the cinemas being well-produced and loud, while the game itself sports a more subdued score so that you can hear the shouted commands.
Samurai Warriors 2 drops September 19th and should give you your fill of Japanese history. All of the usual characters make appearances, from Nobunaga Oda to Ieyasu Tokugawa, and the fact that each character has a specific story mode is a treat. It elevates the game to something more than a simple hack 'n' slasher. Look for the full review of Samurai Warriors 2 later this month.
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