For three games, Way of the Samurai has shown what happens when you set Grand Theft Auto in feudal Japan. Perhaps Saint's Row is more accurate. The series doesn't take itself seriously, traditionally favoring a comic-action tone and sticking to simple, effective samurai gameplay with a fair choice array. We checked out Way of the Samurai 4 at E3 2012, and the title's humorous fundamentals were on full display.
The story centers on the British making their first landing in Japan in the 16th century. In the city of Amihana, they have established a Little Britain and started a silk trade, which draws both happiness and resentment from the Japanese in the area. The player takes the role of a lone samurai who comes into the powder keg between the British, vigilante isolationists and the Shogunate's forces.
The samurai's choices begin with his or her look. The new option of being female may be diluted by the fact that everyone will still talk to you as if you are male — making some lines humorously uncomfortable — but it's just the start of a surprisingly deep character customization. Just about any item can be resized and placed, having no influence on stats. Going ridiculous is highly encouraged; players can even upload characters and beat up other people's creations to take their stuff.
The customization even extends to weapon styles. Players can learn a variety of bare-fist, gun, spear and sword techniques. These can then be combined into custom styles to optimize the fighting to your play style. Keep in mind that "gun" means bayoneted muskets here.
The gameplay is intentionally quite open. While there is a story line with some branches, there are also many, many side-quests. One of the biggest examples is in the language barrier. British speech is completely unintelligible at the beginning of the game, but as you progress, you can choose to set up a language school, which allows you to learn English and speak with the Brits, and this also causes more British to speak Japanese.
Additionally, the player might choose to go for a very different sort of score. You can seduce the ladies and go for some "hot coffee." Unlike San Andreas' infamous locked-out minigame, the play here is developed with a publishable rating. The player can bump into a lady, see her reactions and woo her. If successful, when he meets the woman that night, he may be forced to knock out rival suitors before proceeding to see the fair maiden. An intentionally odd pillow-fighting minigame ensues, and it ends by fading to black with a random stack of sound effects. I don't want to imagine what kind of coitus involves ducks, splashing water and swords, but I am sure that players will be inspired to get creative in all the wrong ways. When asked if there were male options, XSEED's PR team said there may be some secret paths for that.
The graphics are certainly PS3 quality, with a realistic tone. The play includes a nicely rendered day/night/week cycle. Sound effects are punchy, while voice acting consists of mumbling noises — presumably so legitimately bilingual people wouldn't have an advantage.
Way of the Samurai 4 looks to be a humor-filled pile of crazy when it comes to the PlayStation Network It is recommended for fans of Saint's Row, which has a similar mix of comedic tone and open world gameplay in a distinct setting.
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