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Xbox Preview - 'Samurai Warriors'

by Thomas Wilde on June 21, 2004 @ 2:14 a.m. PDT

Play as the brave Yukimura Sanada or other legendary warriors including the mysterious Nobunaga Oda, and the ninja, Hanzo Hattori. Your quest will take you to the sprawling Japanese battlefields of Okehazama and Kawanakajima and inside the embattled walls of Osaka Castle. Come face-to-face with gun-toting troops, echelons of ninja, and deadly kunoichi (female ninja).

Genre : Action
Publisher: Koei
Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: July 13, 2004

Pre-order 'SAMURAI WARRIORS': Xbox | PlayStation 2

There’s not much to say here, really. Instead of singlehandedly taking on armies of Chinese peasants in the third century A.D., as with the Dynasty Warriors series, Samurai Warriors has you fighting in the 16th-century wars of Japanese reunification, either for or against perennial video game bad guy, Nobunaga Oda. (Just for fun sometime, try and remember how many times Nobunaga shows up in anime or Japanese games as a demonically empowered villain. It’ll be great.)

The trappings of the previous Warriors series are all here. In the story mode, backed up by a pair of customizable bodyguards, you’ll still be racking up impressive three-digit body counts as you race around a variety of historical battlefields, slapping around platoons while you assist your allies and accomplish a variety of goals. If you liked Dynasty Warriors, and quite a few people did, odds are good that you’ll like this.

There’s a lot more to do in Samurai Warriors, though, once you get beyond the surface. A given map now contains a series of isolated events, forcing you to race from point to point accomplishing your army’s goals or protecting your objectives, rather than simply running onto the battlefield and smacking stray battalions around. You can end a battle early by targeting the enemy’s general, but to do so, you’ll first have to make sure his forces don’t neutralize your commander or your siege engines.

The metaphor I’ve seen used around the Internet here, is that you spend Samurai Warriors putting out small fires, while the Dynasty Warriors games were more of a giant conflagaration. In both, you’ll be called upon to hurt a lot of people very badly, but Samurai Warriors has a more strategic feel to it. You need to hang back, be patient, and figure out where you most need to go before you race off into the unknown. On top of that, Samurai Warriors also features new “castle” levels, where you must battle through a series of indoor dungeons, riddled with traps and teeming with guards, to face off against an enemy general.

Character advancement has been refined here. Playing a level well – a high body count, all objectives accomplished, the amount of damage inflicted while you’re in Musou – will grant you experience points and level up your character’s stats. If you do poorly, on the other hand, favoring massive yet strangely pointless melees as opposed to actually fighting the war (you’d think knocking out five hundred enemy soldiers would have more of an effect), you’ll earn more skill points, with which you can buy special abilities. These new skills include elemental combo attacks, increased character capabilities, or positive effects on your allies’ morale, just to name a few.

The Story Mode features five immediately available characters, as well as nine that can be unlocked, many if not all of whom are taken from Japanese history (such as the legendary bandit Goemon Ishikawa, or the warlord Shingen Takeda). Naturally, each character fights in a unique style, ranging from the ninjitsu skills of Hanzo Hattori to the princess Okeda’s yo-yo of doom. Over the course of the Story Mode, you’ll be able to either follow the path each character did in their real lives, or, via luck or skill, change it entirely.

When that grows tired, there are plenty of extra modes to keep you busy. Samurai Warriors features a long and challenging Creation Mode, where you can design and train your own general. Equip him or her with sword, spear, or naginata, and train them to your specifications. If you want an archer, a mounted lancer, a ground-based swordsman, or some elaborate combination thereof, the mode will allow you to train your character in whatever skills you like, over the course of a year.

On top of that, Samurai Warriors features Vs. Mode, where you and a friend can battle it out; Survival Mode, where you can explore up to thirty levels of dungeons in search of a mysterious final opponent; and Free Mode, where, just for fun, you can take one of the Story Mode characters into the create-a-general missions and see how you do.

Samurai Warriors is a lot like Dynasty Warriors, right down to the pound-on-X-‘til-your-thumb-breaks action, but it brings a lot more brainpower to the table. It’ll be out by mid-July.

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