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PS2 Review - 'Samurai Warriors'

by Hank on June 4, 2004 @ 1:12 a.m. PDT

Samurai Warriors takes the techniques and expertise gained during the production of the award-winning Dynasty Warriors series and combines it with new energy to create the next evolution of Tactical Action games. For the first time players will enter the world of ancient Japan to fight in both historical and fictional battles.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: KOEI
Release Date: May 4, 2004

Buy 'SAMURAI WARRIORS': Xbox | PlayStation 2

The instant a gamer mentions Koei, they will think, “Oh, the makers of Dynasty Warriors,” because that is their flagship series. They do have other games, but they have not received as much fan support as this series. So to broaden their selection, they have decided to make a game similar to the Dynasty Warrior series. This time, though, rather than having famous Chinese generals, they have decided to move across the East Sea (Sea of Japan) to the small island known to many as a haven to gamers, Japan.

Everyone knows that the Dynasty Warrior series has been very successful, but will Samurai Warriors, a game similar to Dynasty Warrior, still receive the same amount of support? I can’t really say, because I’ve never tried their newest addition, Dynasty Warrior 4. The last one I played was Dynasty Warrior 3, so I may not give a fair enough comparison, but after you read this, I hope you can decide which one is better.

The first thing I noticed when I first inserted this game was the CG intro scene. You see a set of characters fighting against a massive army; it may not be realistic, but if you know about Chinese history, Lu Bu was rumored to be able to take out an entire army on his own because of his massive strength. Well, in Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors, they try to abuse this ability, placing almost all of the important roles on the character you play (or so it would seem to me). Whenever a new mission occurs, you are the only one who can carry it out, and most of the time, you don’t have much support other than maybe your bodyguards (who don’t deal nearly enough damage). In the end, you can only depend on your character’s strength which differ between the characters you choose.

For example, if you use a shinobi (a ninja), the attacks are slightly weaker, but you have more speed plus magic-type attacks. On the other hand, if you play Yukimaru, the attacks are slightly stronger but may have a little more delay since he uses a large spear. To make up for this, you should always remember to equip your character with the proper items in order to achieve an easy victory (Similar to Dynasty Warriors).

Victory conditions vary from level to level, but most of the time, they are rather simple: somehow defeat the opposing leader. Depending on your character, you may have times where you are forced to defeat every single general (the key characters) on the map. And let me tell you this: with the shinobi, this is rather difficult. Shinobi are just not nearly as good as other characters for hand-to-hand combat, and I would suggest that they should stick to espionage missions. But these ninjas may be what distinguish Samurai Warriors from Dynasty Warriors. I do not really consider ninjas as being samurai, but I guess it’s hard to classify the entire old Japanese fighting style without just calling them samurai. A couple of advantages that these ninjas have over other characters are the double jump and the “ninja path.” The ninja path is a shorter and faster “hidden” path to reach your mission objective. These paths are usually also filled with fewer enemies, giving you an easier time to get to your goal. However, as a ninja, there is no instant kill that you can execute (as seen in Tenchu); you will only see them when you trigger an event.

Events happen quite often on the battlefield, since these occur for almost every general you defeat in battle. What I find odd is the fact that even though you defeat them, it’s quite rare for them to die. Only after playing five levels with a character I finally see the opposition fall to your hands. Bosses just don’t want to quietly surrender and die, blasted enemies. And the levels at times differ depending on how well you finish missions. Most the time the missions would be to defeat the bosses and these bosses (generals) are not that easy to find, the only time you can clearly be sure where they are located is when hear the sound of the siren which means you have just gotten a mission objective. The map will then blink blue, showing your next destination. If it’s marked with an X, it usually means you must protect that location. If it’s marked with a circle, you must defeat a general in that vicinity.

Although these markings direct you to the correct location, getting there is a task of its own, forcing you to face riflemen, archers, ninjas, not-so-important captains, and if you’re especially unlucky, maybe even a cannon or two. This game (like Dynasty Warrior) just keeps giving the player plenty of enemies to kill – it almost seems like an overabundant amount of them, but thankfully they don’t respawn. These enemies are a true pain in the neck, especially when they are supporting a general, since those bosses have a larger amount of life and musou than the regular enemies. The generals become extremely powerful with their backup support, giving them the time needed to hand me a beating, especially when there are enemies who shoot bullets or throw bombs. One thing that I really find interesting, however, is the fact that you can play baseball with the arrows. Yes, you can literally smack an arrow right back toward the source. The physics maybe a bit questionable, but it’s great that there is a way to counter those annoying long-range opponents. Once you beat the level, you can then increase your character’s skills in Might, Prowess, Guard, and Element using the points earned during the last battle.

If you have never played a Dynasty Warrior game, I would strongly suggest going into the Challenge mode; this mode sort of teaches you the basics of the game. Well, it’s more like it just lets you practice moves without really telling you which button does what. The control set is identical to Dynasty Warrior’s: L1 to guard, Triangle for charge attacks and multi-charge attacks, Square for regular melee, Circle for musou, R1 for ranged attacks, L2 to toggle map, and R2 to evade. I have noticed, though, that there isn’t nearly as much variety in the attacks as you see in Dynasty Warrior. This may be due to the fact that I only leveled abilities up to a certain amount rather than distributing the points more evenly, but if I remember correctly, you never needed to purchase new moves in Dynasty Warrior. Regardless, to get the basics of this game, you can go into Challenge mode, which will let you try the moves while trying to beat the set highest score. Although, even if you do beat the score, I am not certain you unlock anything.

The only way I’ve discovered to unlock items is to beat the game over and over, completing each character’s story to unlock new characters. In its counterpart, Dynasty Warrior, you had to achieve certain objectives. This might be related to Dynasty Warrior having a wider variety of characters with a total of 40+ characters, while in Samurai Warriors, there are about 15 characters. But one thing that both have done well is to portray realistic historical characters. As we all know, we can’t have a game of this genre without Nobunaga, Takeda, and Leysu (sadly, this character is not unlockable).

Out of these three characters, I’m most familiar with Nobunaga, since a lot of games have used him as a reference (especially Capcom’s Onimusha 3). When I compared the graphics of the two games, Nobunaga looked pretty similar in both, wearing some sort of spandex clothing. Their facial features had such a shockingly similar resemblance that you can almost say the two companies may have used similar graphic artists. Since I’m not truly familiar with the other characters, I can’t say if they resemble the figures as they are portrayed in history, but they do all look pretty realistic, especially during the CG scenes. During the game-play, it is slightly harder to really see the character’s face – sometimes the character is covered in armor, and the camera angle tends to go haywire on you, giving you a weird camera focus at times. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen often, because losing sight of your enemy can be very costly. Rules of engagement usually state that you should not let the enemy get behind you, for it can mean sure defeat (another way to say you could be ambushed, although the capabilities of the PS2 prevent the ambush from being on the insanely awe-inspiring level that you expect to see in real war situations back in the day). At most, you may see three squadrons fighting, which will total to about 60 enemies if you’re lucky. Most of the time, you will just see groups of about 20, and you can’t really see them until you are a certain distance away. At one time, I had an enemy run away and just disappear out of my sight – that was really bad, but when you load up the next screen, you see them again. On the other hand, I was really impressed that there was no lag time during the massive attacks, which is possibly due to the fact that your execution of the musou freezes the enemies so that you’re the only one with the ability to attack, removing the possibility of any collisions occurring. The maps seem oddly similar to Dynasty Warriors, with one difference: Samurai Warriors now has an indoor battlefield where you have to find your way through the maze to reach your goal. And throughout that maze, you will encounter many enemies and traps lying around all over the place, so be on your guard.

For these battles, you must have a decent music track to match them. To be honest, I don’t even really remember the music track. I think I was too focused on beating the enemy, hearing blades clashing and the sounds of war going at full blast. It may also be that the main focus was on the characters’ voices and the sound of the horn when a new objective or event occurs. Koei has been good at keeping the original languages, and this title does the same.

Overall, I think this game may be a test series for Koei to try new things out and see what gamers like best so they can add a few tweaks into their already flawless Dynasty Warrior series. Or maybe they want to give everyone fair treatment by expanding the genre from exclusively Chinese history to including Japanese history, considering they have already expanded into US history. Well, if you are wondering if you should get this game or not, I can’t really say. The repetition is quite high, but it plays almost identically to Dynasty Warriors, so it might be a good addition. Still, the total number of levels is rather low, so you can run through a character’s story in less than an hour. Because of this and my uncertainty about the game, I say go try it yourself.

Score : 7.8/10

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