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Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Wii
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: Oct. 12, 2010 (US), Oct. 15, 2010 (EU)


PS3 Preview - 'Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes'

by Thomas Wilde on Oct. 7, 2010 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Set during a tumultuous period of Japanese history, Sengoku Basara Samurai Heroes follows players as they fight their way to the dramatic battle of Sekigahara. Players will take up the swords and spears of more than a dozen fierce samurai warriors in huge battles against hundreds of opponents in many exciting stages that lead up to the main event.

In the Dynasty/Samurai Warriors series, ancient China has been routinely split up into legions upon legions of faceless mooks who are mowed down by the thousands by individual warriors who might as well be superheroes. For all the good they do, the rank-and-file soldiers could've just not shown up at all. They exist largely as potential numbers on your KO counter, which makes me wonder how their commanders keep up morale. ("Yes, you are as tender wheat before the terrible, gleaming scythe of Lu Bu, but tonight is pizza night!")

As far as I can tell, Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes exists largely to prove that random foot soldiers' lives could actually get even worse. It's set in feudal Japan, sort of, but it's a faithful historical reproduction the same way that Wolfenstein is a World War II documentary. The first character I tried out is carrying approximately 50 sawed-off shotguns, several pistols, a Gatling gun, and an anti-tank rocket. The second punches entire armies to death by himself and has a giant black-armored robot with a pneumatic drill watching his back. So far, I've also seen land mines, bombing runs, and a dude with a jetpack. Further, Nobunaga Oda's up in this somewhere, and if past games are any indication, he will probably turn out to be a five-part, six-story ninja mech called Devil Revolver.

I began this preview by talking about Dynasty Warriors because Sengoku Basara is the same kind of game; it's just turned up to 11 in every possible way. Instead of a faint veneer of historical accuracy, it's basically an ancient Japanese superhero story, where you plow through armies of disposable soldiers. Each stage has different objectives, usually related to reaching and defeating the enemy general, and that typically requires you to reach and capture various heavily guarded enemy fortifications.

The challenge isn't so much in beating the random enemies as it is in keeping a combo string going because the more hits you're able to string together, the more money you can generate. Combos also rapidly refill your Basara gauge, which lets you unleash a powerful and unique multi-hit attack.

When you do reach a boss, the game abruptly switches gears and starts getting a little tricky. For the most part, Samurai Heroes boils down to "pummel soldiers, get Basara, nuke soldiers," and repeat. The bosses, on the other hand, tend to throw extra gimmicks into the mix, like invulnerability frames, projectile attacks, or a Basara gauge of their own.

The better you do in a given stage, the more experience you earn, and the more items and cash you can slap together, which allows you to buy and build upgrades. That boosts your stats, letting you beat up more soldiers faster.

By now, the basic gameplay model here is pretty old hat. It's an enduring and successful model; you'll still have some fun building a body count, seeing what ridiculous tricks you can pull off, and destroying everything in front of you. Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes has the additional advantage of being made by Capcom in full-out anime spectacle mode, so it's worth playing just to see the next utterly ridiculous liberty they'll take with history.

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