Archives by Day

April 2021

Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: May 23, 2017 (US), May 26, 2017 (EU)


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PS4 Review - 'Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada'

by Cody Medellin on July 26, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is a new adventure based on the heroic legend of the Sanada Clan, a cunning group of warriors from Sengoku Era Japan who believed in survival at all costs.

Buy Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada

When it comes to the story modes for the various Warriors games that Koei Tecmo has done, they almost all follow the same structure. The large cast of characters means that you'll dealing with smaller tales that revolve around a fraction of the overall cast. It works well enough when you consider how many playable characters each game gives you. Samurai Warriors 4 introduced Chronicle mode, which had you playing as one character that interacted with everyone but remained the focus of the tale. That mode seems to have struck a nerve with the developers, as Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada takes the well-worn formula and focuses it on one clan.

What you'll notice right away is that the story mode is the crux of the game. In fact, Free mode isn't unlocked until you're close to completing the main game. There's also no multiplayer, so this is a completely solo experience. Compared to the non-anime Warriors games, the shortage of modes can be jarring and makes this feel like a complementary game rather than a stand-alone title.

You'll also notice that the cast of playable characters is much smaller than in any of the previous entries. The focus on one clan means that many of the familiar characters are relegated to the sidelines, either as allies or enemies. A few of them can be played in the main story to fulfill side missions, and some even participate in the Free mode. The focus on one family means that you're sticking with those members for the long haul.

The story focuses on the Sanada clan during the Sengoku era of Japanese history. You start with the clan being allies of the Takeda clan, and you chart their rise and fall. This includes playing as the young upstart Masayuki Sanada from his first major battle to the time he raises his own family. You also take control of his son Yukimira Sanada, a mainstay in the series, from his youth until the fall of his clan. All told, the game covers a 54-year history in its normal 12+ hours of gameplay.

Although the era is familiar, Spirit of Sanada benefits from having a more detailed story. Past games have painted the battles and situations in broader strokes, acting more as a general account of each battle without delving too much into it. Here, the game chronicles the segments that are of direct importance to the Sanada clan versus the implications of the actions on Japan as a whole. It's a more personal tale that you'd see in TV shows or movies, so all of the moments of tragedy and triumph are more impactful. Compared to past games, it's a much stronger effort at storytelling, and it would be nice to see this level of detail again.

If you've played any of the Warriors games in the past, you know exactly what to expect. Playing as one of the Sanada clan, you're essentially a one-man wrecking crew who can take down hordes of foot soldiers with a few swipes of your weapon, although named officers and generals are a tad more difficult. Due to the dynamic nature of the battles, your tasks can include killing a specific officer, protecting your own ruler, and coming to the rescue of your fellow soldiers. While a few of the tasks are known beforehand, most of them appear as the need arises.

What's changed isn't the combat but the scope of the battles. You're no longer whisked from one large battle to another; instead, each major battle is broken down into sections with a day-night cycle. At first glance, the change from one large battle to several smaller ones doesn't affect the experience. However, ancillary tasks are given more focus here, so you get a better idea of what's necessary to achieve victory or loss by the end of the larger fight.

The lack of sweeping changes to the battle system means that some of the series' negative points reappear here. As far as the map layout and textures go, the environments are reused quite often. The AI is still deficient for your enemies and your own allies. For the latter, this means seeing them stand around and relying on you to handle all of the work for them. For the former, this means that you need to bump up the difficulty to be challenged. You'll also catch some foot soldiers looking the wrong way when they go after you, and a few even sit down and wait for you to hit them.

The bigger changes to the gameplay occur outside of battle. Between major battles, you have exploration sections. You still fight, but the encounters are in much smaller chunks and don't involve too many major characters. The levels are segmented further, so each part of a stage acts like a room with gates and barriers that clearly define the boundaries. Missions are mundane, like making sure supplies are delivered to a location, but the branching pathways ensures that you can approach some of the smaller situations in different ways. The initial exploration level provides a good example of this, as you can take on the enemy army, but going after a ninja clan on an alternate path means that they can't call on backup. The exploration sections also provide you with a chance to collect items that can be used in towns.

The towns act as central hubs for the various time periods in Spirit of Sanada. For the most part, you'll talk to people and get information about upcoming battles or their lives in general. There's loads of info given to you, so it's nice to see the developers include an encyclopedia for reference. Aside from talking with people, you can also plant crops in town or fish to get more items and experience to level up.

The focal point of the town is the blacksmith. Using the items gained in missions and exploration stages, the blacksmith can power up your weapons. The town is also where you'll train any of the secondary characters you pick up, either by sending them to a dojo or providing them with resources or golden coins.

The town aspect is nice, though it feels like necessary busywork instead of something you want to invest time on. The same can be said for the leveling of your secondary characters, as they run the risk of dying in the story or not being used for a long time.

From a presentation standpoint, expect no changes between this and the previous two Samurai Warriors 4 titles. From an audio standpoint, the music is appropriately epic, while the Japanese voice cast sounds excellent. The lack of English means that you'll have to pay more attention to the subtitles during battle so you don't miss important information. It also means that the bad voice acting of the early entries has been eliminated.

On the graphics side, this is virtually identical to the past games on the PS4. The title maintains an uncanny knack of displaying tons of enemies on-screen, and the details on some of the important officers remain impeccable. It still fails to run at the 60 fps that PS2 players were accustomed to, but the frame rate is stable. However, detail pop-in still exists, and the textures on some parts of the environment look less detailed than one would hope. With the knowledge that the upcoming Dynasty Warriors 9 is going with a brand-new engine, it would be nice if this and the upcoming Fire Emblem Warriors were the last titles to utilize this engine.

Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada works best as a companion piece to the main game that released a few years ago. The focus on one family of fighters is perfect, since it gives the team time to develop a real story instead of using a larger cast for broader tales. The core action remains just as good as before, but the new minigames and exploration sections fail to elicit the same type of excitement, especially with some of the caveats in play for the secondary characters you pick up along the way. For fans of the series looking for more story, Spirit of Sanada works, but only if you play it after an entry in the main series.

Score: 7.5/10

More articles about Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada
blog comments powered by Disqus