Archives by Day

May 2024

Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Developer: Acquire
Release Date: Feb. 20, 2020

About Chris Barnes

There's few things I'd sell my soul to the devil for. However, the ability to grow a solid moustache? I'd probably sign that contract ... maybe ... (definitely).


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

PC Review - 'Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story'

by Chris Barnes on May 1, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

The Way of the Samurai is forged in battle! Play as a ronin during Japan's Meiji Restoration in the volatile Rokkotsu Pass.

I have an affinity for all things samurai, so it's great that we're living in a golden age of samurai games. With Nioh, Nioh 2 and Sekiro all being released within a couple years of each other (and Ghost of Tsushima just around the corner), my love for samurai games has never been stronger — that is, until I played Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story. With clunky menus, bugs galore, and a tired story, Katana Kami has put an abrupt halt to the wave of awesome samurai games that we have been spoiled with over the last couple of years. I've never played any of the previous entries from the Way of the Samurai series, but having trudged through this roguelite, dungeon-crawler spin-off, I have little interest in checking out the rest of the titles.

While it's not fair to expect top-flight narrative in a roguelite action game, the minimal story powers the gameplay loops. You play as a wandering ronin who comes across a blacksmith named Dojima, whose daughter Nanami has been kidnapped as collateral to pay off a debt collector. You offer your services to pay off this debt in return for Nanami's hand in marriage. All of this is revealed within the opening minutes of the game. After that, you are left with hours of boring dungeon-crawling to slowly chip away at that debt.

The debt collector gives you a set number of days to pay off a fraction of the debt. Each day, you can make one run through the underground forest to collect items, materials, money, and weapons. The dungeon, referred to as Jikai, consists of 20 randomly generated floors that are populated with skeletons, oni warriors, and snakes. If there were variety to the art, level design, and weapons, I might be OK with running through the same 20 floors over and over again, but there is little diversity in the aesthetics. With only two bosses (located on floors 10 and 20) that look nearly identical to each other, paying off the debt quickly becomes a chore.

The combat in Katana Kami is sometimes enjoyable. There are a number of different weapon types that offer different move sets. Some may be slow but powerful, others are fast, and a handful offer more mobility during combat. Enemies can be parried with a well-timed block or dodge. The parry results in a satisfying pinging noise that can be followed up with a high-damage hit. If this results in a kill, you can combo off of it with additional parry hits on other nearby enemies. It's a simple but satisfying system when you get in a proper rhythm.

Fortunately, it's possible to speed up your runs through the dungeon. As with other games in the roguelite genre, players will stumble upon portals that can cut down on the time to complete a run. You'll find shortcut routes that offer stronger enemies but a faster route to the end boss, portals that let you skip a floor (at the risk of being over-leveled when you advance), and mystery entrances that can sometimes lead you to a treasure room filled with goodies and relaxing music.

After a successful run (either by completing all 20 floors or using an exit portal that's available every three or four levels), the game clock progresses one day forward, and you are brought back to the surface. There, you can then sell off your collected swords and items, use them to upgrade your equipped swords, and check the newspaper to see what's happening in surrounding towns.

Three factions, all purchasers of the blacksmith's swords, ebb and flow between hostility and peace during the game's life cycle. As the hostility grows, the demand for Dojima's smithery skills increases to help you repay your debt payment more quickly. It's a cool concept that's unfortunately poorly executed. It works, but the manner of training is a downright mess. This holds true for almost every game mechanic within the game, and there are a lot of game mechanics. Menus and tutorials are downright abysmal. If you want to discard 10 swords, you have to discard each one individually. If you want to sell swords that you've collected, you must transfer them to the blacksmith inventory first — even though the game never informs you of that mechanic. I didn't realize that I could even sell the swords I was collecting. I thought they could only be used for smelting into materials to then craft swords that can be sold to the various factions (at a significantly lower price). This sort of clunkiness inhibits the overall enjoyment of the game.

You are almost guaranteed to encounter one bug or another in every single dungeon run. The bugs range from oversights to serious game-impacting issues that will make you power off your PC in frustration. During my 20+ hours with Katana Kami, I dodged into invisible walls that resulted in my character dying, AI that stands there without attacking me, swords with stat values of "#NUM", and the attack button ceasing to work for five seconds. Any joy that I had with the combat was quickly washed away by bugs like these.

If there's one saving grace in Katana Kami, the musical score is surprisingly enjoyable. As you progress through the dungeon floors, the music escalates from the peaceful sounds of stringed instruments to pounding drums as you delve further into the nightmare forest floors. These nightmare levels are occasionally broken up by treasure room floors that play a delightfully, cheery song while you pick up a plethora of materials and gold.

Despite decent music and my love for samurai games, there is little to recommend in Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story. There is little pay-off to finishing the game, aside from a cut scene and a new post-game dungeon. The bugs and clunky menus encountered along the way make the journey a slog. There are plenty of better roguelites, loot-driven RPGs, and samurai games out there.

Score: 5.0/10

More articles about Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story
blog comments powered by Disqus