“I have some catching up to do”. Yes, you certainly do….
This phrase will become instantly familiar as soon as you pick up your controller and start playing the game. I doubt the developers expected it to be as ironic as it appears, but it certainly isn’t far wrong.
The decision to merge two Koei franchises together isn’t a particularly hard one. When comparing the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors games together little has set them apart in terms of gameplay, story and even quality. As Samurai Warriors is a spin-off from its older Dynasty brother, this is pretty much to be expected. Or at least it would be if the series were still going strong, offering new gameplay elements or even just a lick of polish for hardcore fans. Unfortunately, only the developer’s most loyal family members will praise them for what they have churned out now. It’s ten years since the first Dynasty game hit our shelves on the PS1, with that series alone producing nineteen sequels. With the inclusion of the Samurai series as well, the combined franchise is well into it’s retirement home… or at least is should be…
“The franchise is well into it’s retirement home…or at least it should be…”The first point to establish about this game is that it is a budget title. Gamers can already pick this up for under £20 if they look in the right place, giving the title a little bit more appeal. If publishers Omega Force had released this at the normal retail price, I can safely say the ship would have sunk faster than the Titanic. The fact it is meant to be a cheap thrill is not an excuse for a quick tie-in that plays extremely poorly however.
When starting the game up you may be forgiven for getting a slight joust of excitement. The intro looks pretty good, and warms the gamer up for what seems to be a decent fighting game. Unfortunately, this first impression quickly falters, as it is obvious this game is little more than we’ve seen before. Even the title screen lacks any real style. This should be wetting the gamer’s appetite as they excitedly prepare for battle. Instead of this, it utters the poor execution that lies within the rest of the game. A lack of options, visual direction and terrible music make the game’s opening screen a laughable one and starts what is a poor gaming experience from the very beginning.
“A poor gaming experience from the very beginning.”The player has the opportunity to play through one of the four available stories, or to compete in a battle they have unlocked previously from any story in the Free Mode. Apart from a gallery, this is ALL that the game offers. The chance to play as one of four camps hardly makes up for the lack of multiplayer or the absence of any real depth. The game offers a choice of three Dynasty Warriors camps backed up by one Samurai team.
When starting, three officers are ready and waiting to take to the battlefield for each camp. With a total of seventy-seven available after the process of unlocking, it is here where the new gameplay element lies. Players can now switch between the three selected warriors whenever they feel necessary within a battle. Although this is a rather simple addition to what is now a tired formula of hack and slash action, it does offer as much variety as it can possibly muster. This brings a whole new tactical element to the game, as the time you change your warrior is vital to the result of the proceedings. If you fail to do so efficiently, enemies are likely to overpower your fighter, resulting in bitter defeat. I say bitter as when you lose; you have to start the entire battle process again. As all of them have the potential of lasting an hour each, this is a daunting task that will infuriate many gamers.
Weapons can also be combined together to bring new powers, making the upgrade system somewhat valuable. After the player kills a certain amount of people, upgrades will quickly follow. It is here where we experience the abysmal voice-acting. Each character talks as if they are trying to imitate Legolas from the popular Lord Of The Rings movies. It doesn’t work at all, as the transition from Japanese game to English lacks any valuable acting talent.
The prospect of completing all four stories is one that many will avoid. Each offers a different tale, which combine together to make one giant, confusing epic. The basic outline will serve you sufficiently, as it is virtually impossible to become sucked in and engaged in what is such a generic storyline….. Evil Serpent King known as Orochi lands on Earth and overruns many powerful factions. A group of great fighters unite in order to beat his threat, working together as a team to eliminate…zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Sounds a bit like Mortal Kombat if you ask me….
Anyway, if the story mode was presented in an exciting manner this may save the bad start. True to form, it is absolutely awful. The cut scenes use the in-game engine that reeks of last-gen polygons. After each battle we have to read more confusing facts about Warrior A and how his journey became even more of a struggle. Interested yet?
The character models are also extremely boring and unattractive to the passer by. There is nothing here that would grab your attention. The settings are even worse, as the player freely runs around what is essentially a huge square filled with bland textures and as much colour as the grim reapers funeral. It certainly isn’t a visual treat for the player, as there is very little for the developers to boast about here.
Often with Japanese games the musical score is something elegant, beautiful and insanely captivating. Just look at the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series; both masterpieces in their own right. Orochi’s soundtrack however is something that will make your ears bleed. Here we have a mixture of Japanese techno-rock that totally gives the game the wrong feel. These stories should be told with a soundtrack that boasts charm and vibrancy, not something that makes you feel as if you need a lie down quickly. The Japanese have storytelling down to a fine art by large, which makes this even more of an embarrassment to the musical fans.
In a week that has seen games released like Skate that indulge a new, exciting, and totally innovative control system released this is a major disappointment. The left joystick controls the player movement, whereas the right stick is for the hugely infuriating camera. This can make or break games, as the line of playability can inevitably be surpassed. In this case the game is stamped on, flung across the room and wholeheartedly broken. The camera just swings around the area you’re fighting in, making it harder to control than the battle itself. A combination of the X and Y buttons are your attack, with the triggers to switch between warriors. Simple. It is this simple outlook that makes the actual fighting so pessimistic and spoils any fun that may have occurred. At this point, the temptation to get your money back is a sincere one…
The enemy AI is what tops this experience off. Although there are literally hundreds of enemies on screen at once, they all look exactly the same. Armies are meant to look similar, that is a given, but making their faces identical is a move that highlights the speed at which this game was developed. At times, the AI is hardly apparent. You can stand within a group of enemies for seconds without them making a move, which obliterates any remote challenge that a hardcore gamer may be looking for. It is points such as this that drag the game down to the bargain bin quicker than you can say “Sayonara”.
“It wouldn’t even set the last generation of consoles alight”Overall, this game falls short of the standards the Xbox 360 is currently at. Within the last two months we have seen games such as Bioshock and Halo 3, making this totally unimportant, unremarkable and unneeded. After the recent Dynasty and Samurai Warrior games, it seems clear that the development team needs to go back to the drawing board and get some new ideas in. The series is in need of a complete revamp, as in its current state it wouldn’t even set the last generation of consoles alight. It is products like this that make it obvious why the 360 is currently failing in Japan. As this series is a best seller, the audience deserve a bit more than a combination of new characters and a few overused tricks. The series is gripping onto life as much as it possibly can, but maybe that place in the retirement home isn’t too far away. A game made solely for the hardcore player. Any other Xbox gamer stay away, you aren’t missing anything.
Three out of ten
- Stays true to the series; fanatics only.
- A cheap thrill
- Offers nothing new
- Graphically poor
- Voice acting and musical score is laughable
- Poor gameplay
- Lack of options