+Very heavy narrative discussing the Sanada Clan
+Combat scenarios outside of the classic maps is a blast
+Voice acting, as always, is superb
-Lackluster performance on standard PlayStation 4’s while in heavy combat scenarios
-Combat mechanics are growing repetitious and dated
-Needs redesigned maps, combat scenarios, and graphics engines.
If you’re a Japanese history buff or a fan of Samurai Warriors, there’s no doubt that you have read into the events of the samurai Masayuki Sanada as well as his sons. It’s a record in history that fills in much of Japan’s Warring States period and it’s a story that comes embalmed by triumph, tragedy, and a legacy that will be shared for ages. It’s a tale that has been delicately woven in and out of the franchise for over a decade and a half. It’s a story that publisher Koei Tecmo and developer Omega Force have been proud to share time and time again. It’s also a very element that has been criticized by both fans and the rest of the gaming industry for being repetitious as ever for the Warriors franchise. A franchise that has been been stated to suffer from a lack of innovation, one that has failed to mold itself into new and creative ways.
Luckily for Koei Tecmo and Omega Force, they’ve proved me wrong. They proved me wrong on the assumptions that I would once more pick up a controller and be sucked into the repetitious nature of hacking, slashing, and running my way through pre-scripted battlefields. That I would once more find myself drilling meaningless and repetitious combat scenarios into my own head. Again, and again, and again – I was proven wrong with Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada. It wasn’t until I reached a little over the halfway mark towards the three quarters way through mark would I find myself sure that their risk didn’t outweigh the reward.
For Over a Decade the Warriors Franchise Suffered Repetition
As a fan of the Warriors franchises, I’m shameless in my nature for picking up my controller and mowing through hordes of enemies. I’m shameless in the fact that I am disgruntled by the lack of true-to-the-era music, which is replaced by some-off-beat rock sound, and dramatically twisted instrumentals. Unlike before, this wasn’t necessarily the case. I was able to sit in my gaming chair before the back of it popped off, sending me flying like some late 80’s game commercial for the NES, and sent me reeling to the floor while watching the games introduction. Unlike previous titles, Spirit of Sanada doesn’t gloat upon its endless combat that sends me hurling through hordes, it doesn’t send me beating my way through interconnected networks of paths that send me to enemy officers, and enemy barrack locales.
Instead, the game sent me on an adventure through the Warring States period where I would find combat designs somewhat changed to match this new titles. While battlefields do play a role in the game and will seem familiar in their design, the game does manage to move forward with its straightforwardness. Players will once more unleash mind-bending Rage frenzies while dancing off stage with a spectacular display of enemy bodies rag-dolling across the screen due to powerful Musou moves. Due to combat and exploring the open roads (when you do) can be quite enjoyable, it’s these subtle changes that help breathe a breath of fresh air. It’s these very instances where taking out a few bandits on the road is relaxing and offers a narrative feel to the game. A narrative drive that helps show these warriors were also ones to help those less-capable as they.
Masayuki Was Enjoyable and Made the Game Unique
Playing Masayuki was one of the few things I wanted to do. The Sanada clan didn’t run short on those who aided them. Characters such as Hisahide Matsunaga, Sasuke, and even Lady Hayakawa serve as support appearances within the game in order to drive narrative forth. Much as expected Masayuki Sanada was a surpising character to enjoy, one that takes on a vibrant color of red to match the Sanada clan standards. One that supports his character throughout the franchise.
While I’m one that favors characters such as Lord Ieyasu himself, there’s no doubt that Masayuki was the right choice, one that makes sense to help bring this history lesson to light. While not accurate to perfection, it’s one that is deemed necessary, and worthwhile by Omega Force. Just as you would expect, the game does push forth the ideas of “fight or flight”, while fight tends to be the more prominent option for fans.
And Samurai Warriors is Beginning to Show it’s Age
While the creators of Spirit of Sanada are proud of their new game (it shows), the game is beginning to show the franchises age, and an age that they shouldn’t be allowing to happen. The game shows a lack of innovation or drive to form a unique originality within the title. This is an issue that was seen with other titles such as Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers. It was a game that attempted to innovate itself in unique ways, but fell short in doing so. Sadly, this is something that Spirits of Sanada also finds itself doing.
It has attempted to move itself away from the others by bringing forth a narrative driven element at the forefront, putting combat second, and allowing players to feel as if they are apart of Clan Sanada. Combat, while mainstreamed, does suffer from a lack of difficulty, change, and innovation. While characters are designated a weapon that matched what they would have seemingly used by tradition, it would have been nice to see the game break away from that, and allow fans to adapt to the battlefield they are marching through.
While you will get to experience other characters, enjoy sidequests before a battle, and even go through multi-stage battles, the game design doesn’t changed from its predecessors much. Unfortunately players will find themselves once more wrapped in a repetitious manner where managing item hunting and combat will become a big thing. Weapons will also require being upgraded just like in previous titles. Doing so will make them more powerful, feature new feats, and even allow for a new edge in combat. Tasks such as defeating enemies in certain time periods, helping secure a location, or taking out enemy leaders will grant bonuses for you to obtain once completed. Sadly, this is an element within the series that seems to be all-to-common and could be done away with. Simply stated: the reward isn’t enough. It’s not a challenge.
Performance, Sound, and Animations. Standard PS4 Users May Have Issues Here
While stepping away from the game, there’s something else that takes place. Sitting down on David’s standard PS4, I was able to step away from the PlayStation 4 Pro I typically use, and would imagine many of our readers still use. In the game I still noticed that characters such as Lady Chacha’s braids looked like woven straw wreathes and would even seem rather fake compared to what we would see in games such as Horizon: Zero Dawn where Aloy passed for realistic.
While Nobuyuki’s ponytails moved, and Masayuki’s clothes moved realistically, it didn’t take away that the franchise hasn’t moved forward with graphics in order to bring a more realistic look to it.In combat, performance became an issue when using characters such as Chacha or Masayuki, both being rather graphic heavy when using their Rage or Musou abilities. There was no doubt that the flashier, the bigger, and more graphically demanding animations would bog down the standard PlayStation 4.
These small stutters would also cause sound pops, cutouts, and framerate drops. On the PlayStation 4 Pro with Boost Mode enabled, it seemed these issues weren’t as problematic. A nuance that could be enough to deter newcomers away from a series that they may not be familiar with, and one that could grow frustrating to fans of the series if they wanted a rather smooth glitch-free experience. Fortunately, the fans to the franchise are dedicated and love the game more than you could ever imagine.
While many may know the outcome of what happened to our hero of the game, the legacy that was left after the Sanada clan; there’s no doubt that Omega Force is trying to pull something new out of their game. For now, Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada will serve as one of the most narrative driven titles for fans to enjoy.
Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada – PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: Available Now
Cost: $59.99 USD
Even with its shortcomings, this latest release serves as a small idea of what Omega force can be capable of in the future once their series hits its next big title.
Our review is based upon a retail version provided to us by the games publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter, Google+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.