Samurai Warriors 4 is the latest in the Japanese History version of the Warrior Worth a Thousand Ikkitoussen franchise. In this new title, we explore the themes of “Loss, Losers and Unification” and celebrate the efforts of famous warriors from days long past. The title brings with it a new Chronicle mode as well, and an expanded combat engine.
Lack of system power aside, Samurai Warriors 3 is a hard act to follow. Does Warriors 4 exceed it, or is it just more of the same?
Thanks to the power of the Playstation 4 (though you can also enjoy this game on the PS3 and PS Vita), we have an unprecedented number of enemies on screen at one time, as well as fantastic attention to detail. Expect of course for grunts to look nowhere near as nice as officers, however everything from blazing infernos to pouring rain will look absolutely gorgeous as you hack and slash your way through thousands of foes. In addition, you’ll be racking up your thousand plus kill count with great ease due to the number of enemies you’ll encounter in each stage. I found it not to be uncommon to reach two to three thousand kills per level.
Character creation got a significant overhaul as well. Expect a large number of ways to customize your appearance as well as unique styles of combat made just for you CAW’s. And now, without further ado let us read the tale of the tape!
Mixed: A Theme and Era Driven Story Mode
Perhaps a product of the goal to tell a tri-themed story, I found the story mode of the game to be a mixed bag. On the one hand, we gain a nice amount of insight into the lives of our warriors. On the other, the story jumps all over the place, it’s quite difficult to tell what order you’re supposed to play the episodes in, warriors reference things that you should know and could only know if you happened to sort out what order you should be playing in, many stories are only three to four episodes long while Nobunaga gets something to the tune of seven or eight stages, and you will routinely spend a great deal of time leveling up a warrior only to suddenly have them yanked away from you in the next stage because narrative.
Also back by popular demand, the mega run on sentence!
My two biggest complaints outside of not knowing what was going on due to how disjointed everything is, would have to be how uneven the story is distributed as well as the almost asinine way the game decides to yank your heroes away for absolutely no real reason. Okay, it would be one thing if a warrior died between fights or didn’t participate in a battle, but, let’s take Nobunaga’s story as an example.
Nobunaga himself takes part in every battle in his story save for possibly one. For absolutely no sensical reason however you can rarely use him. What’s more, playing through the story cooperatively with a friend we found characters we had just used disappear from stage to stage on no fewer than three separate occasions, likely more (it was a long night). Most of the time those characters were still somewhere on the battlefield fighting people, the game just decided we weren’t allowed to play as them.
What’s more, the story of House Oda was quite lengthy and more than once a little difficult to follow, while other stories featuring equally important protagonists were over in a flash.
I will praise the game for the graphics during story scenes however. Despite the fact that many interesting bomb shells are dropped and then never addressed again (such as a particularly interesting scene during which Lady Noh is ordered by her father to murder her husband should he prove to be a fool, and while she agrees she swears to return and murder her father if he does not), at the very least the game looked very pretty while it was going nowhere in particular.
The other problem with the story is that it introduces character dynamics that are confusing to anyone who isn’t steeped in Japanese history, that could be explained to the player in one to two sentences. Despite being a bit of a Sengoku Era history buff, I found myself wondering more than once about relationships such as that of Kai with…well…everyone in her story mode…
Mixed: Combat Takes Steps Forward, Then Back
One of the exciting new features of the game is the Hyper Attack. Using this move, players can rush across the battlefield at high speeds tearing through their opponents like Sonic the Hedgehog with a sword! Only…not as horrible as that one time they gave Sonic the Hedgehog a sword…
As you play, you gain normal experience as well as style experience. Style is measured by an invisible number that tracks how you play: if you use normal attacks a lot, those will do more damage and can become more extravagant. Favor strong attacks or hyper? Those will level up as well!
Hyper Attacks balance out by officers being immune to them, though if Hyper is your style of choice there is an item you can find and equip that will make it impossible for officers to counter them. Ordinarily if you use a hyper on an officer, they’ll stop you cold and you generally end up regretting it.
Strong attacks have their own combos you can unlock now, and everything combos into everything. You can seamlessly flow from hyper attacks to special branching hyper normal combos, you can go from normal to hyper, you can go from strong to normal, you truly have the capacity to fight however you see fit.
Musou attacks make a return, though they are both better and worse. Now every musou has a tag along move at the end similar to what you would previously see if you were at critical health. In addition, with the return of rage mode you can use a rage musou. For some characters this is exceedingly awesome to watch; for others it is disappointing and very underwhelming.
Everyone just has the one musou now; there’s no more ground and then aerial or ground and then changeover musou. Some would argue the rage musou is a secondary one, but it still remains that we’ve lost one move from our arsenal and combat feels more repetitive for it.
Even so, the tailored growth system as well as hyper attacks go a long way to make the game feel more special.
The Bad: Chronicle Mode is an Exercise in Tedium
Character creation is back! YAAAAY! Ya’ll know I will buy darn near anything with character creation. Bloody shame that you can only use your CAW’s in the single player and tedious as all get out Chronicle Mode and in Free Mode replaying the same levels you already beat with story characters.
Samurai Warriors 3 sported a unique CAW mode called Murasame Castle that had players exploring an ever changing environment with unique objectives in each stage. Samurai Warriors 4 has you walk around on a map doing the same three or four missions over and over while trying to raise enough affinity to trigger one of four to five cutscenes with random warriors that you hope you can get to join you so you can max their friendship so you can finally equip a new bloody weapon with your CAW. That’s right, until you max out affinity with warriors that may or may not choose to join your party, you’re relegated to the starting five weapon styles for your CAW.
Also for some reason you still can’t use Kotaro Fuma’s style…
Spend your time in Chronicle Mode walking about a map participating in shorter versions of story mode battles. I think I’d be less annoyed if this mode had co-op. There is almost no reason not to do it. The only thing I could thing of was the whole affinity thing, and even then there’s generally four to eight important officers on the map at once; you can’t tell me it would have been that hard to just make it split screen and have player two be someone separate from whom you’re building affinity.
Your goal in the last game was to conquer a demonic castle. Your goal this time is to…fill…a history book…with the bios…of all the warriors of that age…
From devil slayer to historian in the span of just one game. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
You’ll also be able to pick a life goal, which really just provides you with a longer reason to keep playing this mode.
If nothing else, the cutscenes are fun and interesting, however I would harbor considerably less ill will towards them if I didn’t have to spend my time fighting with each of the game’s characters over and over and over and over and over and over and over just to unlock a new fighting style.
Story Mode was obviously given the most love, which is a shame. Why bother giving you the option of making created warriors if you’re relegated to one tedious mode to play as them, a mode that you can’t even play with your friends and their created warriors unless you play online?
The Good: A Stellar Soundtrack
The music in this game is amazing, and fits every scene perfectly. Going for more of a fusion of dance, trance, house and j-pop with a few dubstep influences here and there, I never found myself bored of the soundtrack. As a matter of fact, it’s been playing on repeat while I write this review. Whether you’re in a stage slaying enemies, on the mission select screen listening to an awesome fusion of Japanese feudal operatic tones with modern dance or watching a touching story scene, the music is there to set the mood and keep you going all the way.
Should you buy this game, rent it, or skip it? That’s kind of hard to say. Dynasty Warriors and its more technical little brother Samurai Warriors are both franchises that you either get them and like them or you don’t. Either wandering through the battlefield a super powered warrior is your idea of fun on a bun for hours like me, or you don’t get why we keep buying these games any more than we comprehend why you keep buying Call of Duty or sports games. I’m not knocking any of the aforementioned titles, but basically if you don’t enjoy Warriors games then they look just as samey to you as your those titles look to us.
If you’re new to the series, I’d rate the game at a seven. The story doesn’t really care if you know who these people are, how they relate and who is good or bad, and while it is gorgeous and at times touching you may find yourself wanting to skip cutscenes and just fight if you aren’t invested in Japanese history. In terms of difficulty this is one of the easiest Warriors titles I’ve ever played; having cleared 3/4 of the story and a good chunk of Chronicle I’ve never even seen an enemy officer use a musou attack and I’ve been playing alternating between Hard and Nightmare this whole time.
If you’re a fan I’d give it an eight. Despite Chronicles being a massive time sink, I do find myself playing “just one more mission” for at least five more missions.
If you’re looking for a new title where you can hack and slash the crap out of your foes, feel unstoppable, and put your brain on the counter for a few hours, this is the game for you. Just don’t come around expecting the same depth of story that Dynasty Warriors has been giving you these past few entire.