I HAVE TO ADMIT, I’d never heard of the Samurai Warriors franchise up until now. But with Nintendo securing the exclusive rights for Samurai Warriors 3, you’d have to think that they would do so for good reason. The game is set in the “Warring States” period of Japan’s history; a rich, vibrant time of turmoil and, apparently, ridiculously large weaponry. This era is nothing new to Koei (the game’s developer), which has made games more like Nobunaga’s Ambition in the past; a title with a more strategic bent. Samurai Warriors 3, or “Sengoku Musou” in Japan, puts you in direct control of extreme warriors – right in the middle of historic battle scenes. And, apparently, they’re historically accurate, so you just might learn something too. However, I’d imagine the reality had less purple fi re and golden sparkles.
The best place to jump into this game is Story Mode, naturally. The cinematic cutscenes are beautiful and provide great insight into what it is you’re actually doing. If it weren’t for that, knocking out hundreds of poor enemy soldiers in a single battle probably wouldn’t mean much at all.
Just like Monster Hunter Tri, the classic controller is highly recommended and is even bundled with the game in some stores if you don’t have one yet. It’s not necessary, however; it just makes more sense when you’re mashing those buttons. And mash you will. On the fi rst play-through I decided to play it on easy mode (so I could test out the mechanics, not because I suck – I promise!) but this didn’t provide me with any real challenge at all; run up to enemies, hit some attacks and you win. Sure, it’s fun and you’ll use all your fl ashy attacks, but there’s no tingly, rewarding feeling deep down inside.
There are plenty of characters to select from, and even more to unlock; each with their own set of unique abilities, weapons and (sometimes overly cheesy) dialogue. As you play through the story mode with your character, you gain experience and stats from your enemy kills; not really an unfamiliar concept. But the combo system is a wee bit different. There are actually only three different attack buttons – sounds boring, right? Well, you’d be wrong. After each level-up you’ll gain new combinations, which provide strategic and tactical benefi ts to add to your arsenal. Think of it like a ‘combo tree’ with different paths you can take to tailor your onslaught. In addition to the regular stream of combos, the game has a spirit and ‘musou’ gauge that, once fi lled, will unlock powerful attacks much akin to the 6-billion-hit combos that are seen in Marvel vs. Capcom-style fi ghting games. Satisfying? Absolutely.
I really only have one gripe with this game. It was evident straight off the bat that my mind would not be able to handle the incessant techno that was blaring out of my TV. So, the fi rst thing I did was exit and turn down the anger-inducing ‘doof-doof’. But hey, if that’s what fl oats your boat then you’ll want to crank it right to 100. So, Samurai Warriors, you get some points off in the sound department – but it’s probably just a matter of personal taste.
The Wii has its limitations, but Koei has pulled off some nifty little tricks to get some great performance out of this game. With the Wii’s comparatively low processing power (when you put it up against other next-gen platforms), the luxury of crazy polygon counts and endless amounts of texture space just wasn’t available to the development team – so, it’s amazing that the game can run so smoothly with literally hundreds of enemies swarming around you at any one moment. Cleverly, the game uses outdoor ‘rooms’, which limits the amount of objects rendered in the background; less things = more frames per second.
I didn’t expect much replayability from SW3, but there are plenty of awesome extras to fuel your addiction for that little bit longer. You’ve obviously got all the characters – all 37 of them; each with their own storyline, unique weapons, attacks and combos. Then you’ve got upgradeable gear and stats for each of them, Murasame mode (another level-based mode in which you fi ght through different objectives to fi nd another mystery), customisable characters, historic mode and even online and offl ine cooperative. If you manage to get through all of this, you need a medal... or maybe some professional help!
These types of games get a bad rap in the Western world and are usually put in the “repetitive button masher” genre, sometimes deservedly. But when you play through SW3 in anything above easy mode, you really start to fi nd out that some strategy might help in mitigating the ass-kickage you’re receiving. I couldn’t even attempt the Chaos diffi culty for fear of breaking down crying on my living room fl oor – seriously, it’s that hard. Sepukku was starting to look like the honourable choice.
Samurai Warriors 3 is a great game for anyone who enjoys the beat-‘em-up style of Streets of Rage mixed with the art style of, well, most Japanese RPGs that you might get your hands on. The game is polished and sharp, much like the screeds of awesome weaponry that you’ll brandish against the approaching hordes; defi nitely a title for any Wii owner looking for something slightly more brutal in their library.