Mash Square To Proceed | Samurai Warriors 4-II Review
In the last year, I’ve played about four different Musou games. For the uninitiated, Musou is the name of the “genre” of hack-and-slash games developed by Omega Force from Koei. Outside of several spin-offs, the series comes in two main flavors; Dynasty Warriors, which takes place in China during the Three Kingdoms period, and Samurai Warriors, which takes place during the Warring States period in Japan. Samurai Warriors originally came out back in 2004 and has since gone on to have several sequels and expansions. Samurai Warriors 4-II is a part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the series, but despite the numbering it isn’t a direct sequel to Samurai Warriors 4. In fact, it’s more of another side of the same coin. SW4-II looks at the drama between the officers rather than what is happening with the clans themselves.
Let’s first take a look at the gameplay which remains largely unaltered from previous versions. You have a normal attack, a heavy attack and a Musou attack. The normal and heavy attacks can be linked into combos, but the type of attack varies per person as most have different weapons. I’ve always loved how varied these games are when it comes to weapons. You have your “normal” weapons like spears and swords, and then you have wonderfully weird ones like a hovering scarf or two large crescent blades. The Musou attacks are really cool crowd control type moves, but some of them don’t really allow you to control them too much. Some send the character flying in a certain direction often finishing the attack in a corner far removed from the target you were aiming. Which leads me to another issue, targeting. There is no lock-on targeting here. So attacks, depending on the character, often just slice the thin air. There are also Lightning Attacks which trigger when a button prompt shows up above an enemy officer’s head. While cool, it’s hard to properly utilize it because the enemy can move behind you and the move can’t be accomplished.
The story mode is broken up into several small stories that focus on a main officer with a handful of supporting cast. I actually really like the small, bite-size nature of the story mode. Each campaign is made up of five stages. Each stage has an introductory cutscene, a “state of the union” cutscene depicting what has happened across Japan, and a final cutscene. All of the cutscenes are rather short with very little by way of animation or location. The way they are presented remind me of a play. Minimal movement, just characters interacting. For the most part, this lack of action is fine to let the characters show emotion as the scenes are all acted well enough. There were only a few scenes that would have benefited from a full range of motion, but nothing too upsetting. There are only a few campaigns unlocked from the beginning, but you can unlock more as you finish them. Often times they will showcase the “flipside” to the story you finished and show the enemies’ point of view. Each campaign will last about 2 hours or so, depending on how fast you can finish the objectives in the stages.
In the story mode, one character is the primary character, so they must be selected every stage for that campaign. You can select a secondary character that will assist the main character. So if you’re playing 2-player online, or split screen, the other person will control the secondary character. But if you are playing single player, you can easily switch between the two instantly. The secondary character that is selected will also gain levels whether or not actually used. So if you select a character but stick to the primary character, the secondary character will gain levels based on how well you do in the level at the end. If you actively switch between characters as you fight, you can level up throughout the stages. It would behoove you to actively switch between characters. Especially since the AI controlled characters seem a little faster, so they’d be a great way to get a certain objective complete faster. Now in your first playthrough in the story mode, there are a limited number of characters that can be selected. Of those, a few are considered a good pair with the main character. Basically, this enables the two characters to use a Multi Musou attack when in proximity of one another. It’s just the ability to have both characters do a Musou attack at the same time, as long as both characters have meter. I will say to be careful about leveling up characters because they won’t be the same in all five stages. I’ve gone through campaigns thinking that a certain character would be available, exclusively using him as a secondary character, but in the last stage he is unavailable and I have to fight a difficult stage with a level 1 character. Luckily, character levels and equipment carry over between campaigns and modes, which brings me to upgrades.
As I said before, characters level up. Most of these levels are for things like health, Musou meter, defense, and speed. Weapon upgrades makes a return. Weapons are found in the field by either beating an officer or breaking open a crate. Weapons are upgraded when two weapons are fused. So things like special attributes, weapon levels, or attack strength can go up as well. There’s a bonus if it’s the same “type” of weapon. Basically, if you have an ice sword and merge it with another ice sword there’s a bonus. Less so if you are merging with an earth sword or fire sword. There is also a skill board that is very similar to the job board from Final Fantasy X. Except instead of using levels to make your way across the board, you use strategy tomes. They come in a few different varieties and can be purchased through the game’s Shop or found the same way as weapons. While it helps to customize characters a bit more, I found them to be annoyingly random. Certain characters start off in areas with a lot of skills that are locked behind a minimum level, or need a previous version of a skill which is far away from the starting area. Some characters I had no issues with, but others were forcing me to travel a specific way across the board which made it frustrating. I like the idea behind it, further customizing your characters to your play style, it just wasn’t executed as well as I would have hoped.
For being my fourth Musou game in about a year, Samurai Warriors 4-II is probably my second favorite; behind Hyrule Warriors because, well, Zelda. I think the short story modes and the focus on characters did a lot for me. The story mode is great in bite-sized chunks when I only have so much time to play. Of course the over-the-top Musou attacks definitely appeals to me too. Omega Force have updated the character models over the previous versions and they look good. Granted they aren’t on par with something like The Order or Infamous, but I think they looked pretty good overall. The survival mode as well as the objectives make this a game that I could easily see myself spending a lot of time with.