Skulls of the Shogun is a fast-paced-turn based strategy game developed by 17-BIT and inspired by Advance Wars. Players meet and join forces with vibrant ghost-samurai warriors, magical animal-monks, and mustachioed samurai generals on the way to capture the Skulls of the Shogun. As General Akamoto you’ll journey through four different seasons of the samurai afterlife battling your way to claim your title of Shogun…of the Dead!
The art style of Skulls of the Shoguns is gorgeous with high-resolution environments and characters, inspired by a mash up of classic 1960′s anime and modern urban vinyl character design. Everything is really colourful and vibrant and the sprites and environments look really good. The hand drawn sprites add so much to the game and really enhance the charm of it. I wish more developers would go down this route because it adds so much character to the game.
One of the main problems is the clumsy control, which is to be expected due to the fact this turn based strategy game doesn’t work via a grid system. Instead it lets you move within a certain area ensuring battles have a nice and fast pace to them. Turn based strategy games are not for everyone and I know the slow grid based system which is incorporated into such titles as Disgea and Final Fantasy Tactics has put a fair few people off.
It’s nice that Skulls of the Shogun has gone down this route but everything can be too clumped together at times. When units are close to each other it’s too easy to accidentally pick the wrong one and it’s a major problem with this game. Saying that it’s a lot more fun than I anticipated it would be. The thing that’s best about the lack of the grid system is you can play the game at your own pace you can plan what you want to do or just go in all guns blazing. Obviously though this isn’t very smart.
Another thing I loved about Skulls of the Shogun was the humour it brings. From funny death animations to cracking jokes it got me laughing quite a bit a game like this doesn’t take itself too seriously and really you shouldn’t expect anything less from these types of games. Usually turn based RPGs rely on story to captivate and suck in the player. At this aspect I wasn’t really drawn in as much to the story as I was to the humour side of it all. That’s not to say the story isn’t compelling enough to make you play it because it is especially if you follow Japanese culture.
The story is basically about a General who has been betrayed and killed. You’re in the underworld and you want revenge and answers it’s about as far-fetched as they come, but it works the story telling is definitely efficient. As expected in these types of games you roam around the map planning your next move building, assembling armies and defeating big bosses all while progressing on with the story.
Another gripe I do have with this game is it can be a little unfair if you make a mistake and your general dies you screwed because you lose. If you have them too close to an edge or find them surrounded by a group of enemies you’re going to find yourself in a lot of trouble and it will most likely result in you losing the fight. This is where the strategy element really comes in it’s all fine and well going for the kill but you must bear in mind that the next enemy could easily punt you off the edge resulting in your death.
As I said earlier the game feels like it wasn’t really designed with the PS4 in mind and to be honest it wasn’t. Originally Skulls of the Shogun was suited to mouse movement which is obviously much more precise than anything the PS4 could offer, it’s a problem that was inevitable with porting a game which basic fundamentals relied on targeting using a mouse.
In the end Skulls of the Shogun is a simple, fun easy to understand turn based strategy game. It ditches any complex systems and favours the more casual player. You won’t find a deep engrossing game here but you will spend hours and hours on it most definitely. With only 23 missions it’s not the longest of games by any means and there isn’t any replay value unless you dive into the multiplayer mode which features thirty multiplayer maps featuring two, three, and four-player maps where you can play locally on the same screen or online in networked multiplayer.
I know a lot of people are put off by the boring slow-paced turn based strategy genre but I can honestly say that Skulls of the shogun doesn’t fall in to this category. The combat is quick and your never waiting long for your turn and your movement is never bound by little squares which cannot be said for so many games in this genre. There’s no complexity in the combat it’s basically a small list of mechanics and once you have them down you are good to go. Eating three skulls will present you with the ability to attack twice however, every time you eat one you waste a turn so again you must plan accordingly depending on the situation you find yourself in.
With solid gameplay, beautiful hand-drawn art and original sound effects and score inspired by old samurai films and classic 1960′s dub. Skulls of the shogun is certainly a worthy purchase. Sure it has a few problems due to it being a port, but if you can see past them, it’s a bright and funny game, brimming with charm and one which revives a genre which is slowly dying out. On the whole, the turn based genre needs a lifeline and Skulls of the shogun might just be it.
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