One of my favourite game genres is hack and slash adventuring. I thoroughly enjoy the power fantasy of defeating hordes of enemies with insane powers. Sadly it’s a genre that very few attempt to make games for because they are incredibly challenging to get right. Dynasty Warriors NEXT is a firm favourite on my PS Vita. So, how does this sister title to that franchise hold up?
Although the titles seem similar, Samurai Warriors 4-II, published by Tecmo Koei and developed by Omega Force, has distinct differences. First, if you hadn’t guessed from the title, the main characters are historical Samurais as opposed to Emperors. Other than that you have the ability to customize your character using skill trees and collecting weapons and mounts that can be upgraded. You can even go as far as making an entirely new character but only for use outside of the story mode. There is more pressure, as mission objectives are only available for a limited time. There is also a multiplayer function allowing you to fight the multitudes of enemies with a friend. I have to point out that Samurai Warriors 4-II is a ‘definitive edition’ not a sequel to Samurai Warriors 4. You get the original game with all the downloadable content that was released for it.
Story mode starts with five campaigns each from different warriors points of view. Upon completion further story missions open up. The animated cut scenes look great with solid animation and the score gets the feudal Japan vibe just right. The entire game is voiced in Japanese with subtitle. It may not be to everyone’s liking but I’m not about to hold that against it. There are far more pressing concerns with this game.
The basic attack strings are identical to Dynasty Warriors and encourage mindless button bashing. Dynasty warriors tried to break this up with things like ambushes. No such luck here; as you will button mash your way through 99% of the game. There is the occasional sub-boss or boss character that gets you to press ‘X’ on hit to push through their block or ‘Triangle’ to counter attack. Even then you don’t really need to use them at all as you can just slam them with your special and kill them straight away. You have two types of specials attained by killing enemy soldiers. Musou unleashes a highly devastating area of effect attack and Rage that increases your attack power. You can actually combine these to create an ultimate attack that usually kills everything in your local vicinity.
The amount of enemies on-screen at times is impressive. However, they’re identical character models and there’s no weight to anything so it feels like you’re attacking feathers. I can’t help but feel much of the game was sacrificed for the sake of having lots of troops to beat. There are a variety of enemies as on my mindless rampage I noticed some holding muskets. Unfortunately they’re never any real threat and you will kill them without noticing the difference.
The levels are expansive but severely drab and you will visit them repeatedly. There’s no structure as objectives are random with little cohesion or reason to them. Many appear on the other side of the map so you will need to use your horse to get to it. It’s actually pretty hilarious that you can just plow through tones of soldiers as if they’re not even there. Boss battles happen without much fanfare and I killed many without even realizing it. What’s even worse is that because of the multiplayer function if you don’t have someone to play with you are forced to have an AI instead. Although you can switch between the two this creates a kind of permanent escort mission because if they die for whatever reason, usually because the AI in this game is brain-dead, then you fail the entire level.
Ultimately Samurai Warriors 4-II is a really ambitious title for the PS Vita that sadly falls below the bar. Nice story cut-scenes, high on-screen enemy counts and comprehensive customisation is simply not enough. They are merely window dressings to the severely lacking gameplay mechanics. I should like this game and I didn’t enjoy even slightly, which is odd. I had to go back to Dynasty Warriors to figure out why. I always avoid the word ‘repetitive’ as arguably all games are repetitive. A more appropriate word to use is ‘monotonous’ and this game suffers from that in a big way.
Unlike Dynasty Warriors that had breaks, for example using ambushes, Samurai Warriors 4-II has nothing even remotely like that. It’s not even slightly challenging as you always feel over powered and you end up simply not caring as you destroy everything in sight. This is compounded by the weakest AI I’ve ever seen in a game so far. Enemies don’t even try to kill you; bosses are slow and weak enough to die with a single special attack. Not to mention the team-mate that ends up as the dreaded escort no one wants to babysit. It’s like they made the maps and randomly spawned the troops in it, many spawning right in front of you from out of nowhere. Samurai Warriors 4-II offers nothing new and actually hurts itself with some of the decisions made. If you really want to get a game like this then I’d suggest sticking to the Dynasty side of this franchise.
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