- Developer: Omega Force
- Publisher: Koei Tecmo
- Genre: Hack and Slash / rpg
- Release Date: 26th May 2017
- Platforms: Playstation 4/PS3/PS Vita/Microsoft Windows
- Game Supplied by: Koei Tecmo
Even in my limited western knowledge of the Sengoku period of the warring states of Japan, I know one of the most popular storylines, and characters of that period were the Takeda clan, especially the characters Shingen Takeda, the leader of the clan and an incorrigible hot head called Yukimura Sanada at his side.
So it should not be of surprise that the Samurai Warrior series has decided to focus on this one clans battles instead of all of them. What IS a surprise though is the slightly slower paced gameplay which, bordered on a half decent RPG aspect of the game along with the tried and trusted, fast paced hack and slash style when combat was needed, that the series is synonymous with and indeed loved by many for.
The game starts slowly and different to anything else the series has shown, with a small village holding that you walk around to talk to other characters. Doing so unlocks information about the clan, what battles are upcoming, and people to interact with like blacksmiths to upgrade weapons for battle.
To encourage gamers to take part in this aspect, some conversations with the characters around the village can add to what is called a stratagems for use in battles. Walking around the small area, you then get tasked with details of an upcoming fight, and then when you exit the village you go to the battle. Before I explain combat, the further you get into the game, the more the village will open up until finally the Sanada village is an entire castle area.
When you do get to battles it is of the normal Samurai Warriors fast paced style. You are faced with a map to navigate,collectables to find, with thousands of enemies to slaughter, objectives to complete, and boss fights to win all within the button mashing style.
NOW, here is where some readers will roll their eyes and cringe at the thought of button mashing their way through a game. It will either bother you or not. As a fan of these series I would describe the gameplay as, some gamers like to drive around and around the same track, some gamers love to mow down hordes of zombies, some gamers ( like me ) find it cathartic and even a certain art form, in slashing down thousands of NPC’s in a hack and slash game. The skill is in maintaining massive combo’s with even more outlandish move sets being unlocked along the way. It’s enjoyable, it’s fun and it’s entertaining.
However, although there is a lot of button mashing ( one move can consist of 7 presses of the square followed by two triangles ), it is far more rewarding and helpful to play the game by learning the move-set of the characters you play and not just stomp the attack button. This is two fold as one, it’s far more interesting to try different move sets, and two, learning said move-sets and when to prompt them, can make battles much easier. Yes, put the game on easy, you can mash your way to the finish and not think about it. Put the game on Normal or above, it’s a different more circumspect beast altogether.
On normal difficulty, special attacks, miso attacks, hyper attacks, consumables, blocking, joint attacks, guard blocking moves, and yes those move sets i’ve mentioned before, suddenly become a lot more important in when and how to use them and therefore much more engaging and rewarding overall. Add to this there is something NEW for Spirit of Sanada though, and a great gamechanger ( literally ) are those Stratagems I mentioned earlier.
There are 6 coins of Sanada to fill for these Stratagems, and to fill them can be by having conversations with characters in the village or meeting certain battle criteria or tasks.
When you then have some of these coins filled in, you can at key points in the battles, be prompted to use a Stratagem which uses up one coin at a time. These Stratagems are basically powerful battle “buffs” for your clan to help swing the tide of a battle in your favour and therefore make a hard fight easier. For example, one “buff” I had in one battle had reserves of my clan enter the fight at a crucial point to help take an objective. Without their intervention with this Buff, the battle could have well been lost and i would have had to start over again.
In short, you now not only have a light RPG game, but the basis of a RTS ( real time strategy game ) mixed in with a fast paced hack and slash one too! It works and it’s utterly brilliant. It encourages to the gamer to make a bee-line for those objectives, but then those objectives are deliciously hard already, and do you then use resources to try to get them for a Stratagem or just go for the main objective ? This was the choice I had to make in just my 2nd battle!
In my play through I was having to think on the fly, enjoying the flow of the overall battle and not just the fight on my screen in front of my character, having to weigh up the risk – rewards of going for a task to obtain a stratagem on the other side of the map, as well as slashing my way through hoards of enemies just to get the current objective complete.
When a battle is over, and that battle can actually be over the course of 3 complete battles, you can then choose your next battle from a gorgeous 3D map of Japan. Choose where to go, upgrade your weapons, change your characters, chat to your clan at your home village, and off you go again.
Although i’ve not finished the game, if the last two in the series are anything to go by this one will take around 30 hours to complete. Add to this the graphics are excellent, with a very pleasant amount of character detail, smooth movement, stunning fighting moves and detail, with gorgeous backdrops. Environments are still a little sparse, but that is normal for a Samurai Warriors game. There was a slight amount of screen slow down on occasion, but only on the odd occasion.
The final aspect, which i thoroughly enjoyed was the excellent soundtrack and overall audio. Gameplay combat sounds are thrilling and describe the power of each weapon with a truly subtle elegance. Couple that with catchy authentic Japanese rollicking good fun music, and it’s hard not to like this game even more.
As a fan of the series I was concerned the way this game would turn out. I really enjoyed my simplistic, don’t have to think about too much, hack my way through enemies gameplay. I didn’t want RPG or RTS elements thrown into a game I already enjoy.
I was wrong. These new elements have truly expanded the series and the game into something unique and hugely enjoyable that I have never played before. I still have my great combat hack and slash gameplay, but I now have great depth with it also. The RPG and RTS elements are pretty minimal compared to other games, but they are enjoyable and welcome additions none the less here in this one, and move the series forward in a pleasant direction I was not expecting.