While I’m not particularly new to the musou genre, the Samurai Warriors series is still relatively new and fresh to me and it could easily test my will and sanity. Fighting against hundreds and thousands of enemies in quick succession, rushing through each and every objective and trying not to mind my own coffee getting cold in the midst of a mission can easily be my own undoing. There’s a very lengthy procedure to each of these encounters that really just adds up should you not be adequately levelled enough to take them on.
And that on its own is pretty much the entire game in a nutshell. Mind you, it does still have a lot of working gears to keep it from being stale and repetitive despite it still being repetitive and somewhat stale. To put it into context, musou games, in general, revolve around the idea of re-enacting warring factions but with the overly buffed and gorgeously looking generals running amok and running down hordes of bodies like butter. Going through each and every stage often feels like one or the other despite having different map layouts to diversify things ever so slightly. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves way too early here so let’s back it up a bit for now…
Samurai Warriors 5 is a game developed by Omega Force the same studio behind pretty much almost every musou series, spin-offs and one-shots like Dynasty Warriors, One Piece Pirate Warriors and Warriors Orochi among other things. It was founded as the fourth Business Division of Koei in 1996 that intended to widen the appeal of their portfolio outside their strategy and simulations games. This being the fruit of Nobunaga’s Ambition which took away the deep simulation of the grand strategy battle in favour of a more hands-on and button-mashy while easy to pick-up hack n’ slash gameplay that just about anyone can get into.
Its story however revolves around Oda Nobunaga and his ultimate goal to unite all of Japan under one banner. Something that you might have probably seen or read countless times in the past already whether through other games or anime and movies. It’s actually almost impossible to not know about it if you even have the slightest interest in anime due to its many versions despite them being historically inaccurate at times. There’s a lengthy set of chapters that revolves around Nobunaga or Mitsuhide which gives it a bit more context to give you a better feel for its rich history while also getting to know the characters that make up the game especially with its unique and stylized art style that gave a more genuine Japanese theme.
But what caught my attention on my early Samurai Warriors 5 adventure is its slow pacing with mostly just Nobunaga as the playable character which at first doesn’t particularly feel all that interesting in terms of move sets especially without the necessary unlocks. However should you persevere through its initial slog, you get to unlock new sets of moves for just about anyone while also getting cool and flashy attacks to boot. Its progression is definitely something that starts off a bit stale but the constant unlock of goodies does a good job at keeping you invested and excited on what’s to come next.
And as for someone who’s a huge fan of RPGs, the game does a neat job at trying to incorporate some of its elements. From obtaining experience to achieve higher levels and weapon mastery which then improves your overall stats or learn new move sets while also gaining skill points in order to allocate into new abilities like faster movement speed or gaining more health to tank even the strongest of attacks. You also get to obtain new structures like the blacksmith which can upgrade your weapons found throughout each battle or dismantle them for their innate skills which can then be transferred over to another weapon. Although what really caught my attention here is that every unlockable character can actually use any type of weapon instead of the one type they came with. The only catch here is that there are still unique moves that only certain characters can use but be able to play your favourite weapon type on just about anyone is a nice enough trade-off.
Its combat like I previously mentioned, pretty much plays just like every musou game in existence—you fight hordes of enemies at once using quick and wide slashes or ground-smashing combos that can cut through bodies like butter. It often feels like a button-mashy and mindless encounter which I honestly still feel like it is. Sure there’s a lot of combo chains you can string together to have different effects but to the casual folk like myself, chaining combos or picking the right chain for the job doesn’t feel all that impressive due to the way these games are structured. Your skills and enemy awareness isn’t going to be particularly tested as often as fighting things like huge monsters and dragons but really it’s going to be a bit more of a battle of attrition to how long you can last chaining combos together ‘til you reach the stage’s boss which then would probably be over in a minute or two. You can always feel like the overpowered lone main protagonist of every anime ever if that’s what you’re after however it just doesn’t have the same effect as it would on One Piece where you know they could literally just do that anyway without breaking the realism of its universe.
The visuals and overall style is definitely an eye-catcher though. There’s the crisp and gorgeous representation of the characters on top of some beautiful nature-filled backdrops that complete the Japanese theme. Each character is also blooming with personality while also having some rather unique sense for fashion. The voice acting is also pretty good which creates a lot of great and memorable moments throughout its campaign.
Overall, Samurai Warriors 5 is a great entry if you’re really into the whole musou genre or just want to have some good ol’ mindless hacking and slashing. Its story however is where I really need to give it praise as it captures some good old romanticized moments between the characters and having to recreate a bit of history wouldn’t hurt anybody. However its huge flaw is that missions never really feel all that different from one another. Other than the kill that, go here and protect this guy, there’s nothing that really stands out when you’re already out there fighting especially when at times it can take you about half an hour should you not have prepared properly or used a newly unlocked character.
Published by KOEI TECMO Europe and developer Omega Force
This review is based on the PlayStation version of the game which can be purchased here for £54.99.
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