Way of The Samurai 4 is a Samurai game developed by Acquire, mostly known for their work on the Tenchu series, which follows a Ronin who enters a town full of chaos and decisions. Following on from what could be called a highly debated release, with scores ranging from low 5’s to high 9’s. A lot of focus was on the graphics, which mean nothing in games, and not really understanding the game well enough to enjoy it.
Like many entries in this series you are a Ronin, mostly nameless to start and with their name being chosen by you on each playthrough, entering into a new city or town. 4 sees your Ronin enter the port town of Amihama, around the year 1855, just as the British and Japanese are making contacts and negotiations. The talks are cut short as the local Xenophobes attack the commune with their samurai swords drawn and their cannons being rolled in. From here, and even beforehand, the choices are thrown at you, to either help in the battle of either side, or just fighting for the sake of fighting, or to just walk away.
The whole game is full of choices and paths for you to make, from the 3 factions to simple being a bystander who works around the town. As you go through your day to day life you will see significant events, including Kinugawa arriving at the town to enforce the law with his Demonscale unit as well as hosting a tournament for all samurai to participate in.
Foreigners, Bakufu and Pranja are all factions you can assist or fight, with foreigners merely wanting to create trade and help the people of Amihama evolve their technology. Bakufu are the law of the land, with Kinigawa at the head and his “police” who maintain the streets. The Pranja are also inhabitants of the island, but hate all the foreigners and what they stand for as they see them as outsiders who only bring bad luck and lies.
Depending on who you side with and the choices you make in the missions your Ronin can end up dead, rich, a bodyguard, an unheard of legend and more. There are parts of the story where you can influence the factions to an extent that major members will die or survive, or have you take their place or kill them yourself. Every time you play you will see another side of the story and learn more backstory to the characters who you met previously.
A playthrough of the 3-5 days you spend in Amihama can last between 2 and 5 hours, depending on how much time you spend on the side quests for the main quests. Main storyline sequences fast-forward the time of day quite quickly, starting at morning and finding yourself at night-time after just 2 events. With 10 endings, as well as just doing the side content and other actions, this game really can rack up some game time. To do all the endings it can take up to 20 hours, with a full completion run of the game taking up to 100 hours.
Way of the Samurai 4 takes on a more niche mechanic to fighting, though it fit the game so well in its delivery and enjoyment. Whenever you are in a battle you will “honourably” face off 1 on 1 against another samurai, with the ability to use blunt or slash strikes. If you ever played Beat Down Fists of Vengeance then the game plays similarly to that. Besides fighting there is around 9 areas to explore, look for items in, fight anyone in or take on quests.
Fighting in 4 is split into several parts, the engage where you either talk to the opponent/s, attack first or have the battle start through a cutscene. Once the battle has started you will fight the enemies, mostly in a 1on1 fight, moving from 1 enemy to the next. You will have access to your 3 weapons in your arsenal, as well as the 10 you have in your weapon sack, from swords and spears to even guns. To defeat your opponent you will have to use both light and heavy attacks, depending on your fighting style you will have access to a plethora of combos and special moves. “Pushing” and “Pulling” is also a part of combat, where you can attack with a direction to go into an enemy’s defence or pull them off balance to leave them open to attacks.
Through fighting you will build up your Spring Harvest gauge, the games version of the insta-kill from previous instalments. When you activate this ability time slows down and you can rapidly strike any enemy, once you run out of the gauge, or stop the Harvest yourself, you will return time back to normal and any defeated foe will fall down. This mechanic can be abused quite easily for harder fights as it can increase very easily when defeating enemies and using food.
Besides fighting you can take on quests from most passer-by’s on the street, who ask you to deliver messages, knock down or kill someone else or just smash some boxes. Side quests can also be taken from the Bakufu to track won criminals or slay 100 bandits. All these quests will give you money in return as well as reputations and affect the crime level of the city. As the crime rate changes you can see an increase or decrease in item prices and variety, coupled with a change in the amount of thugs and Pranja around the city.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
The game as so many unlockables to find, and I mean a LOT. Styles are what you use to change how you fight, hold your weapons and the skills you can use, which there are around 82 for you to find. Clothing and accessories are also on offer from both shops and the end-game unlock, accessories in the 150’s and several types of clothing with their own colours and gender arrangements. There are also 105 end-game unlocks, hundreds of weapons and more.
The music in this release leaves a lot to be desired, a lot of the time you will find yourself in almost silence as you travel the streets. Music pops up during conversations and scenes between the factions which creates tension and leads into the next scene, but combined with some of the anti-climactic endings and dead-stop endings to the scenes it feels very jarring. The music itself is well crafted, but lack of variety and energy in some tracks really distract from the scenes they are played in. Fighting music in this game seems to be the top tracks, with end battles having the best tracks set to them.
The greatness of this game lies in its sandbox designs and the freedom the character can experience. You can draw your sword during most conversations, walk away from discussions and conflicts and say some rather funny things as you choose a side. Crafting weapons is fun and engaging as you must scavenge for the right parts, either for their aesthetic or statistics. Side quests are fun and tell a tiny story, civilian quests are quick and easy to do with some great rewards and comedy to enjoy. While the graphics are very outdated for the time it was released, the game still looks pretty, with the aesthetic over the quality. Animations are a bit lacklustre at points, mostly the facial animation on some of the character’s looking very alien in their movement and stretching.
Overall Way of the Samurai 4 gets a 4/5, the gameplay is well balanced and makes you plan your moves and the items you take with you, as well as the weapon customisation which is amazingly done and allows you to create the perfect blade for your fight style as well as some backups. Story and delivery in the scenes are what really pull back this game, with scene-to-scene having very little flow and feel too disconnected at times. Fans of the previous games will love this game, and fans of the Ronin style will also like this game, though some of the more outlandish scenes, BDSM being one of them, might put off some fresh eyes.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.