In the spirit of full disclosure, I should reveal that I haven’t played a Samurai Warriors game since the days of the PS2. It wasn’t because the titles were terrible. It was because of the franchise’s representational focus on the various regions and clans of feudal-era Japan as a way to frame the gameplay was uninteresting to me. Apparently, other fans of the series felt the same way and Koei Tecmo listened.
In Samurai Warriors 4-II, the focus is placed squarely on the heroes – unlike previous Samurai Warriors games that focused on telling the story by exploring the various regions of feudal Japan – and that is what drew me in. This time out, the game shines a light on specific characters themselves and reveals their backstories through 13 chapters of super-intense hack-and-slash action. These action-packed chapters revolve around nine characters introduced in Samurai Warriors 4 as well as three fan-favorites from previous titles and a brand new addition to the samurai roster. So, grab your sword and gear up your mount because enemies by the thousands are going to try to stop you from reaching your goals by any means necessary.
Gameplay in Samurai Warriors 4-II takes place in various areas of Japan during the Sengoku era. Calling this game “hack-and-slash” is truthful but it falls way short of describing how combat actually takes place. Anyone familiar with the series knows that there are literally hundreds of enemies for you to dispatch on screen at any given moment and if you get too complacent, you wont be able to make it through the levels.
SW 4-II adds different fighting techniques so that there is more strategy involved instead of just button mashing. You can choose from three levels of attacks (Normal Attack, Power Attack, and Hyper Attack) as well as different forms of attack in order to create your own fighting style. Normal troops can be dispatched with any of the three levels but you will meet certain enemies who can only be defeated by using a combination of Power and/or Hyper attacks, so the level of attack that you will need to use will largely be determined by the enemy that you are facing.
As you make your way through the story mode, you will begin to gain new skills and abilities that you can use to increase the effectiveness of your character on the battlefield. When you defeat certain characters in battle, they will drop Strategy Tomes that you can use to learn new skills. These tomes will provide your character with various advantages in battle such as faster speed, better weapon handling or the ability to use better armor.
In order to learn some of the more effective skills on the skill tree associated with the character you’re currently using, that character must be at a certain level. Each skill tree is unique to each character and the type of warrior that that character is; fighters will need to be fast and nimble while brawlers will need to have high strength and heavy armor.
In order to complement the skills and abilities of your character, the weapons and mounts (horses) that you choose for them must be seriously considered so that your character can inflict as much damage as possible when you are on the battlefield. Weapons and mounts can be augmented so that you are going into battle with the best possible equipment that is at your disposal. They also have ranks and level caps and can be combined with similar weapons or mounts to upgrade their level and abilities.
In addition, if you combine weapons with the same elemental attributes or mounts of the same type, you can earn a “Compatibility Bonus” that enables the weapon to break through its current maximum level and also bestow it with new abilities. As you make your way through a level, be sure that you are completing the mission objectives because this is how you will earn the best weapons and mounts which can then be combined to enhance each item during the time between levels allowing you to always have the best equipment for your specific character.
The visuals in Samurai Warrior 4-II look amazing on the PS4 and I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of detail that each of the characters sport. This period in Japanese history contained some very colorful characters as well as very ornate battle armor that not only provided a certain amount of body protection, but was also a reflection of the level of craftsmanship that the makers of the armor took pride in. I don’t know if the armor is historically accurate, but it looks awesome and really helped to bring the characters to life.
While the many character models of the enemies that you will face are very repetitive, they are no less impressive. Even the environments that you will encounter such as army garrisons and portions of the Japanese countryside are exquisitely crafted. A lot of care was taken to polish and make sure that the game looked amazing at every turn.
The sound effects and the soundtrack in Samurai Warriors 4-II really stands out as one of the finer points of the game. The fidelity of the sounds of battle is immediately engrossing; I actually found myself stating out loud “Oh, $#!T” as literally hundreds of enemies were headed in my direction screaming their battle-cry at the top of their lungs.
The soundtrack as well provides music that fits the time period well while providing a sense of action and adventure and makes you feel like you are actually in the heat of battle. The voice over work is top-notch as well even though there is no English dub; all spoken lines are in Japanese with English subtitles. Koei Tecmo has had a lot of practice in creating sounds and music that perfectly compliments the Samurai Warrior games and it is very evident that this is the case with this game.
Samurai Warriors 4-II was a pleasant surprise to me in the fact that I wasn’t expecting to have as much fun with this title as I did. I am a huge fan of the Japanese culture, this time period in particular, so I tried to soak up as much of this game as I could. While the game has no qualms about giving you what you want, at times it could be very overwhelming. During battle, many of the characters in the story speak dialogue right as you are in the heat of battle and will divulge information that could be helpful to you during the mission.
However, I found myself missing parts of the conversations because I was too busy trying to wipe out two-hundred foot soldiers that were charging in my direction all at the same time. Being that all of the spoken dialogue is in Japanese, and I don’t speak Japanese, you have to take your eyes off of the action in order to read what is being said and when you do that, then of course you are going to get pummeled because you are not looking at the part of the screen where the action is taking place. This could have been easily avoided with an English dub or not have so much of this happening while you are in the thick of battle.
Japanese developers often choose feudal-era Japan as the backdrop of their games and for good reason. That time period was filled with interesting characters that make for interesting games. Samurai Warriors 4-II definitely benefits from being set in a time where your skill on the battle field was demonstrated face-to-face and not necessarily from thousands of yards away.
If you are a fan of the Samurai Warriors games and wanted a more character-focused entry in the series, then this is the title for you. It has all of the elements that Samurai Warriors fans love like hordes of enemies to defeat, strategy in determining the best ways to complete the missions and a custom character creation system while offering tons of weapon customization to keep you playing for hours. You can get the game now on the PS4, PS3, PS VITA and PC on Steam for $49.99 and for all that this game is packed with, that is not a bad price in the least.
Being a Samurai warrior never felt this good
Challenge - 9/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Design - 7/10
+ Great gameplay
+ Not just a button masher
+ Characters are interesting
+ Strategy needed to beat the best the game has to offer
- Too much dialogue during battles
- No English voice-overs