By: Ted Chow
Samurai Warriors 4 is the fourth iteration in Tecmo Koei’s long running hack n’ slash series. Comparable to games such as Dynasty Warriors, you will play the role of quintessential heroes of the Sengoku Period as you relive the tales of military conflict, political upheaval and a story romanticized with the gamer in mind. Having only played the original Samurai Warriors back when hack n’ slash was the thing, Samurai Warriors 4 has changed considerably in comparison, with many new features that can draw new players in, but may leave the faithful with more or less the same experience.
Controls come in your standard flavor with the left analog for movement and right for camera panning. By default, X is your primary attack with triangle used for the new hyper attacks. All the key inputs are changeable in the options menu so it is up to the player to find what they are most comfortable using. The camera panning can be a bit awkward in the midst of battle and probably should be remapped for a smoother experience.
For those that have followed the series you probably won’t notice much of a change in the graphics department. While respectable to current gen titles, the environmental props can look rather bland and enemies seemingly share the same face and textures. This is understandable as the game pits the player against many enemies with very little visual real estate and more consideration given to optimization and player experience.
The PlayStation 4 version seems to fare better with enemy density and overall aesthetics, but you probably wouldn’t be paying attention to the scenery as much as your mini-map. The overall soundtrack feels like it may have been regurgitated from past iterations.
Samurai Warriors 4 provides you with a number of options out of the gate. Story mode is a great way to get your feet wet and offers plenty of help to get you accustomed to hacking and slashing. Free mode allows the player to use any character they like in any story campaign, even if they aren’t available in story mode. Chronicle mode is your adventure mode in a sense and allows you to play in an alternate story that is more tailored towards the player and less of the scripted experience provided in story mode.
Story mode has been reworked and is split into campaigns based on your clan and region rather than on a per character basis. Each campaign can have up to 10 missions that allow you to select from a list of characters for your primary and secondary hero. Within the mission you can switch between them to better accomplish your objectives faster as well as level the characters up. Once a mission is completed you are brought to an end screen of statistics and items gained for your overall account. Story mode is a nice way to spend time with your favorite clans and can take some time to finish completely.
Chronicle mode is a different take on adventure mode where you can use existing characters or create your own hero to play through. The hero creator is much more expansive in scope with increased move sets for male and female characters and a plethora of customization options to help define your own personal hero.
Heroes you find will have sub-stories that will help in your adventure and also unlock their weapons to be used after a relationship threshold is reached. While some parts and encounters seem scripted, much of the board movement was random and gave a different sense of adventure each time. It was one area of the game I thoroughly enjoyed and kept me more entertained than the actual story.
The game features two new moves called hyper attack and rage mode. Hyper attacks are moves that allow you to clear a large crowd in short time and are only weak against enemy officers and boss characters. It also has plenty of combos and chains well with your basic attack to mix up slaying your enemies.
Rage mode helps to enhance the player’s attack as well as empower the Musou attack by using your spirit gauge. With the new additions the game’s pace is rather quickened and definitely helps in covering distance and finishing missions faster.
Objectives within missions seem to play out the same as past iterations with most having some form of boss encounter at the end. Side quests such as eliminating new enemy reinforcements, killing specific enemies or protecting your allies tend to make up the bulk of your experience. While it was great to participate in said side quests in the beginning, they start to become stale with rewards that aren’t up to par for your troubles. With random generation of loot, you might stop caring about side quests and instead prioritize finishing the mission and let the loot come naturally.
Play time will vary, but you can sink in a good number of hours in story mode and plenty more in chronicle mode. And with the addition of co-op mode to bring an extra friend in for both modes, the replay value is relatively high for Samurai Warriors 4.
Samurai Warriors 4 stays true to the hack n’ slash formula of its predecessors with enhancements to the gameplay to keep things reasonably fresh in a seemingly tired series. If you enjoy the series for its lore and the incremental changes, then the game will provide a solid experience.