By: Matthew Striplen
Of all the times and places to have been born, I’m glad I missed 16th century Japan. The Sengoku, or Warring States period, soaked the land in blood from endless battles. Samurai Warriors: Chronicles 3 places you alongside famous warlords from the era, including Nobunaga Oda. Cut your foes to pieces and witness the daimyo struggle for ultimate power.
Most of Chronicles’ controls bear a striking similarity to other games in the Warriors series. Attacks and other moves all feel tight and responsive. Each character handles differently, so it takes time to learn how each one responds to commands. My only pet peeves are with horseback riding and the camera.
When riding horses, the camera often has trouble shifting fast enough to keep up with sharp turns, which makes seeing where you’re going or who you’re attacking difficult. If you use the L button to swing the camera behind you, this forces the horse to rear up and stop before you can continue — Chronicles 3 does support the new 3DS’ additional analog stick, which may fix the noted camera issues.
Most of Chronicles 3 looks similar to its predecessors. Since the game uses distinct graphical styles for combat and cut scenes, let’s cover the combat first.
Environments suffer from blandness and low-quality textures. The biggest issue, however, lies with enemy spawning. Hack n’ slash games famously require huge amounts of enemies onscreen at all times. Unfortunately, the 3DS doesn’t have the horsepower to consistently make that happen, which can result in frame rate drops.
Most commonly, enemies will simply pop into existence right next to you. Powerful enemies behave the same way, which means they can suddenly appear next to you, or disappear conveniently when you unleash a super move.
Cut scenes take a different path, instead opting for realism over expansiveness. Each character sports wild, eccentric costumes and hairstyles, all of which look spectacularly over the top. The only issue comes in how they’re animated.
Despite only supporting Japanese voices, the lip flaps are barely visible and often lose synchronization. Each character only has a few gestures, which means each one gets recycled often, even across different characters. Unfortunately, the animation comes across as stilted, especially compared the fiery performances of the actors. When paired with the fact that the character models can’t change their expression, it makes for a strange series of interactions.
This may be the only time I get to say this: Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 might be the first instance I’ve seen of an edutainment game disguised as a hack n’ slash. As the latest entry in the long running Warriors franchise the action sequences are expected, but be prepared to learn a ton about Sengoku Japan.
The game begins with a hefty character creation section, in which the player designs an original character to observe the historical events and participate in battles. Gamers can tweak just about any physical attribute imaginable, plus other qualities like personality or gender (which results in wielding different weapons). After a while, they can be further tweaked to your heart’s content.
Each battle recreates an actual battle in Japanese history and accurately depicts the results, as well as significant events. The rest of the history unfolds as part of the extensive cut scenes. Anywhere from two to six distinct scenes take place before actual gameplay, which can last up to half an hour. Additionally, once you click on the battle icon, players are shown even more cut scenes.
History buffs should enjoy the lengthy reenactments, but people unfamiliar with the time period may feel lost in a sea of characters and locations. Plus, scenes cannot be skipped until they’ve been watched once, so get comfortable.
After getting through the cut scenes, the gameplay stands in line with other Warriors games. Hacking and slashing is the name of the game, but there’s more depth than that. Various objectives pop up throughout the battle, requiring the player to defeat specific officers, escort allies or perform actions within a time limit. Although there are plenty of objectives to keep the player busy, the game still ends up getting repetitive over its 40-hour run time.
One of the game’s best parts is the ease with which players can switch characters. Tons of officers take part in each battle, many of which are also playable. No more than four can be swapped at any time, but depending on the scenario, other officers may replace existing ones. The most useful aspect of this is it enables players to get closer to their target much faster. This becomes especially important when the objective has a time limit.
Chronicles 3 also has a variety of other functions, most notably the Challenge Mode. This places a team of characters in a typical battlefield, but here the objective is to earn as many points as possible. Another change is that time is limited, meaning one character has to reach a designated area before time expires. Failure to do so ends the battle. Points can then be exchanged for various useful items.
The Encyclopedia ended up being a surprisingly useful function. Since so many officers come and go through the course of the game, keeping them all straight is difficult. This provides a brief overview of all major and minor officers, including information on the battlefields themselves.
Online capabilities ended up being a disappointment, however, since they only deal with DLC, Spotpass and Streetpass. Although many other installments in the Warriors series offer multiplayer, Chronicles 3 does not.
After battling for a while, the Castle Town becomes unlocked. This features an item shop, a blacksmith and a tea house, all of which become very important. New weapons can be purchased with gold at the shop, as opposed to points in the Challenge Mode, and weapons can be modified at the blacksmith.
The tea house allows players to increase their favor with other officers, which can activate some hidden cut scenes. All facilities can also be upgraded to decrease the price or increase the capabilities of each business.
Samurai Warriors: Chronicles 3 brings a traditional hack n’ slash experience to the 3DS. Ultimately, there’s not much to separate this from other recent entries in the series, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll definitely enjoy it, more so if you’re a history buff. Although the graphics may underwhelm and the controls can feel wonky, Samurai Warriors: Chronicles 3 is the same frantic Warriors action game we know and love.