By: Jeff Cater
Once the world ends, I’m sure that the few surviving cockroaches will just keep finding new Warriors games being made. With Samurai Warriors 4-II, you might think “Oh, no! Another sequel to a SEQUEL!” But Koei Tecmo and Omega Force insist on constantly evolving the series, so read on to find out why those cockroaches might just be the luckiest of the bunch.
The Warriors franchise has always prided itself in being one of the most accessible games out there, and Samurai Warriors 4-II stands out. Yes, the controls are pretty much identical to the games before, so you’ve got attacks bound to Square and Triangle, and a special attack set on Circle.
Rather than Triangle being a heavy attack like it has been up until recently, however, it’s now what is called a Hyper Attack. Mashing Triangle can take you very far into a crowd of enemies, because with each tap your warrior dashes forward, damaging anyone in their path.
What makes SW4-II the best thus far is the refinement of the combo system, allowing technical players to bust out impressive moves just as well as those lucky, first-time button mashers. Square and Triangle can be crossed over at almost any point during your combo and you will be treated to a new (and generally visually awesome) string of attacks.
To execute your warrior’s most devastating attack, the True Musou attack, you will click in the right stick and those around you will freeze in place. Once they’re immobile, you are then able to run through the crowd to better position yourself for unleashing the screen-clearing attack with the Circle button. It’s just easy for anyone to do anything.
It’s been said before, but the Warriors games have never really been lookers. Sure, the screen was usually packed with enemies, but characters’ mouths wouldn’t move and enemy variants would repeat quickly. In recent iterations of Warriors games (One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 for example), Omega Force and Koei Tecmo have finally brought visual quality up drastically. SW4-II is right on the cusp of beautiful.
We’ve got rays of sun bleeding through tree branches, dense forests and pretty superb facial animation. Water, be it a small stream or waterfall, looks like it’s perpetually trapped in last-gen land, but it’s getting better!
Plus, graphical slowdown is almost completely gone, with it only occurring when the camera becomes trapped or multiple Officers are fighting in close proximity. Otherwise it’s a very smooth and colorful experience, and each character’s special powers usually leaves a wake of blowing leaves or thick green clouds of poison to spice things up even further.
Voice work is generally passable and well performed, but it seems any female character in the game got the typical small, Japanese woman voice from any given anime — so ladies that are literally other character’s 50-year-old mother sound unrealistically youthful.
If you can get over that hurdle, then the rest of the audio presentation is well done and engaging. The music is also an interesting mash of traditional Japanese folk music and techno beats. In writing, that sounds worse than it is in execution.
I’ve probably said this about every Warriors game that has come out, but if you’ve never played one before, Samurai Warriors 4-II is a great place to start. It still follows the main shtick of the series — pick a warrior and slash the living crap out of the opposing army while completing side objectives — though unlike other games that focus on the overall conflict in Japan at the time, SW4-II brings more of a focus to the individuals in said conflict.
It’s more about brother against brother, father against son. The game gives us a closer peek at the warriors behind the armor, and how they emotionally dealt with the grief and loss of war.
On the battlefield, things are even easier to manage. First and foremost, a lot of the time in previous Warriors games you’d have to run around and wait for events to trigger. Now, events will actually pop up and pause the battle and give you a glimpse of the battle map, complete with arrow indicators showing you which direction you should take.
You can also switch characters easily by entering the menu, but even if you completely neglect switching to your partner (which you shouldn’t), they’re perfectly capable of taking care of themselves as long as you’ve kept them leveled and their equipment upgraded. This makes keeping track of the more difficult objectives much easier and allows you to cover the battlefield with ultimate efficiency.
Multiplayer worked very well and showcased little to no lag. If you’ve got a friend over you can also do some good old fashioned couch co-op to knock out some levels in the various campaigns or the free mode that allows any character to destroy people on any stage.
In addition, there’s a survival mode that drops you into an endless, evil castle where you must try to ascend as high as you can. In this mode you can unlock some seriously powerful loot, but if you decide to not use the “Escape” feature at the end of a level you might be in for some trouble: If you die without escaping with your loot it is gone forever!
There’s a ton of content present in Samurai Warriors 4-II with levels to destroy, characters and weapons to level up and great multiplayer; all wrapped in an audio/visual package that just keeps getting better and better. It’s great to see a company so dedicated to a franchise keep it lively and evolve it as much as Omega Force and Koei Tecmo have with the Warriors series.