Samurai Warriors: Katana Wii Review

I’ve lost track of how many games I’ve played in the Dynasty/Samurai Warriors series in the last year or so, they have all been so similar they sort of blend together into one very mediocre mess. I’ve been saying for ages that they need to do something with the games other than the minor tweaks they do with every iteration, and it looks like somebody at Koei might have been listening. This latest incarnation in the Samurai Warriors franchise is a complete departure from the well worn rut the series has been stuck in.

The first major difference you’ll notice when starting a game is that it’s now a first person game, this may seem a little odd for a game that has always been a hack-and-slash type of game, but it’s not so odd really. The Wii controller is ideal for hacking and slashing in first person, as well as using all sorts of other weapons that you get to use as the game progresses. As well as plenty of melee weapons, sword, spear, hammer etc. You also get projectile weaponry, crossbow, musket, cannon and so on. This makes the game as much of a shooter than it is about swordplay, at times it’s an on rails shooter, very much like a light gun game, at other times you’ve got full freedom of movement with the nunchuck and it plays like an FPS. I’m guessing that a lot of fans of the franchises won’t like this change in the gameplay, but if you ask me it’s exactly the sort of thing they’ve been needing to mix things up a bit and is a welcome change from the usual repetitive hacking and slashing associated with the series.

That’s not to say things don’t get a little repetitive from time to time with the new style of gameplay, but they’ve mixed things up a bit. Sometimes it’s on rails and other times it’s free roaming. You get mazes to negotiate, horse racing, there’s time limits to beat, boss battles, it’s a lot more varied than the old button basing of previous titles. But while the gameplay is more varied you do lose the strategic elements of previous titles too as everything is either on rails or straightforward objectives. You don’t have to worry about losing possession of bases or your lieutenants’ safety. Personally I think that’s a good thing, but I’m sure the purists will be looking down their noses at me for it, well stuff them, I’d rather have something a bit more fun than the usual repetitive boring crap they love. They will probably dismiss this as an aberration, a gimmicky title even, but these are probably the same people who dismissed the Wii as a gimmicky console and look how wrong they got that.

Well, regardless of whether the die hards will like this or not there’s certainly plenty of gameplay here for your money. The single player game is split into four stories, each with five chapters, and each of these is made up of multiple sections, sometimes three, sometimes four, sometimes even five, so you get plenty of levels to fight your way through. As I’ve mentioned earlier these are all quite varied in styles so you never get too bored working your way through them all. Some are quite short, but even so there’s a good twelve hours or more of gameplay here. Then there’s replay value, as you are graded at the end of each level so you can always go back and replay levels to improve your grading, if you are so inclined. Then there’s a versus mode, it’s not much to talk about, more of a series of minigames than a proper multiplayer mode but I suppose it’s something. Up to eight players can play these, two at a time.

They may have made some significant improvements to the gameplay here, but there’s still a lot of things wrong with it. Presentation, for starters, leaves a lot to be desired, the Samurai/Dynasty Warriors games have never been particularly polished but this instalment takes things to new heights, or should that be depths? The menus are very, very basic and the in-game graphics are comparable to a first generation PlayStation 2 title. The variety and animation of the character models is just laughable and the background scenery isn’t much better, calling it functional would be being kind. You get the odd glitch in there too, occasionally the action stops to give you a bit of narrative, while this always stops you from doing anything if an on screen enemy is mid attack they still carry on their attack sequence with you helpless to defend and the less said about the enemy AI the better. It is far from a polished product.

It’s certainly a commendable move they’ve made with the franchise here and hopefully the start of a spin off series of games, but it’s going to need some serious work for it to fulfil the potential this game shows. It’s just a shame they couldn’t have made more of an effort with this first attempt, but I’m guessing judging by the lack of change in their games that the company motto over at Koei is something along the lines of ‘get away with as little as possible’ or some such.

A nice change from the usual fare from Koei, just needed more work.

6 out of 10
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