Samurai Warriors 4-II PS4 Review
The Musou genre of videogames is probably the only genre equal to sports-based videogames in terms of yearly output. Dating as far back as the original Playstation, developer Omega Force first popularized the term with Dynasty Warriors and have since released a near-uncountable number of sequels and spinoffs…which also have sequels.
Samurai Warriors would fall under the latter category, commonly known as a “sister series” to Dynasty Warriors: same concept, different era. While Dynasty Warriors typically deals with Chinese history with its heavily romanticized depiction of the Three Kingdoms era, Samurai Warriors follows the Japanese side of historical warfare with the Sengoku period, featuring historical Japanese figures such as Nobunaga Oda, Hanzo Hattori and a bunch of other warriors you may recognize from various other videogames and anime rather than an actual history book. In typical Musou fashion, the story mode features no real main character and instead allows players to experience the war through several different playable perspectives, though front and center for the latest iteration (called Samurai Warriors 4-II, the only other series besides Final Fantasy that could get away with such a ludicrous numbering scheme) is Naomasa li, a headstrong crimson-armored general of the Tokugawa who is determined to make a name for himself while charging headlong into every conflict. Several other characters take center stage, all possessing insane superpowers and anime-inspired character designs (including Naomasa’s absurdly young-looking mother, who apologizes for every screen-clearing barrage of kicks she unleashes), all tasked with mowing down thousands of enemy fodder in every map while also targeting specific bosses in order to achieve victory.
If you have played literally any Musou game before Samurai Warriors 4-II, you know the drill: each map is a massive stage filled with thousands of NPCs running around, where one side must dominate the other by taking out the opposition. Players assume the role of their chosen character, who can effortlessly lay waste to hundreds of mooks at a time through a two-button combination of attacks followed by a screen-clearing Musou attack once the appropriate gauge is filled up. New to this iteration are Hyper Attacks, which can allow players to dash through enemies as well as break a boss’s guard with a well-timed dash, and Rage Attacks, which temporarily boost a player’s attacks while allowing for an even more insane Musou attack if unleashed before the effect wears off. Retuning gameplay elements include the ability to bring two warriors into the field and allowing to switch between them on the fly (be careful, though, as it’s Game Over if just one of them falls in battle), calling up a mount to traverse quicker, and activate learned skills that can offer several boosts (such as elemental attacks) or temporary rewards (such as extra gold and EXP).
As a gameplay concept, Samurai Warriors 4-II is every bit the mindless button-masher that its numerous predecessors were; the standard enemy will offer little resistance, existing purely for players to massacre them while basking in their increasing kill count. Bosses put up slightly more resistance but amount to little more than higher health and more consistent attacks. The one sole element that requires a bit of strategic thinking is to finish the onscreen objectives, which usually require players to finish off a certain enemy within a limited timeframe, or protect an important NPC from being overwhelmed. In either instance, it’s merely about paying attention on where to go next rather than just foolishly mowing down foes without a care in the world.
What Musou games like this lack in complexity, however, they make up for with sheer sensory overload. Carrying a much more stable framerate than the abysmally un-optimized Warriors Orochi, Samurai Warriors 4-II features much more capable visuals, though there are still instances of slowdown during the heavier combos. The game’s simplicity also lends itself to more unlockable rewards, such as spending Tomes to increase a character’s abilities, feeding weapons into other weapons in order to raise their levels, not to mention additional characters, scenarios and other unlocks.
In the end, Samurai Warriors 4-II is yet another Musou entry out of a dozen or so that hit every year. However, these button-mashing brawlers can still provide hours of entertainment for players who want to turn their brains off and enjoy some over-the-top action. So long as there are entries that provide a competent experience, there are still Musou games worth enjoying once in a while, with this latest entry proving to be one of the fresher additions to the batch.