Nothing new to see here, folks.
Samurai Warrior 2 is more of the same old hack and slash style that we were have become all to familiar with, which may be a good thing if you like being stuck in a gaming rut. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that if you’re a button-mashing homebody that doesn’t like to venture far off the beaten path. But if you’re hoping the series has evolved, we’re barely out of the Neanderthal stage with this version.
As far as button mashing, hack and slash games go, Samurai Warrior 2 has got it down pat. This game has perfected the genre and set the standards, which as everyone should know, leaves it no place to go. Don’t confuse the addition of deeper RPG elements as an overall improvement in the series since these additions don’t directly affect the core gameplay, the majority of which is relegated to pushing one button like a compulsive neurotic on meth.
To keep the combat interesting you will activate various combos and the subsequent stock animations that will display different moves for your character. Most of these combos are context sensitive, meaning that they are triggered when you are in a specific location, during a specific situation and facing in the appropriate direction. There are a lot of different combos which manage to make things look more interesting but they are triggered randomly so that eventually you will resent not having direct control over them. Still, one can’t argue about the simplicity of the pick-up-and-play control system. There are more than 25 different characters, many of which you’ll have to unlock. They are capable of two exclusive moves that you will have direct control over. By pressing the shoulder button in tandem with the action button you can unleash a devastating special attack as well as some more interesting activities such as setting traps for enemies or summoning magical powers.
Considering the relative passiveness of the enemy AI, you won’t have to rely on any particular strategy which kind of cheapens the gameplay. The AI seems dazed and confused, often not knowing whether to attack or retreat. They often just stand there and wait for you to mow them down. Only the higher-level commanders will give you a good head-to-head challenge. The only thing the AI really has going for it is volume. But at the same time, your AI army is not particularly aggressive or conscientious. You have to be on them like stink on a monkey to get them to help you win the battle. This requires riding your horse all over the map to check out your various units’ progress, or lack thereof. Occasionally they will attack the enemy while you’re on site but they don’t inspire much confidence when you leave them alone and set out to check on the other units.
Admittedly, the RPG features are a nice addition but the same could be said about a tissue commercial, strictly from the point of view of breaking up the monotony. In the Story and the Free mode, you will take on enemies that will surrender gold when killed. You can also find gold in various crates that you smash. This precious commodity can be used to purchase a variety of things such as new weapons, weapon upgrades, horses, more guards and new skills. Any of these new elements is a welcome addition. They don’t change the gameplay but give you something new to play with in the sandbox. Your upgrades will be saved for your character in all of the modes that you play.
A split screen, co-op mode is the only multi-player mode available. You can’t challenge any player in a head-to-head battle. The co-op mode will accommodate up to four players and is more fun than any of the single player modes, as any seasoned button masher will testify. The ability to converse with your buddies, all in the same room, allows you to segment your focus so that you’re not painfully aware of just how redundant the gameplay really is.
The graphics need an update badly. They look like they are from a good PSX (Playstation One) game. There is a decided lack of detail to the environments, making them look as stale as a museum exhibit. Nothing looks lived in. The characters are decent and they do animate well. The various moves are interesting to watch as there is plenty of blood and guts and gore to the combat. There are some decent cutscenes but they tend to focus more on each character’s individual aspects rather than the huge civil war that is taking place. The cutscenes are well produced and even the dubbed English dialog is above average – which may not really be saying much considering how terrible it is in games such as Dynasty Warriors and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The music is plain filler and the sound effects are repetitive and unexciting – they remind you that you’re playing a videogame.
If you’ve never played a button mashing game before then you can’t go wrong trying your hand at this one. Fanatics will be purchasing this game regardless of what I say, but I would highly recommend that you rent it first. It can be addicting thanks to the easy control system but keep in mind that what may originally attract you, may ultimately repel you.