Omega Force has been quite busy this year! In the last two months they have released Hyrule Warriors for the Wii U, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate for everything else, and now Samurai Warriors 4 for PlayStation 4.
But what does Samurai Warriors 4 offer that makes it stand out? After all, most critics proclaim all these games are exactly the same. But how wrong and foolish they are indeed, for Samurai Warriors 4 is a wonderful little title that I fear many will overlook. And how I pity them.
Samurai Warriors 4 Review
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Tecmo koei
A Legend of Unification
While Dynasty Warriors focuses on The Romance of the Three Kingdoms tale from ancient China, Samurai Warriors 4 details the historic unification of Japan. Though the story content is not necessarily more interesting in Samurai Warriors 4, it is executed better than Dynasty Warriors 8 making it a more enjoyable and coherent experience.
Players have a number of campaigns to choose from in Story Mode that detail the struggles of different Japanese clans fighting for their independence, land or survival. After playing through these prequel-like events, you unlock two final chapters in the unification of Japan. Since players experience the war from almost every characters perspective, it avoids painting anyone in particular as a true villain (except Nobunaga Oda, that black armour wearing ****). Your enemies motivations are clear and they become more than opponents to destroy.
While the story is interesting on a nationwide scale, what improves the story telling over Dynasty Warriors are the more personal moments. Based on what characters you use, there are short scenes before and after battle that explore their relationships and motivations. These small, but important additions help add context and depth to all the warriors.
Visually, Samurai Warriors 4 is gorgeous. The PlayStation 4 showcases the vibrant beauty of feudal Japan with stages filled with traditional Japanese castles and buildings, war torn battlefields, and gardens bathed in pink sakura petals (it IS Japan after all).
In true Warriors tradition, the character models for the playable officers are beautifully rendered with highly detailed and ornate clothing that cover the full spectrum of colour. Not a single piece of “realistic” grit to ruin their perfectly fabulous clothing can be seen. However there are some visual shortcuts sprinkled though out the game such as obviously two-dimensional leaves glued onto tree branches. Fortunately during the heat of battle, these visual inconsistencies go mostly unnoticed.
While the story in enjoyable, what truly stands out in Samurai Warriors 4 are the numerous changes and additions to the Warriors series combat system.
Players must choose two officers to bring into battle, controlling one at a time while giving basic commands to the other using a simple grid system. Who you control is switched at the touch of a button to help accomplish multiple objectives at once and cover more ground quickly. This is crucial when exploring the maps as bonus objectives are unlocked by fulfilling certain tasks that yield extra rewards.
Samurai Warriors 4 also adds new Hyper Attacks specifically designed to dispatch large groups of enemies quickly (the cannon fodder that litter the map in other words). This sounds ridiculously overpowered at first until you realise the Hyper Attacks are completely worthless against enemy officers. Only Normal and Power Attacks come in useful against the officers, as well as two stage Musou (super) attacks and a Rage mode that unlocks a Hyper Musou attack. There are 55 playable characters available who specialise in either Hyper, Normal or Power attacks, so strategies should be planned accordingly.
Enemy morale also plays an extremely important role in Samurai Warriors 4. Areas of the map controlled by the enemy are highlighted in red and any foes found within become extremely powerful. Even the generic waves of enemies can do devastating damage in large groups.
Local co-op returns, however each player picks one character each as opposed to two. Two human controlled players make most battles a little too easy though. Local co-op also suffer from a handful of hindrances. The camera is not optimised for split-screen play, so both players see much more of the floor than necessary. Vision will further be obstructed by objective and dialogue boxes blocking more screen real-estate.
Lastly, while the single player game runs smoothly there is a frustrating amount of op-in and out during local co-op. There are times when you need to kill certain enemies but they phase out of existence before your eyes, only to appear again a moment later for only a second.
Create your own Legend
Samurai Warriors 4 also suffers from a lack of gameplay options with the only alternative to Story and Free mode being Chronicle modes. Luckily Chronicle mode is sizeable enough to take a huge chunk of time and players to create their own unique officers to play as. Players are then tasked with exploring a map of Japan and battling with or against famous officers. This unlocks more customisation options, more officers to use within Chronicle mode and biographies for all the historic characters.
The mode feels repetitive as players have to traverse the same areas constantly using different life goals (such as being the best swordsman, best historian, etc) if they wish to unlock all the weapons and characters for chronicle mode. It’s sure to please completionists but it lacks the variety of challenge presented in the adventure mode map from Hyrule Warriors.
Final Verdict: 8/10
With the additions of two-character combat, hyper attacks and a compelling narrative that spans multiple army perspectives, Samurai Warriors 4 is a great addition to anyone’s library. It is only hindered by a limited amount of game modes and a patchy local co-op experience.
Samurai Warriors 4 is another must own for fans of any of the Warriors series (Hyrule Warriors, Dynasty Warriors). Anyone interested in a romanticised retelling of history should give the game a try, as well as fans of action orientated beat-em-ups like Double Dragon or Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game.
Samurai Warriors 4 is available on PlayStation 4. It is also available for digital download on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.