Sengoku Basara Samurai Heroes certainly starts with a bang. As a fan of anime I was instantly drawn to the over the top intro cutscene showing floppy haired fighters jumping, leaping and smashing their way through obstacles. A great intro does not a good game make though, so can the substance match the style?
Following the death of conqueror ‘Hideyoshi’, Japan is divided into numerous warring factions each with their own powerful leader vying for control. SBSH is in a similar vein to games such as ‘Dynasty Warriors’, where you take control of a single powerful character and lead them into battle against hundreds of enemy troops. When entering the story mode you are asked to choose from one of over a dozen characters, and you are then given some back-story and a cutscene showing their motivation for fighting. After this you are presented with an overview of a map of Japan, where battles between various factions are taking place.
On this screen you can choose one of several options. Weapons and items earned can be equipped, materials salvaged can be used to create items, or you can just jump straight into battle. Battle is where you will spend most of your time, and it’s a fairly hectic place to be! I’ve seen people comment on how SBSH is just a ‘hack and slash’ game, but in my opinion that is doing it a slight injustice. Whilst there aren’t a huge variety of moves on offer, you do actually have to learn when and where to use them, otherwise you risk being caught out by a (seemingly endless) enemy combo. For example, one of the characters has a spinning six bladed attack which carries him forward a few metres. This is great for ploughing through the crowds of grunts, but if you try it on one of the bosses on a harder setting you’ll more than likely be dodged and countered. It would be much safer to stick to one of the close quarter moves.
You also have two meters at the bottom of your screen for ‘Hero Time’ which makes everyone but you go into slow motion, and your ‘Basara Art’ which is an overpowered attack that will devastate enemies. These meters build up as you dish out the hurt. There are plenty of enemies on display during levels, with combos of 900+ achievable, but unfortunately they don’t seem to have been blessed with much intelligence at all and can be blitzed fairly easily. Whilst at first this gives you a rather grim sense of satisfaction, it quickly becomes tedious. The boss characters do offer an interesting challenge though, each with their own special attacks, and they are focused on defeating you rather than running around in circles.
The main characters on offer are nicely varied, poorly dressed, and they each have a definite difference in playing style, forcing you to relearn how to fight every time you start up a brand new story. It is a time consuming game, and to 100% it with all sixteen characters will take weeks of playtime. Once you complete a level on story mode you once again return to the overview map of Japan, where you can witness how other battles have panned out. Leaders fall, alliances are forged, and you pick who you want to invade next (oh matron!). This screen is also where you level up, making you more powerful and giving you greater health. The speed at which you increase in levels is down to how many points you score each level.
Unfortunately there are a few issues that plague the game. The visuals seem to be stuck several years in the past, and wouldn’t look out of place on a PS2. This is a crying shame; as if the PS3’s processing power had been put to good use the sense of scale would have been epic. Enemies also have a frustrating habit of randomly spawning in front of you. The main enemies you fight look almost identical, and as mentioned earlier put up little resistance. One of the most annoying parts of the game (for me anyway) is the fact that during levels your character will just not shut up. Quip after bloody quip pours forth from their ever flapping lips, and to top it all off the boss characters join in too. I’d run them all through if I could. A lot of the time they aren’t even making sense.
- Lots to do and learn
- Nice looking special attacks
- Boss variety
- Can look awful in places
- Mindless grunts
- Can really only be played in small doses
- Jabbering idiots
SBSH is a tough game to score fairly. If you love this genre then there’s no doubt this game is for you, and you can be happy with the fact that Capcom has provided a game that will keep you busy for weeks on end. For everyone else though things aren’t that clear. There is definitely fun to be had here, but really only in small doses, and I’m sure that most people won’t really want to play through the game sixteen times, even though the stories differ. In my opinion the game is nowhere near as bad as others have made out, but nor is it the next evolution of gaming.