Review: Samurai Warriors Chronicles

Samurai Warriors, unlike its much older sister franchise Dynasty Warriors, has slowly drifted away from the PlayStation and Xbox over the past few years in favour of Nintendo’s hardware. 2010 saw the release of Samurai Warriors 3 for the Wii, debuting to a sporadic critical reception and very poor sales across America and Europe. There has since been an expansion titled Samurai Warriors 3 XL (Xtreme Legends) also available for the Wii as well as Samurai Warriors 3 Z, essentially an up-scaled PlayStation 3 port, both of which are never likely to launch in western territories.

[drop]Omega’s latest offering in the series is Samurai Warriors Chronicles, the first title in the franchise to grace a Nintendo handheld. In a nutshell it strips the core mechanics and character roster from Samurai Warriors 3, adding revamped story mode and several new gameplay features.

As always the game takes play during the Sengoku (Warring States) era in Feudal Japan, a time of constant military conflict which saw the rise and fall of many talented tacticians and ferocious warlords. In other Samurai Warriors titles the story mode would present the player with the option to choose from one of the game’s many characters, each with their own chain of missions with the occasional cutscene slotted here and there. Though this campaign formula was effective back in the day, by the time Samurai Warriors 3 launched it was beginning to show its age; the same structure was used to support Dynasty Warriors 2 which launched almost a decade prior.

In Chronicles’ revamped story mode, you create your own warrior, either male or female, then set out on a path which will lead you through all of the period’s greatest conflicts, presenting the plot as a single yet complex chain. Along the way you will come into contact with a number of prolific generals and their retainers who you can then build a friendship with, though ultimately your choices have no bearing on the overall story. Therefore, you will be forced down a pre-determined path no matters which generals you befriend, until the credits begin to roll.

Gameplay-wise, very little has changed since Samurai Warriors 3. Each of the 40 or more characters  have their own fight styles, which come in two different variations, focus combos and long combos, personified by their weapon choice. Focus combos are easy to perform and can be chained to deliver devastating damage to small pockets of enemies, with long combos requiring more skill to use, yet capable of clearing entire crowds. Your performance in battle will determine how much XP is awarded, which then builds up to unlock new abilities and combos.

very little has changed since Samurai Warriors 3

As mentioned previously, there have been a few tweaks made to the existing gameplay model; the most significant being the character-switching mechanic. The ability to change back and forth between multiple warriors in-game isn’t new to the series, in fact it was a main gameplay focus for SW/DW crossover, Warriors Orochi, though in Chronicles it has been much improved. You will be able to select four characters who will then be scattered across the battlefield in pre-determined locations. With a quick tap on the character icons displayed on the touchscreen, you not only change your fighter but also your location. One of the biggest flaws of the Warriors formula is the constant need to backtrack or travel long distances, though in Chronicles this problem doesn’t exist. It’s also worth noting that via the battle menu players can assign checkpoints for all four selected characters to move towards, adding a light strategic element to the gameplay.

Another feature is the use of real time skills and abilities. Every warrior comes equipped with a handful of these unique powers, each one requiring a designated number of spirit points to deploy (these are gained simply by performing combos.) These simply act as temporary buffs and, apart from the ones which restore a character’s health or musou gauge, they will mostly go unused. The spirit gauge also has a secondary function, when unleashing a musou attack whilst having a full spirit will trigger an “ultimate musou” attack. Though it sounds devastating, this special move is nothing but a regular musou attack with an extra, slightly more power strike added at the very end.

[drop2]All campaign missions can be played again using any combination of warriors once beaten along with the numerous “gaiden” missions unlocked as you progress. Via the 3DS’s Spot Pass functionality, players will be able to access new missions, though if you aren’t impressed with what you have already it’s probably better to disable this feature. Chronicles also sports Street Pass, allowing you to build squads of warriors and taking them to battle while on the go, in a similar fashion to Super Street Fighter’s figure system. There is even an option to attach a weapon to your team of fighters which will be given to opponents who manage to defeat you in combat.

Visually, the game is pretty much identical to Samurai Warriors 3; most of the maps and character models have been recycled, though slightly scaled back in definition as to preserve a solid frame rate. The 3D works nicely in Chronicles, adding the exact right amount of depth without becoming too much of a strain on the eyes. It’s just a shame that there weren’t more pre-rendered cutscenes scattered throughout the game as these were by far the most eye-catching.

[boxout]Truthfully, voice acting has never been a highlight of the series in a similar fashion to most localised ports of  Japanese-developed games. This time around Omega have tried a different approach by presenting every bit of spoken dialogue (and there is a lot) in Japanese. Sure, for the first few missions it feels slightly authentic, but by the time your grind into the second and third chapters you will notice that you’re simply reading walls of text while listening to a foreign language, something a lot of players will protest against, especially if they are new to the series.

Pros

  • The best portable Warriors title by a mile
  • Character-switching removes any need for backtracking
  • More story-driven, option to cusomtise your very own warrior
  • Other 40 unique warriors to recruit
  • Complete chain of network features including Spot Pass and Street Pass
  • 3D compliments the in-game action well

Cons

  • Story mode is completely linear, yet being previously described otherwise
  • Feels too much like a port of Samurai Warriors 3, despite the changes made
  • The lack of cheesy localised dialogue is actually missed
  • Mission structure will prove repetitive after the first few battles
  • General lack of character-focused content the series is renowned for

No matter how you look at it, the classic Warriors formula is starting to lose its fun factor. Mechanics which may have had gamers hooked for hours on end are now bearly tolerable for just a number of minutes, despite Omega’s innovations. Now is the time for the Samurai Warriors series to take a well-deserved break, sever its rusting roots, and follow in the footsteps of KOEI’s upcoming release, Dynasty Warriors 7.

Score: 6/10

3 Comments

  1. First on I played was SW2 for PS2. I personally absolutely loved it so it’s sorry to see this half arsed attempt. DW7 it is then!

    • Indeed it is! If you’re a Warriors fans, you will have to pick your jaw up after playing DW7 (it’s just that good.)

  2. I have my DW7 paid off in full, picking it up tomorrow :D Bad timing for Samurai Warriors to come out, what with a far superior game coming out a few weeks after it. Looking forward to your DW7 review Jim!

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