As much as I’m enjoying Samurai Warriors 4-II, I struggle to justify the game’s existence. You see, it’s been less than a year since the original’s debut and Tecmo Koei have already released what it believes to be a “perfect version” of the historical hack n’ slash sequel.
For those familiar with the series, this hasty rehash will hardly come as a surprise. Since releasing its first on-disc expansion for Dynasty Warriors 3 more than a decade ago, Tecmo Koei and developer Omega Force have continued to pump out ports, sequels, and expansions at an alarming rate. In the past, this approach has caught the publisher some flack yet nowadays we rarely bat an eyelid whenever they rebox existing games with a handful of shiny baubles. It’s even easier to ignore in 2015 what with the growing trend of “definitive editions” and remasters, but with Samurai Warriors 4-II, Tecmo Koei may have gone a step too far.
Previously, with each numbered instalment in the franchise, we’ve come to expect a pair of post-launch products. The first of these is usually Xtreme Legends, a supercharged add-on that often chucks in a catalogue of new missions and weapons, as well as an interesting new game mode. Some months down the line, we’ve also come to expect an Empires spin-off for each mainline game in the series, offering fans a tactical twist on the existing hack n’ slash template. Samurai Warriors 4-II, according to Tecmo Koei, is neither of these. Instead, it has been touted as an overhaul of the original game – an ultimate edition of last year’s musou masterpiece.
However, as intriguing and exciting as that sounds, 4-II fails to live up to our expectations of what a “perfect version” should entail. Although Omega Force has certainly brought some new and inventive changes to the table, it has also cut away huge swathes of content. As a result, those seeking the ultimate Samurai Warriors 4 experience will need to own both versions of the game. Of course, this was no doubt Tecmo Koei’s intention all along, but you can’t help but feel misled.
At the very heart of 4-II is a heavily revised story mode. Although many of the missions and set-piece battles remain as they were, Omega Force has re-ordered them to create a more character-centric narrative. Instead of selecting one of the game’s numerous faction timelines, players will immerse themselves in one of several key story arcs. These will often revolve around a handful of the series’ legendary fighters, charting friendships, rivalries, and even the occasional romance. This is all supported by new dialogue and cutscenes, bringing each of these chronicles to life.
As for gameplay, very little has changed. Samurai Warriors 4-II uses the exact same high octane blend of hyper attacks and character switching, allowing players to detonate entire screens full of enemies within seconds. One minor tweak is the way in which generals can trigger a lunge attack, forcing players to counter with a quick button press. It’s an incredibly small addition yet one that adds some much-needed gravity to these one-on-one encounters.
Elsewhere, Omega Force has changed up the way in which character progression is handled. By using collectible items referred to as “Tomes”, players can unlock new power and stat buffs from a hexagonal grid, each one granting access to the adjacent blocks around it. Weapons and mounts have also been given some extra thought in 4-II, allowing you to combine and essentially grow them as you discover more on the battlefield.
Other new features include a new playable character, Naomasa Ii, as well as the new Survival Mode. Here, players will blitz their way through increasingly powerful hordes of enemies as they look to climb a tower and bag some loot. Although fun to start with, it soon becomes repetitive. What’s more, by including Survival Mode, Omega Force has – for some bizarre reason – removed the far superior Chronicle Mode found in Samurai Warriors 4.
It’s this cutting of content that really lets 4-II down. Instead of simply adding to the original game, Omega Force has effectively done a reshoot, creating a standalone product that isn’t quite on par with what came before. It’s for that reason alone that I find the existence of Samurai Warriors 4-II inexplicable. Considering what the game has to offer, it would suit the Warriors’’ Xtreme Legends sub-series perfectly, but by branding this at the “perfect version” Tecmo Koei has arguably misled its fanbase. A fanbase that is already accustomed to buying pricey on-disc expansions.
If you’ve yet to buy Samurai Warriors 4, we’d strongly recommend grabbing an earlier version of the game – whether that be the original or Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3. Although 4-II certainly has its perks, it fails to push the series in a new, more innovative direction as a whole. Thankfully, with Samurai Warriors 4 Empires already in the pipeline, it looks as though our favourite historical brawler may very quickly get back on track.