Touken Ranbu Warriors Review

touken ranbu warriors review

Koei Tecmo’s Musou games are on a mission to satisfy every gaming niche. Since setting the 1 v 1000 formula with Dynasty Warriors, they’ve turned their ever-hungry blades to Link’s swordplay, Fire Emblem’s strategy, Gundam’s mecha brawls, and Arslan’s dramatic manga-inspired anime. With Touken Ranbu Warriors I worry that they’re truly disappearing down the Musou rabbit hole, taking inspiration from a free-to-play, browser-based collectible card game about personified swords which spawned its own anime and a succession of successful live-action plays. Then again, this is gaming; we’ll happily believe a portly plumber can be a race driver, footballer, golfer, basketballer, brawler and a doctor, often without changing his clothes. So, I say bring on the living swords.

Set in 2205, the History Retrograde Army have set their sights on rewriting history. Travelling through time, they hope to alter the past to their benefit, with you and the Touken Danshi – those living swords we were talking about – the only thing standing in their way. They bring the fight to you though, initially attacking the Touken Danshi’s home base, their honmaru. After a swift set of tutorials you see them off, letting you begin on a series of quests to stop the HRA.

When you enter a battle you’re given a series of time disturbances to deal with, which, left unattended, will alter history in a distinctly heinous manner. You can be sure that the HRA are in the wrong here; for one thing they’re always making events much worse for everyone involved, and secondly they’re all glowing-eyed, skeletal-bodied Oni. They’re not the most exciting batch of enemies you’ve ever seen in a Warriors game, and they fall with even less friction than Koei Tecmo’s regular output.

touken ranbu warriors review

There’s a charming mystical fox with a Minority Report-style display called Konnosuke. He’s your guide, and beyond setting things in motion he’ll lead you to objectives or give you the odd titbit of information. He might well be the best character in the game, kind of like a baby Amaterasu. There are otherwise a host of very pretty, smooth-skinned male Touken Danshi – it literally means ‘sword men’ – for you to choose between, but the lack of a single female character may catch you unawares. They are seemingly deliberately bland, though an eye patch here and a flash of eye shadow there offer some distinctive qualities.

Touken Danshi Warriors’ characters’ lack of visual frippery does mean that it runs smoothly, both in handheld and docked modes for the Nintendo Switch. That could also be the result of this being the least expansive Musou game we’ve ever had, losing the big battlefields and replacing them with tight maps that funnel you through waves of enemies. It’s a difficult loss, especially when those enemies are like chaff to your scythe; only the key units offer a sticking point, and that’s if you crank the difficulty up to hard. It looks and sounds quite nice, and there’s plenty of drama to the Touken Danshi’s special moves to impress your friends, but it’s a bit soulless.

touken ranbu warriors review

It feels as though Koei Tecmo have really aimed to sate the appetite of Touken Ranbu fans, and the Warriors’ framework is simply a means to an end. That’s amplified by both the easy mode, and the easy control scheme, whipping your sword boy into a frenzy with every press of a button. It’s not what most Warriors fans will be looking for, but if you’re coming from a mobile CCG then it might feel more welcoming.

Thinking of those fans, besides the narrative you can interact with the Touken Danshi to a limited effect within the honmaru. You can send them off to various parts of the house, gaining items or earning upgrades via minigames, while also giving access to the photo mode. If you’ve ever wanted to take pictures of static anime sword men in a traditional Japanese kitchen then Touken Ranbu Warriors finally lets you live out that dream. You can also take pictures during battles, which is categorically more exciting, but still limited by a small number of visual effects and camera angles.

touken ranbu warriors review

The Musou action on display is even more brain dead than normal, but this being a Warriors game there’s still that cathartic gameplay loop to keep you coming back. I can’t quite work out if it’s the dull characters, the ease with which enemies are dispatched, or a lack of charm which is the most disappointing aspect here, but it doesn’t come together in the way that Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem Warriors did.

I was hoping for something unique in the pantheon of Koei Tecmo’s long-lived franchise, but it’s a step backwards. Fans of the Touken Ranbu franchise may get a kick out of seeing their beloved swords in 3D, but for the rest of the world you have to hope that it isn’t indicative of where Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is heading.
  • Appealing for Touken Ranbu fans
  • Some nice touches to keep in line with the source material
  • Excessively easy
  • Diminutive maps
  • A bit soulless
Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.