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Samurai Warriors 4 Review—Time To Unify The Warring States

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I knew as soon as Samurai Warriors 4 was announced for North America that I would be buying it. I’ve always had a penchant for Musou games and have thoroughly enjoyed basically all of them—the sheer joy of ripping through a battlefield in the way you do in a Warriors game is hard to beat.

While I like the Empires versions of the games more than any of the flagship titles, I’ve never not enjoyed a good Musou game. And I’ve always ranked Samurai Warriors a bit higher on my list than Dynasty Warriors thanks to the good times I had in Samurai Warriors Empires 2. (I still believe that it was one of the best in the series.)

So I knew I would be picking up Samurai Warriors 4 (SW4) on day one. I would have loved to get it early to review beforehand but that didn’t happen, and I felt that I needed to put a fair bit of time into it and get a good portion of the way through Chronicle Mode before I could write a review, so that’s why you had to wait. Let’s jump in, shall we?

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Mostly, Story Mode is made up of smaller stories that deal with the goings-on of the time, that come together to form a larger overview and ending. This time around, there aren’t any events during battles, and the battles themselves feel hollower than usual (especially in comparison to the newer Dynasty Warriors). This means that Story Mode is rather flat and boring, consisting merely of simple battles. It’s still fun, of course, but the conflict doesn’t seem as inspired.

Splitting up the stories based on clan or region may not have been a good idea. Each faction only has a few battles, which means the involved parties are short-changed of any character development. Character development used to be one of the strong points of the Samurai Warriors series.

All considered, the era’s story is told quite well, but I can’t help but feel that it’s also rather lacking.

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Thankfully, however, Story Mode isn’t all the game has to offer. The real meat of SW4 is Chronicle Mode. Chronicle Mode has you create and officer and take him out into the world, fighting battles, interacting with other officers, and making friends as you travel around Japan. This mode is quite a bit of fun, especially once you’ve opened up a few areas to explore.

When you begin, you pick your officer, and choose a beginning location. This is the first area open to you. There are nodes you can travel between on this section of the map, and your goal is to fight in the battles and meet with the officers in the area. Battles can increase your friendship with an officer, be they friend or foe in that fight—it doesn’t matter.

There will be times when an officer appears on the map but doesn’t want to fight. These instances let you watch scenes in which you interact with the officer through choice points. Each choice point gives you two responses from which to pick. Generally, one is positive and one is negative, so think about your responses a little.

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The draw is this: once you’ve seen three of the four available scenes with a given officer, they become selectable as your officer’s partner. Your partner is a second (non-editable) character that will accompany your protagonist on their travels. They are usable in battles and level up as normal.

There’s another great reward for befriending a character in Campaign Mode: if you’ve unlocked one of these characters, and have also maxed their friendship, that character’s weapon will be usable by the editable character.

When you battle in an area, the area’s “boss” will eventually make an appearance on the map. If you challenge him/her and win, you’ll have the right to expand your way into another area and unlock another section of the map.

After you put the beat down on the boss, you’ll choose and fight another officer who acts as a sort of gatekeeper to the area into which you plan to travel next. Expanding your sphere of influence and befriending other officers is basically your goal in this mode. It’s certainly simple, but a lot of fun.

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The sequel has a number of notable changes from the previous titles’ gameplay. The biggest changes is the addition of “Hyper Attacks”. Hyper Attacks are triggered by hitting triangle before any squares. It takes the place of what used to be the generally useless Charge Attacks. Hyper Attacks can be comboed, for example, by pressing triangle, triangle, triangle, square. These attacks are designed to clear an area of minor enemies.

Whether this is a good or a bad change, I’m really not sure. Using a Hyper Attacks can clean out an area full of grunt enemies in seconds, and rack up three or four hundred  kills very quickly. It completely negates the chore of killing off grunts with normal attacks. Simultaneously, though, wiping out tons of grunts in an instant makes the game seem very easy button-like.

So, truthfully, I’m still undecided about this change. As a side note, Hyper Attacks are useless against enemy officers, and can be blocked. If blocked, you’ll be bounced back from the enemy, and do a very anime-esque slide on your feet.

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Another addition is the “Mighty Strike”. Mighty Strikes are fishing moves that will instantly kill an enemy officer, given the right conditions. The enemy officer must be at very low health (less than 1/4) and stunned. A triangle button-prompt will pop up, and if you hit it, you’ll get a special attack animation showing the finisher. It’s a really neat addition that’s been imported from Warriors: Legends of Troy. It’s quite easy to trigger these attacks, but I find it easier in many cases to simply kill the opponent outright. I really appreciate the flair, though, and depending on the character, Mighty Strikes can be a great help in finishing off enemies just a little bit quicker.

Making a return from Samurai Warriors Chronicles is the switch system! This system allows you to immediately switch between two characters on the battlefield, and helps you take care of the various bonus missions and objectives that pop up throughout a battle. You can, of course, give directives to the character you aren’t currently controlling, but switching between the two gives you a clear edge.

This is where your partner in Chronicle Mode comes in: they are the second character at your disposal during every mission. They come in handy a ton during missions, since it’s very easy to traverse the entire stage to reach a bonus objective if you keep your two characters positioned across the map from one another. This is one change I really do like—it’s certainly more useful than switching characters like in Warriors Orochi, where the characters don’t actually assist you when you aren’t controlling them.

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The last big change isn’t really that big at all, in actuality. SW4 adds a “Spirit Gauge” that allows you to do several things. The gauge consists of a bar and several small orbs; each time the bar fills up, one of the orbs will set alight. Each of these orbs can be used to dash during a combo, which can extend the combo and allow you to link combos together.

However, if the Spirit Gauge is full, you can hit R3 to enter Rage Mode, which makes you invulnerable for a short period of time, with the additional effect that your attacks get a big strength boost. In addition, if you use your Musou while Raging, you automatically use the character’s Ultimate Musou, which usually requires your health to be in the red stage.

Overall, the game is still a solid Warriors experience. Not too much has changed, but the addition of Hyper Attacks nuanced the gameplay quite a bit. The available gameplay modes are certainly fun, but Chronicle Mode ends up being the one that’s really worth your time—Story Mode feels stale and lifeless in comparison to past Samurai Warriors games. Chronicle Mode is addictive, especially if you’re after a single character; one night, I found myself playing four hours later that I had planned to sleep, constantly going “One more fight … one more fight …” as I tried to get a hold of one particular officer’s weapon. It’s addictive that way.

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However, overall, SW4 experience was lacking, some. The game didn’t feel as complete as the newer Musou games, and the length of the game itself paled greatly in comparison to Dynasty Warriors 8 and Warriors Orcohi 3 Ultimate, both of which were fairly recent releases.

As much as I love Samurai Warriors, I would suggest either of those games before this one. However, if you have both of those and still want more Musou, Samurai Warriors 4 is still a good entry in the series.

Samurai Warriors 4 was reviewed using a retail copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
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Chris Gregoria

About

I'm a pretty chill guy. Huge video game fan, but a bigger anime fan. I also love to write - obviously.



8 comments
  1. Grey
    Grey
    October 28, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    The ease of peon-slaughter you mentioned puts a cramp in things for me personally. I do wish they’d sway away from the “1 vs 1,000!” design approach and go back to something that makes battlefields feel more meaty. At this point, outside of the highest difficulty levels, common enemy soldiers are nothing more than Musou-building tokens and free item drops. They’re as much a challenge or threat, even in massive numbers, as the breakable pots you get meat buns or rice balls from. I’ll still probably end up buying it though.

    My great enduring disappointment is that we never got Samurai Warriors 3: Empires in the west. The game looked amazing, better at length than any of the DW: Empires recently and a worthy successor to Samurai Warriors 2: Empires. Here is to hoping we get the inevitable SW4: Empires.

  2. Chris Gregoria
    Chris Gregoria
    October 28, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    I completely agree on all accounts. I miss the old days where peons were easy to kill but still dangerous in their own right. I mean, at least make it so that when you’re walking through a crowd of 50 of them they can gang up on you or something.

    The way that most enemies are passive as you run by (at least in lower difficulties) makes things way too easy.

  3. Grey
    Grey
    October 28, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    Going back and playing one of the older Musou these days is such a different experience, beyond the graphical downgrade. You can only one-hit peons with the best weapons at the lowest difficulty.

    Koei really needs to rethink their design approach. For the last three Dynasty Warriors and now, it seems, the current Samurai Warriors has simply been to add in more characters, mildly improve the graphics, and dilute the actual gameplay. Allies are incompetent going on useless, enemies are feeble, and racking up kills no longer feels like an accomplishment as much as busy work.

  4. Stephen Smith
    Stephen Smith
    October 28, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    I need advice on buying a Warriors game. The only one of the series I own is Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires, which I bought in August this year.

    I was thinking of getting Samurai Warriors 4 because it seemed like it had the entire package: story mode, Chronicle mode and create-an-officer (I love character creation). In Chris’ review above, however, he suggests that Dynasty Warriors 8 might be a better buy but personally, from what I’ve seen, this seems very similar to 7 (and, compared to SW4, a bit bare-bones).

    I’m not interested in Warriors Orochi so my other option is to wait for DW8: Empires but again, this seems very similar to 7: Empires. So I’m torn. What’s my best option?

    Since I’ve never played a Samurai Warriors game, I’m tempted to go with SW4 the most.

  5. Chris Gregoria
    Chris Gregoria
    October 28, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    SW4 is not a bad game. However, it really depends what your favorite parts of the game are.

    The nice thing with an Empire’s game is you can play through a campaign start to finish and just do it again because it’s fun and you start over with a new officer. That’s not really the case so much with the other Musou games because a single playthrough really will net you practically everything.

    That’s what kills SW4. The story mode is rather short and the chronicle mode, while fun for sure, is also really only good for one go through – there’s not much reason to play it again once you beat it. And therein lies the problem with many of the Warriors games.

    DW8 has a much longer story mode, and the story mode missions are actually fun, and that’s why I would suggest that over SW4 if you like story mode a lot. On the other hand, if it’s not the story mode you’re after, then SW4 with its create-a-soul and chronicle mode will be plenty for you.

    On the other hand, if you like the Empires mode in Empires, you’ll really want to wait for Empires. Unfortunately, no other Warriors game has anything remotely similar enough to the empires mode that I could recommend…so, it’s really all down to taste on that.

    Do you know exactly what it is about the Warriors games that you’re looking for?

  6. Stephen Smith
    Stephen Smith
    October 28, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    Well the way you described Empires mode certainly IS how I felt when playing DW7: Empires and I suppose I was looking for more of that. However, the last Empires game only had a single game mode (the Empire Mode itself) whereas others have had Story, Chronicle, Challenge, Free Mode, etc. depending on the game. It’s a shame they don’t release a game with all of them.

    From the sound of things, I should wait until DW8: Empires — I enjoy making characters and seeing events play out starring them — but at the same time, I feel like I may be missing out on a lot of stuff by sticking with Empires alone. Even Empire Mode could be repetitive and shallow and I’d like to branch out once in a while to try SW4’s gameplay and a story mode here and there.

  7. Chris Gregoria
    Chris Gregoria
    October 28, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Then give SW4 a shot. Like I said, it’s not a bad game. If you’ve got the cash, it’s certainly worth it. The big difference is whether or not you want to spend the money.

    And I agree. Empires games have always been by far my favorites of the series as a whole anyway. :3

  8. João Carlos Honório Pedro
    João Carlos Honório Pedro
    November 10, 2014 at 10:48 am

    PC… please… Koei, you basterds… ;_;