14th Aug2017

‘Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada’ Review (PS4)

by Phil Wheat

samurai-warriors-sos-ps4

Witness life in a Castle Town as it grows from quiet and peaceful to bustling and prosperous. Reside during missions and prepare for the next battle or talk to the officers and townspeople to gain a deeper insight into their daily lives. The fear of war and the celebration of victory both have their own effect on the morale of the people, and some will ask for help with their troubles by offering missions. Over the course of the story, the Castle Town expands, granting a greater array of facilities for players to utilise. The Blacksmith uses materials to improve and upgrade weapons to grant an upper-hand in combat, Stables allow for horses to be purchased and prepared for the next mission, Shops sell rare and unique items which will replenish an officer’s health and musou gauges, and the Dojo provides a training ground where one can learn new skills or enhance older ones. A Teahouse is also present, here officers can talk with one another and exchange gifts. Finding the correct gift will result in raised favour with another officer which allows them to join forces on the front line.

The Samurai Warriors franchise has been a staple of videogaming for 13 years(!) now. The sister series of the Dynasty Warriors series, the hack and slash franchise has crossed generations of consoles and gamers – with the developers always tweaking the gameplay, always adding more to the action. But now comes Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada – a spin-off from Samurai Warriors 4, the game adds an emotional resonance to the series that, honestly, hadn’t really been there before.

Heavily focusing on its characters, Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada follows Masayuki Sanada, the clan’s patriarch, from his very first battle and continues through following his second son Yukimura, from his birth in 1567. Yukimura was a pure natured yet reckless child who grew up with his elder siblings watching out for him and strived throughout his life to give his best for the clan…

If there’s one thing I’m not a fan of in video games are excessive cut scenes; and I’m not going to lie, I’ll often skip over them to get to the meat of a game. I can count on two hands how many games I have sat throught the cut scenes in their entireity… And most of those were made by Naughty Dog! Why am I telling you this? Because Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada joins that very small cadre of games; the cut scenes actually being not only vital to the story (as usual) but also vital to the overall enjoyment and emotional connection players have with this game. A connection that is in turn fed by the cut scenes in a vicious circle of storytelling.

Of course this is also a Musou title – which means copious amounts of action and frenetic battles that take a toll on your thumbs and your gamepad! I joke, but there is a LOT of button-bashing in this game, as there is in all the Warriors games, but that monotonous routine is – thanks to this games complex and involving story – given a greater depth. You want to win, you want to succeed; not just because you’re playing a game but because you’re emotionally connceted to the Sanada clan and want to see THEM succeed.

Whilst the story in Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada amazes, the graphics do not. There’s something “last gen” about the characters and cut scenes that, in lesser circumstances, would drag this game way down but here – like in low-budget filmmaking – the story and they way it is told overcomes any foibles the game may have. Of course it helps if you’ve played the previous Samurai Warriors games, which helps with the overall immersive experience, but its not entirely necessary to still enjoy this game on a deep emotional level. And even if you just want to play Spirit of Sanada on the base “hack and slash” level you can, for this is a great example of Musou at it’s best…

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