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June 6, 2017 | by  | in Games |
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Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada

Developer: Omega Force

Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games

Platform: PS4, PC (Windows)

Review copy supplied by publisher

 

The Warriors franchise is one that tends to dip under the radar for most gamers, despite there being dozens of games within it. In fact, there are so many games that it can make your head spin trying to keep up with them. The main series, Dynasty Warriors, is based on the historical novel from China, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and has eight main entries with another eight spinoffs; Samurai Warriors is a spinoff set in Japan’s Sengoku Jidai, or Warring States Period, with four main entries plus two additional spinoffs. There’s also the Warriors Orochi sub-series, a crossover between the two previous series, plus all of the games licensed from anime and other gaming franchises, including Gundam, One Piece, Fist of the North Star, The Legend of Zelda, Berserk, and Dragon Quest!

That’s a lot of games. They also all play almost exactly the same.

Spirit of Sanada is, of course, another Samurai Warriors game, one which looks to reinvigorate the franchise while keeping in everything the fans love about them. While most Samurai Warriors games feature a variety of figures from the Sengoku Jidai, this entry focuses specifically on the Sanada clan, led by Masayuki Sanada and his two sons Nobuyuki and Yukimura, over 54 years.

The core gameplay of this entry follows the Warriors formula: you control your character through a battlefield, hacking and slashing your way through hundreds, if not thousands, of enemies while completing objectives, culminating in a fight with an enemy commander. It’s a simple formula, but it somehow works. Compared to many of its contemporaries in the hack-and-slash genre, the Warriors franchise is not renowned for its combat being very deep. You can, for the most part, get through levels without pressing anything other than a couple of attack buttons. The sheer number of enemies faced, however, sets it apart, with there often being hundreds of enemies on-screen at crucial points of each level. I found the combat to be surprisingly engaging considering its simplicity, especially after building up a meter and pulling off a flashy Musou attack.

Spirit of Sanada adds to the Warriors formula by placing an emphasis on RPG elements. Characters and items can be levelled up through their use in battle, while weapons can be upgraded using a crafting system, with certain “exploration” levels being available to collect materials. The “Sanada Six Coins” meter affects ally morale, which can be boosted by performing tasks in hub areas and fulfilling certain conditions in battle; activating a Stratagem drains the meter, but triggers actions which can drastically affect battles. These are all nice extras which give Spirit of Sanada a unique feel from other games in the franchise, something which has been necessary for some time.

Graphically the game is not very impressive; while it uses the engine from Samurai Warriors 4, a three-year old game, it falls victim to frequent framerate drops on my PS4 even though it is capped at 30 FPS. Character animation within cutscenes is often stiff, and even while controlling them they do not exactly move gracefully, especially outside of battle. The enemy AI, largely by necessity, is not the smartest around and thus enemies often stand still, waiting for your blade — this can be forgiven considering the sheer number of them at any given time.

If you’re already a fan of the franchise, Spirit of Sanada is likely what you’ve been looking for in a Warriors game for ages, one which gives the series a breath of fresh air and brings it away, if only slightly, from the formula for which it has been criticised. As a relative newcomer, I’ve enjoyed my experience with this spinoff, and I look forward to diving even deeper.

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