If I were a rich man … but unlike Zero Mostel I am not and being a student I am not making money either. On the day of my proclamation my mother, as sweet and good of heart she is, made a special arrangement with me. She gave me twenty Euros and I was allowed to spend the first ten no matter what. If I passed I could spend the other ten too. Beyond every expectation I succeeded in passing my second year flawlessly and so I went to buy a movie. Now, although my mother probably gave me her last cent, twenty Euros does not buy a lot of entertainment nowadays as I noticed when I looked at the Bruce Lee anniversary box price tag showing a figure of seventy Euros which was way out of my league. After walking around I found myself a nice treat: the Jackie Chan collection volume one, for €7,99 you get four movies on two discs. One of them was “Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin” who’s storyline was set in the same time as Samurai Warriors and therefore uses the same basic elements for a story: the clan-fights in feudal Japan.
As you can imagine I was hoping that Samurai Warriors was going to offer a little bit more than straightforward combat scenes all lasting at least fifteen minutes and simply showing how one man beating a legion without getting a scratch himself. Too bad, because that is simply what this game is all about. The square-button serves as an interface for your character’s main attack and if a special-bar runs full you can use the triangle for a powered up attack. The round-button allows you to perform a Musou attack capable of wiping away all the opponents in your range in just a few seconds which is also how long that you can use this attack. These two specials do not insert enough dept to the gameplay and you will be bashing on the square-button for hours and hours mowing through an astronomic amount of warriors on the huge battlefields which leads me to my next point.
The detailed warriors really look amazing and it is an astonishing performance to get them all on the screen without lag. However, the graphics fail when it comes to landscapes because the grass you are walking on seems to move around or grow when you are looking at it. I think the low quality of landscapes, varied how they may be, allows to spend more memory or cpu-time on the warriors which was perhaps the right choice.
You can choose for a Dolby Surround track but I did not notice much surround actually except for a brief moment during an intro/splash screen. Sound is not bad and music is quite alright too but never impressive and from time to time out of tone. For example when one navigates to the settings-menu suddenly some hard rock music starts and when one quits this menu it suddenly stops and there is no replacement in the other menu. These menus are on the other hand very easy to read and consequently structured.
What might help this game to get out of the rut is the variety of modes. First one up is the story mode in which you have to choose a character and play through different stages. You can play each level you have successfully completed in story mode again in free mode. The new officer mode is kind of a training where you have to create your own samurai and train him for a year to improve his skills. Quite fun this mode but in the end it will still come down to repetition. In survival mode you can select two sub-modes called ‘tower’ and ‘abyss’ but the goals remain the same. Get to the top of the tower or the bottom of the basement within a certain time limit. A nice versus mode offers really good two-player action and to conclude you can play the challenge mode in which you compete for the highest scores in the same exercises as the new officer mode.
These last three all have one common problem that can drive me furious: you can not quit. I have spent at least one hour trying to find a way to return to the main menu but that is only possible in two very time-consuming ways: reset your console (who is going to do that twice?!) or let your opponents beat you out of health (the last time I had to do that was before 1992 still playing on an Intel 486). It seemed impossible that they did not provided this option and even I am not infallible (laughing) so if I am wrong you can let me know, but I seriously doubt that you would find a way out.
For those of you who like to read a straight-forward conclusion instead of an unbelievably beautiful metaphor, skip the following part and only read the last one.
In many ways this game shows the same characteristics as Elvis Presley. Elvis had a base of fans that adored and cherished everything he produced varying from gospel songs to, as he damn well knew himself, crappy movies. Year after year he could release sequels and be sure to have an audience craving to get it and it seems that this is exactly the same with the warrior-series from Koei. So The King had his fans but there were also a lot of people utterly against everything he said or did and completely disapproved of his music and appearance. Then the seventies came, and – let us be honest – sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll had to make way for, well… sex, drugs and disco actually. The only difference is that in the fifties there was one Heartbreak Hotel and some 30 years later there was a chain of hotels offering a wide variety of recreation to the youth and immediately a lot of competition too. Those who already liked Elvis kept following him but the majority of the next generation got carried away by a new wave so his audience was shrinking but still big enough to go on. So if you want to walk in blue suede shoes perhaps you should go and rent a pair first and if you really keep liking them you can still buy a pair but if it was just a brief craze at least you did not waste too much money.
Samurai Warriors is another episode in Koei’s series and for those of you that like the previous games this will certainly extend that same pleasure. Today there is a lot of competition and therefore I do not think that this will ever become a top-ten game. Its gameplay is simply repetitive and graphics and sound are of an average quality. If you want to play this one you should definitely rent it and if you keep liking it you can still buy it. But if that is not the case you will have only spent about 1/10th of your money.