Way of the Samurai 2
After I saw “Seven Samurai” from Akira Kurosawa I was anxious to get some active action (though still wanting to remain seated in my lazy chair of course) especially after the four hour marathon provided by the DVD of “Shichinin no samurai”. This is a black and white movie from 1954 where the plot is announced so gradually that even the biggest moron can understand everything. After I saw the surprising extra feature “video essay” my knowledge of ronin (samurai without an employer) and Japanese culture was once again a little wider, so I felt ready to step in the wake of Mifune in the RPG “Way Of The Samurai”.
You end up in little town called Amahara (you can navigate through its main regions with the help of a map) as a roaming samurai and get in touch with a few of the locals. You notice very quickly that there is no time for wandering around and to earn a living you will have to work. No money means no food and no place to sleep. Not everybody is that happy with your arrival and you will have to prove the opposite of their first impression. After that your political belief will determine the rest of the game. Naturally I chose an honest and righteous path but you might just as well join the Aota gang (a bunch of nasty crooks). In the end you will have to live your live day by day and try to survive which is the easiest by behaving in a conformist way. Simply said: get up, work and go to bed. Do notice, however, that you are a samurai and your role pattern will be slightly more intense and exciting than the one of civil servant. As the days pas by you’ll notice that your alliances grow tighter and the opportunities get more interesting, up to you to find out.
The role playing element is the most important factor and it keeps you glued to your chair waiting for what is going to happen and what you will have to say now to talk your way out of it. Very entertaining and yet unique in its simplicity. My copy did not include a Dutch language option which might be a limitation to some players.
It would be quite silly if you wouldn’t have to fight in a game with a title as “Way of The Samurai 2” but do not worry because you can fight as much as you could possibly wish for. If you only take a brief glimpse at one or two fights you could think that there is not put much effort into its gameplay, but nothing is less true because if you take the trouble to experiment you will notice that there are many combinations allowing you to teach your opponents a lesson in a variety of ways. Quickly pushing some buttons is not how you beat him as this will result in a slip because he parried the attack and leaves you in a very vulnerable position. There is definitely a lot of thinking behind this system and everything fits but do I like it? No, I do not but I still recognize the fact that is a pretty whitty system.
Graphics are not that bad, but you will often find them monotonous. What particularly disturbed me was that in a game as this one, it is difficult to read certain options in menus. For example: I walked in to a vegetable store where a list with products showed up. That list has to be clear and easy to read. Scrolling over it to have it light up and trying to deduct what items there are to purchase is not quite the challenge I am looking for.
There is just a little lack of quality in the sound department. At first sight everything looks tidy but convincing is still different. The voice-overs are not read by an old, Tibetan monk when you would expect a young female voice, but it does not stretch far above the minimum standard either. Music is quite alright at least if you can make something out of that Eastern strumming.
I can surely recommend this for RPG zealots, the lesser graphics and sound do not influence the overall quality. The hack & slash components are far more profound than one would think from a first impression and that makes it nice to discover other moves. However, my guess is that not everybody will be that enthousiastic about the style used. All in one I can label this as one of the best in its genre.