Samurai Warriors 3 is the latest release to hit our shores from the immensely popular (in Japan) Koeiâ€™s Dynasty Warriors series. Although, â€śimmensely popularâ€ť might be understating things just a tad: according to Wikipedia, the Dynasty Warriors series has sold more than 9 million units in just over two years. In any case, the Samurai Warriors games are all about providing gamers with some serious hack and slash action, with beautiful design and with an interesting historical context.
In this regard, Samurai Warriors 3 is no different to its predecessors. Itâ€™s a very good-looking game. And though I read Shogun a long time ago, Iâ€™m not particularly well-versed in samurai history, so for me, the historic backdrop was really interesting, and added a well-received additional dimension to the game.
There are a load of different modes available in the game, including Murasame Castle mode, which is based on the old Nintendo game The Mysterious Murasame Castle, which was never previously available to non-Japanese players. The main game mode, however, Story Mode, is one where you pick one of â€śmore thanâ€ť 35 different samurai warriors and guide them through that characterâ€™s martial history, where you take part in a series of historical battles, with some pretty cut-scenes in between.
You can play these in one or two player modes, and also use a range of controller options â€“ including the Game Cube controller. You then are presented with an explanation of the strategy and overview of what you need to achieve during the mission. You select the gear you want to take into battle with you: sets of items that differ depending on whether you want to take a defensive, or more aggressive approach.
The battle starts, and itâ€™s up to you to slash and bash your way through the hoards of enemy numbers. Fortunately for you, the majority of the enemy soldiers are the equivalent of level 1 noobs who still arenâ€™t sure which end of the spear to stab with. Unfortunately for you, most of your troops are just as useless. Luckily you know what youâ€™re doing!
The aim of most battle scenarios is to move through a specific area â€“ often a castle â€“ and do things like capture strongholds, defeat enemy officers, and even rescue your own officers, when they are under threat from being overwhelmed by mobs of noobs. There are also some genuinely difficult characters to fight, so donâ€™t make the mistake of thinking your battles will be a complete cakewalk.
Characters have some interesting fighting options, including jump and dash attacks, special skill attacks, as well as different attack options from horseback. Most of the time, however, youâ€™ll find a button-mashing combo of several buttons seems to be the most effective. There are also spirit and musou attacks that unleash different combos, some of which slow down the battle around you and allow you to race around dealing devastating damage to your enemies.
It all sounds really good. But for me, there was just something missing, despite all the different game modes, customisation options, unlockable characters, weapons, and great looks. Ultimately, I found, after the first few hours of play, a lot of the first-impression-lustre had rubbed off.
Samurai Warriors 3 is incredibly repetitive, and though it gives the appearance of an immersive game, thereâ€™s very little to keep you playing a particular character once youâ€™ve made it through the five or so scenarios in story mode. Though characters have different fighting styles (Normal, Power and Special Skill), the approach to a battle never really changes. Whatâ€™s more, the battles themselves never really change. There are always the same hordes, the same types of missions, the same running over to help out a struggling ally.
There were other niggles, too: I donâ€™t know if it was my controller (I was using the Classic Controller Pro), but any time I took my hands off the control, my character would run towards the bottom of the screen. There was no way I could rest my hands â€“ and for a button masher, thatâ€™s not really acceptable. I also found the mini map hard to read, and directions hard to follow â€“ and even after setting the map to display in a particular way, it kept changing on me at inopportune times. Small things really: but they all added to my overall impression.
At the end of the day, Samurai Warriors 3 is perfect if youâ€™re looking for some disengaged-brain carnage. The characters look great, have some interesting moves, and you might even learn something while you play. As long as you donâ€™t approach the game expecting a real strategic challenge, with complex fight combinations, thereâ€™s no reason not to check this one out â€“ but penny-pinching gamers might want to rent it first before they commit to buying.