When in the early 2000s a certain was released on the Japanese and Western market Dinasty Warriors 2, both the gamers of the time and its developers could not imagine the phenomenon that that brand would soon become. Although not as appreciated by us as in Japan, the multiple interpretations of the various Warriors still continue to be released even several times within a single year. Today we are here with the review of Samurai Warriors 5, latest episode of the inspired series at the Sengoku era of the Japanese samurai and developed again by the boys of Omega Force.
A new beginning
The first issue to highlight is that on closer inspection we are not exactly at the fifth chapter of the franchise. In fact, one of the pillars of the game is that we are inside a real one reboot. This is evident right away thanks to the new art style used, completely revised for the occasion in order to embrace a ‘cel-shaded aesthetics rather than the more realistic or exaggerated styles already seen with previous episodes of the series. The idea works and looks right with the tone of the product, while showing one strong characterization in the design that manages to immediately grab the interest of the gamer. In fact, even if you do not remember the name of a particular warrior, it is easy for this to enter the player’s head thanks to its peculiar design. Besides, even the narrative has been completely cleared, with the team who preferred to ignore everything that has been told in the past so as to be able to offer a real new beginning.
In-game we will find ourselves watching the rise of Oda Nobunaga, from the beginning of his project to unify Japan until his transformation into the so-called “demon king”. The idea of the development team is, in fact, to walk the life of this historical personality who, in the past, played the role of villain of the series. Of course, we do not find ourselves in a faithful transposition of the historical events known to him, but rather he has a greaterimaginative interpretation of what were his ambitions. As per tradition for the series, the narration is divided into animated sequences and dialogues between the characters during the missions. The former let themselves be followed with pleasure, showing important events recounted in one episodic storytelling and it doesn’t continue. Right from the start it is evident that we do not intend to deepen the psychology of the historical figures present, remaining on a general simplification through which to carry on the events narrated. The idea itself works, managing to keep the interest higher while discovering the adversities faced by Oda and his companions. It remains a pity that the main characters are not explored further, with the team preferring to focus on the strong visual style rather than on the character one.
As per tradition, also in this chapter of Samurai Warriors it is possible to see the events from the perspective of other characters, and in this case there is only the story of Mitsuhide Akechi. Strongly inspired by the historical figure of the same name, his campaign presents us with almost the same events as that of Oda but all seen from his perspective, thus offering an unprecedented vision that enriches this world. The executed execution manages to intrigue the user, but does not offer that additional complexity that perhaps could have been aimed at. However, there is no shortage of secondary sections within the adventure during which it is possible to face the different battles of the secondary characters of the game, in order to discover more details about their actions. In short, the structure of the story mode proves to be solid, all contextualized in a kind of legendary area that offers that greater character style to the product. Eventually, the work published by Koei Tecmo manages to offer an excellent longevity which is among the sixteen and twenty hours.
An endless war
As anticipated from the beginning of this review, Samurai Warriors 5 falls into the genre of musou. The title absolutely does not hide that it is part of this particular subgenre of gods beat’em up, which as per tradition will lead the player to command a warrior who will have to face millions of enemies along his path. The genre itself hasn’t evolved much over the last twenty years, preferring to vary the formula slightly with a few gimmicks on duty rather than trying to create something truly unique from time to time. The work we are analyzing today remains like this anchored to its roots, offering the public a product with a well-established play structure, predictable in all its elements and with very little courage. However, we must not make the mistake of misjudging the Omega Force game for these reasons, because we are probably facing one of the most well-kept exponents of the genre currently available on the market.
The play structure does not need substantial presentations: the player’s task is to travel to different battlefields to achieve certain objectives, all while mercilessly massacring the ranks of enemies that will parry before him. As already mentioned, the developers preferred to play it safe rather than risk it, as in a certain Dinasty Warriors 9 a few years ago. The combat system, in fact, is the same as always with all the necessary improvements, proving to be so fast and dynamic at the right point. The problem arises when the well cared for gameplay it goes mixing with one general monotony even more pressing compared to other exponents of the genre. In fact, despite a general division into two main modes, both end up showing all the arrows of their quiver very quickly.
The musou mode is the one we have already described previously, mainly requiring you to reach a hypothetical point B on the map to defeat the commander on duty, all with the usual commands that offer a simple attack, the powerful one and dodge. Of course, the greatest fun is completing every single level of the story in thegrade S scope, also representing the only real difficulty of this play mode. In fact, playing in a more casual style, each level is completed without even thinking about it too much, leaving the right satisfaction at its completion. The production thus adapts to more hit and run games, in which you decide to do one or two missions rather than continue undeterred for hours of uninterrupted play.
The real challenge, however, remains to discover every single secret goal present in the various levels, combine almost endless combos with the corpses of poor enemy soldiers or finish every mission in the best possible time. Unfortunately, variety is the real problem with this mode: in the case of other Warriors, at least, the developers have occasionally tried to offer minimally diversified situations, between enemy camps to be conquered or powerful opponents to be eliminated. In Samurai Warriors 5, however, it was preferred to focus almost exclusively on fighting specific important enemies. Of course, every now and then we try to offer a minimum of variety, but this is not enough to revive a situation that is nothing short of critical.
Secondly, we can try our hand at the so-called citadel mode. This, as a concept, we could consider the “missions” mode of the work, where we will be required to complete objectives within a particularly tight time limit. Here not only is any narrative component totally absent, but it will be possible to freely use the characters unlocked during the main adventure, not to mention that we will be able to improve their abilities with new unlockable abilities and with collectible materials that will allow us to upgrade our castle. In fact, like any product of the genre, here too there is a good amount of playable characters, for a total of thirty-nine. Of course, looking at the numbers alone, a decrease in the roster is immediately evident compared to that of the fourth episode, this is justified by a more painstaking work carried out by the development team. The team has in fact focused on characters characterized by a sufficiently varied moveset and articulate for each of the usable characters, just a pity that the final result is not particularly successful, with ben ten characters that look like real clones repurposed over and over again.
Of course, every single warrior can be upgraded and improved through mechanics shooting hand in hand from RPGs: weapons to upgrade, skill tree to use points, off screen workouts to increase the level faster and much more. The presence of trusted horses cannot be missing, which, based on how much they are used or through the stable, can be properly strengthened. These noble animals will thus become our trusted companions, who, however, we can also decide to completely ignore. Nothing to laugh about it, also because this playful component is taken up without particular changes by the very different musou of the Koei Tecmo house. Then it cannot be missing the castle to upgrade and improve, in order to allow certain characters to achieve certain improvements and obtain specific materials, a structure that works and encourages the player to upgrade his favorite character to the maximum. In any case, the citadel mode turns out to be a good diversion from the main attraction, capable of further enriching the already long life of the product.
Warriors become hybrids
The version of the game we tested in the review was the one for Nintendo Switch, which is certainly not the best performing on the market but manages to defend yourself pretty well. There are no serious slowdowns or bugs whatsoever, with the general graphics that remain a feast for the eyes both in portable and home mode even if, to tell the truth, for the latter factor we must thank the stylistic choice made, which in any case does not manages to hide the presence of models and settings not quite up to par for a product released in 2021. However, the adaptation work carried out by the development team remains surprising, which have managed to demonstrate a fluidity that not even the exclusive Hyrule Warriors: L ‘era of calamity manages to achieve. Just think that even with dozens of enemies on the screen there is none performance issue in any mode of the console, although the pop up of the models of the opponents is quite evident in certain situations. Too bad for certain easily avoidable technical problems, such as the camera that often fails to follow the action correctly, but in the end we are faced with a quality work that tries to offer a worthy experience to Nintendo users.
However, we must mention a small but important sore point for our local users, namely the lack of a translation of the texts in Italian. This choice remains a shame not only because it decreases the accessibility of the product, but because past episodes have been translated into various languages that are completely absent here. The same goes for the English dubbing, set aside to favor only the Japanese one. All of this is certainly more in theme with the setting of the product, but it is evident that the budget invested is lower than in the past. Obviously, there is still a written translation in English, not that complex and with easily understandable words. We conclude by showing our appreciation for the soundtrack, which manages to combine rock and certain shades of traditional Japanese music in a combination that fits perfectly with the frenetic style of the product.