Samurai Warriors 4-II (PlayStation 4) Review

By Leo Epema 28.01.2016 1

Review for Samurai Warriors 4-II on PlayStation 4

Samurai Warriors 4-II is a re-release of Samurai Warriors 4 that adds a few new storylines to the mix. It tells the story of Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Ieyasu Tokugawa, who both want to conquer Japan so as to unite the various clans and prevent future in-fighting. The stories behind each of the clans' participation in the battles can be followed, with each clan represented by one playable leader. The original game was lauded for adding new things to the formula, but can the same be said of this game? More importantly, how does it stack up to other titles of this ilk, and how deep is it? Is it a worthy current-gen game? After looking at the PC version, Cubed3 tackles the PS4 iteration.

Jumping into the story from the main menu, it becomes clear that there is a choice from a large array of characters, with two playable per clan's tale chronicle. About half consist of people that belong to the tribes of the original storylines that are selectable from the get-go, but the individual storylines are frankly not interesting. While the there are unique personalities, all are typical stereotypes, as often seen in anime. In addition, they are paper-thin when it comes to their motivations, standpoints, and views, coming without any back-stories. Why do they fight Ieyasu, who apparently is only trying to unite the country? Do they have issues with his ideas of how to rule the country and what laws and values it should have? If so, what are their norms and values and what do they strive for?

Questions such as those are not answered, and it makes the characters impossible to understand and relate to, and consequently hard to feel emotions towards. Instead of making the players root for them or making them interested in their lives, they utter throwaway lines or buzzwords as explanations of their actions, like "rebellion is in our blood.". One character fights his brother with the odds stacked heavily against him, and the only explanation he gives is that his warrior's spirit demands it. Another decides to fight in unison with his lord's forces, even though it contradicted his style, since he had recklessly been fighting for personal glory up to that point and had little reason to change. Instead of experiencing dramatic moments that cause him to rethink his position, he simply suddenly decides that his clan's honour and its subsistence are paramount. This is just bad writing.

Screenshot for Samurai Warriors 4-II on PlayStation 4

In conclusion, the story plays out like a documentary, as it only explains what events lead up to what battles. Everyone is one-dimensional and exceptionally hard to like or hate. To be able to sympathise with anyone, it is necessary to know their background, what they fight for, and why. None of this is known, and so the story fails. Maybe there could have been room for character development if everything had not been broken up into so many subplots.

Fortunately, the gameplay is considerably better, although admittedly still in the 'fairly standard' category. It starts like this: a clan storyline must be chosen, after which an explanation starts of how the protagonist intends to cement his or her place in history. After a cut-scene, the supporting character that can be switched to is selected. Each lead is one of three types: one may be good at clearing regiments of enemies, while another is better at fighting commanders or at using their unique technique. The types do spice things up, since they can allow for balanced play or dividing and conquering. That said, however, there is no reason to go through the campaign multiple times just to choose a different supporting member, as many operations will make it mandatory anyway by limiting the choice of characters. Choosing one over another will not alter the win conditions of a game or the tasks at hand. It will probably change the in-battle dialogue, yet those conversations do not give any background information on any elements. With that said, it is interesting to experience the various Musou skills.

Screenshot for Samurai Warriors 4-II on PlayStation 4

Passive status gains and useable buffs can be customised, in a beehive-like structure. Unfortunately, everyone starts out with certain orientations, for instance, they can only learn power or defence boosts at first, and can learn other things once enough strategy tomes have been acquired and their levels are high. This fact means it is impossible to change original strengths and weaknesses, and having to create a custom character to truly role-play will be necessary. Visual customisation of the creations is lacking, too, as there is no way to choose the armour colour, only the overall schemes. Armour also does not grant protection or any other bonuses. Customisation of original characters is not impossible, though, as they can be equipped with magical variations of their own weapons found on the battlefield. Some confer elemental damage and effects, some enhance attack speed or walking speed - there is much variation in them and their stats are randomised. They can also be upgraded by combining them, which sometimes adds one or more stats of one weapon to the other. Creating specialised characters is definitely a highlight, proving to be quite fun.

Once the battles start, sadly, everything is revealed as being too straightforward. To claim victory, defeat the enemy leader(s), who cannot be reached unless certain objectives have been completed, which can get tiresome considering most only ask for the killing of some commanders. The amount to kill is great, but many missions feel the same because of the monotony. Perhaps it would have been interesting to defend a person or place, with waves of enemies being sent. There are three types of attacks to perform: hyper attacks to clear out entire battalions, power attacks for commanders, and special skills to buff the character or trap enemies. Hyper attacks can be turned into many kinds of combos by pressing the X or square button after Y or triangle, but the move-set is still quite limited. There are also no directional inputs, so sometimes it is awkward to see a character move a certain way just because one button was pressed. It's also hard to remember what button combination does what attack, although the effect of all attacks is the same anyway. Finishing moves can be performed on commanders if they are damaged enough or are stunned to some degree, which at least breaks up the monotony slightly. It is a shame that there is little variety in the game modes, as two of the four involve going through the five story battles over and over.

Screenshot for Samurai Warriors 4-II on PlayStation 4

Overall, the gameplay is monotonous and customisation of original characters is shallower than it should be. There are only five campaign missions that have to be done over and over in two game modes. The most lacking parts are the combo variety and objective simplicity and monotony.

The game does not look terrible, but it doesn't come close to modern standards. For a PS4 release, it looks awfully like an early PS3 one - possibly even worse. Shadows and reflections seem nearly non-existent, and the contrast makes most scenes look either washed out or wooden. Fire looks blurry and can sometimes move in a juddering way, and water looks flat and the waves move uniformly. Wind effects appear absent, except for when some kind of confetti is thrown across the screen when a battle has been won. The characters exhibit almost no facial movement in cut-scenes and their bodies don't move in accordance with what they say. At most, the characters will sometimes make a gesture with one or two arms for two seconds, with those arms suddenly moving more slowly than the characters themselves do in the rest of the scene. The game just looks subpar, although the visual effects that accompany Musou attacks look pretty sharp, fluid, and colourful. To end on a positive though, the frame-rate is a steady 60fps, no matter the amount of enemies on-screen.

What about the audio, though? Well, that is fairly decent. There is nothing that sounds very emotional, and some scenes have a slightly sappy romantic or calm theme going on, but the soundtrack does a good job of making fighting sound fun, as though there is honour and passion in the very act of fighting. There are a few too many tracks that sound quite alike, but they serve their emotional themes well, and the techno flows effortlessly into the classic Japanese music. The sound effects are great, it really feels like guns have kick to them, and that horse trampling over enemies is painful. It should be, considering how the enemies collectively bounce across the screen like idiots.

Even though the soundtrack is great, it's a shame there is no option for English voice acting. It is annoying to have to look down at streams of text just to understand what's going to happen on the battlefield and how the characters feel about things. The Japanese actors do a fine job, though.

Screenshot for Samurai Warriors 4-II on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Samurai Warriors 4-II is a very basic Musou game. It doesn't ask gamers to create towns or manage an empire. It simply asks that the campaign be played over and over. Doing the same five or six missions over and over with monotonous objectives will drain the mind, and the limited combo system doesn't help either. The fairly small amount of personalisation possible doesn't help much, either. While the characters interact in amusing and interesting ways, they are one-dimensional. The few new shallow storylines hardly justify a repurchase. Buy this if the previous game was missed, or if there's a need for a cheap PS4 Musou release.

Developer

Omega Force

Publisher

Koei Tecmo

Genre

Brawler

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Always interesting to see different reviews of the same game. I didn't have as big an issue with the characters and the like since I know the Sengoku period fairly well and, as a result, knew quite a bit about these characters, personalities, and the like. But, at the same time, I didn't get to play 4, so I can't compare the changes between 4 and 4-II. Just two examples of how we can come out with such vastly different views of the same game.

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