As the name suggests, Samurai Warriors: Chronicles takes place in Ye Olde Japan, the late 1400s to the early 1500s where Japan was divided by feudal lords, daimyos and various other factions. At the start, you chose between a male or female character, a supposed wanderer and hardened battle veteran, and go in search of someone to be your battle master; or, more precisely, someone who shares similar views as you. To this end, the story kicks off a couple of hours in, once you have aligned yourself with the Oda clan, who seek to unite all the various lords of Japan and ultimately bring long-needed peace. The journey isn’t clear cut, though: there are deaths, betrayals and natural disasters that change the shape of the battlefield and the re-shaped land.
Players familiar with the Samurai Warriors series will be pleased to see the return of all the familiar faces, all playable. How they are playable separates it from the rest of the series entirely, though; previously you would pick one of the warriors and play through each of their painfully similar storylines. Here, you have your main character who you develop throughout the game’s story, but during each battle you can choose between three other generals - to bring your total up to four characters - at any time by simply tapping their icons, which are strategically placed around on the touch-screen’s map. This may not seem like much, but it improves the fluidity of the gameplay phenomenally. You will be given several missions at once, which you have to complete in order to lower the opposing forces’ moral before taking out their head honcho. However, the reason the fast and frequent missions work is because you have four characters on the battlefield and can therefore meet the requirements of each one instead of having to run around the areas constantly with one character, meaning you can focus more on the action, the difficulty of which can be very unforgiving on normal mode or higher.
Though the new format goes alleviates some of the series’ traditionally repetitive nature, missions can still feel monotonous on occasion: go here, take out this dude, stop these people meeting, escort these guys, repeat. The same can be said of the combat; whilst being able to switch characters on the fly keeps the combat fresh, there does just feel like an endless amount of enemies, although you can run between objectives fairly easily without being obliged to kill them all.
Each character adds variety to Samurai Warriors: Chronicles; even though you are essentially mashing the face buttons in order to wade through waves of enemies, each one brings something different to the table. Some are better at range, whilst others are good at getting elbow deep into the action. Attacking is handled by the Y and X buttons, and the characters have slightly different combos, though the main changes occur within the elaborate Mosou combos that deal massive amounts of damage to large groups of enemies at once - and make for pretty nice eye candy, too. Within between-fight sections your character can build up relationships with others to make them more favourable to you, in turn getting buffed up for combat with pretty sweet combined combos, and there is a lot of character development, all of the interludes between fights fully voice acted. Western gamers may feel slightly alienated, though, especially if they are not used to Japanese culture, as said voice acting is all in Japanese and everything is subtitled. It can get a little confusing following who’s who through the subtleties of the story.
One of the main concerns for Samurai Warriors: Chronicles was the amount of enemies that would be shown on 3DS’ screen at once. Fortunately, it doesn’t let the side down in that respect either. The main characters’ models look magnificent as they are gesticulating, especially with the 3D on, and each of their personalities shine through. There are many varied enemies at screen at any one time, though they do have a habit of popping into existence as you swap between characters, and they also look fairly decent considering the amount on screen; not too far off, if not on par with, Wii’s Samurai Warriors 3. The graphics overall don’t look too bad, with areas widely varied between regions of Japan. One mission will have you storming a fort, whilst others will see you taking out a stronghold in the snowy mountains. One gripe, however, is that the areas themselves do seem to suffer from being made with one overall colour base, so whilst it looks different, areas look mottled with the same colour, which can make them look bland on occasion; many feel quite similar. That said, the cut-scenes are absolutely gorgeous, each one in 3D and showing off both depth and aural clarity to suit the needs. The varied soundtrack suits the situations perfectly.
In StreetPass, you have the ability to create a squad, much like Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, to take on other opponents when the console is in your pocket; from here you are able to swap weapons and items to further your character in the single player. However, despite playing the game since 3DS’ launch, this game’s StreetPass functionality has not been tested for this review, as nobody with Samurai Warrior: Chronicles StreetPass data was encountered during the course of writing.
There are also several SpotPass updates due which have been released in Japan, adding extra chapters to the Gaiden mode, separate from the story, to add some longevity. There have been rumours of DLC which adds multiplayer to the title as well, but whether this comes to fruition remains to be seen.