Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes PlayStation 3
Published by: Capcom
Developed by: Capcom
From the producer of Devil May Cry 4, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, we have the latest instalment in the Sengoku Basara series, a series I must confess that I know nothing about. In fact if you haven’t experienced the series before, all you need to know is that this is a game very much in the same vein as the Dynasty Warriors titles; that is to say it’s a third person mass combat action game where you get to hack and slash your way through thousands of enemies in dramatic and completely over the top fashion. If you can’t get on with the Dynasty Warriors series then you’re not going to get on with Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes. However, if you are a fan of Dynasty Warriors and have become fed up with how stale the series has grown then you might want to give Samurai Heroes a chance. In many ways it’s a similar experience but I’ve found it more entertaining than I’ve found a Dynasty Warriors game for a long time.
Samurai Heroes offers a Heroes’ Story and Quick Battles mode. The Heroes’ Story mode drops you into the Warring States period (otherwise known as the Sengoku period) as you attempt to unify Japan. The mode supports up to two players (for offline multiplayer action) and has three difficulty levels. Initially you can choose between six characters: Ieyasu Tokugawa, Masamune Date, Magoichi, Saica, Kanbe Kuroda, Yukimura Sanada and Mistunari Ishida (there are ten others to unlock however). Every character is rated for Health, Attack and Defence and begins at level one (but they will level up as you play through each of their storylines). The storylines for the most part are pretty forgettable and are simply there to string the various battles together.
Weapons can be powered up with accessories allowing for special abilities. During a battle you’ll acquire regular and regional materials (the regional materials can only be found in specific locations whereas the regular ones can be found anywhere). There are also skill rewards which are given out based on how you fight. Your chosen character will also level up at the end of a battle with the XP that has been acquired during the course of the fight. Special Arts (essentially special attacks) will also be given out after a battle has been completed too, and you may also acquire an ally that can accompany you into subsequent battles. Allies have their own special abilities. Allies will also take advantage of health and other boosts that you find on the battlefield. Should your ally be defeated, you’ll have the chance to revive them.
In essence the idea in a battle is to occupy camps and take charge of the battlefield section by section. The battles aren’t as big as they are in Koei’s games but personally I find this refreshing as it prevents battles from becoming monotonous. It also helps you to squeeze in a few battles when you don’t have several hours on hand to play the game. You’ll occupy a camp by defeating its commander. Camps can have various effects such as health recovery and attack and defence power-ups. You’ll have access to an ability known as Hero Time which allows you to put your enemies into temporary slow-motion making it easier for you to pile waves of attacks on them. In order to use both Arts and Hero Time you’ll need to have the meters for each filled which prevents you from overusing both abilities. You probably won’t need to use either of these abilities against the hordes of regular enemies that you’ll fight against because, just as in Koei’s games, they are very ineffective. It’s only the boss battles in Samurai Heroes and at times, the sheer number of enemies that will cause you any problems.
Some things in Samurai Heroes may strike you as a little unusual. You’ll come against enemies who have machine guns for instance, which is anachronistic but definitely adds a twist to the combat. The game has a sense of humour, although it’s something that deaf gamers will not be aware of. During one boss fight with a couple of characters named Toshiie and Matsu it’s rather strange to have them pull back to stock up on rice and later in commencement of the fight Toshiie will completely fluff his motto and Matsu will scold him for it. There are moments too, when things happen that you just wouldn’t expect but the game is all the more enjoyable for it. You’ll have annoyances such as traps and tripwires to deal with on the battlefield. These can hinder your progress and cause a fair amount of damage so you’ll have to do your best to avoid them.
Samurai Heroes looks better than any other of the Dynasty Warriors titles I’ve played on the PlayStation 3 and impressively the frame rate remains smooth throughout, even when there are hordes of enemies on screen at any one time. Of course given that you’re dealing with hordes of enemies for most of the game, it’s not surprising that the graphical quality isn’t as high as in some other PlayStation 3 titles where you only have a few enemies on screen at any one time but the game looks good enough. It’s a shame that you’ll fight thousands of enemies that look the same however and it must be noted that the design of the battlefields could have been a lot more imaginative.
The cut scenes in Samurai Heroes aren’t subtitled. This is really unfortunate as there are a lot of cut scenes in the game and some of the dialogue is quite humorous. There are cut scenes at the start of a story, at the start of a mission and prior to the commencement of a boss fight and deaf gamers will miss out on all of this dialogue. What makes this really annoying is that the mission introductions are subtitled and in-game dialogue is subtitled with speaker names and portraits being shown. There’s a fair bit of dialogue during the battles and it’s subtitled too. Battle victory and defeat conditions are shown in text. Tutorial messages are delivered at appropriate points and are in text so you are aware of what needs to be done. In fact you have to wonder why the cut scenes aren’t subtitled when so much of the other dialogue is.
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes is just the game for those that enjoy the Dynasty Warriors (or indeed Samurai Warriors) series but have become fed up with how the series refuses to pull itself out of the rut that it’s been in for quite a while now. The formula is mostly the same but there are some interesting twists here and there that help this to seem like a fresh experience. That said, the similarity is a strong one and if you’ve never had any time for Koei’s long-running series you’ll probably find this isn’t the game for you. For those who do enjoy their mass combat action games however, Samurai Heroes will prove to be an enjoyable title. It doesn’t fix all of the problems that the Dynasty Warriors series has but it’s certainly one of the better alternatives to date.