Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes Intensely Written, Burning-Hot Playtest

By Kris . October 28, 2010 . 2:28pm

Before you start reading this playtest, you should watch Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes localized intro, featuring a T.M Revolution song translated into English:

 

 

You’ve got a guy in a sleeveless yellow hoodie riding a samurai robot through the air, people fighting or posing in improbable places, a woman lying on a bed of red guns, and of course, T.M. Revolution singing in English. While very little of the stuff in this intro actually happens in the game, the video conveys Sengoku Basara’s bizarre style perfectly.

 

While technically a very, very, VERY loose adaptation of some of the events Japan’s warring states period, the game’s story is sparse enough that it might as well be about a war between J-rock frontmen over a magical cupcake. The game is ludicrously off the wall at times, mixing melodrama and surrealism. It almost seems like an affront to those who fought and lost their lives during the Sengoku era, but the overall effect is just bizarre enough to remain entertaining.

 

basara_01

It’s fortunate that the game’s strange style is so strong, because the gameplay is initially very dull. If you’ve ever played a Dynasty Warriors game, you’ll know what to expect. Mash square repeatedly, with occasional inputs of triangle. In addition, when certain gauges are filled, you can activate either “Hero Time,” which slows down all of our enemies and gives you more strength, or your “BASARA Art” which is essentially a giant, heavy, elemental automatic combo.

 

Combine both at once to create an even more ridiculous combo, the “Ultimate BASARA Art.” At the outset, the limited number of abilities makes the game feel overly basic. However, as you level up your characters, you gain more abilities that map to combinations of triangle and/or the shoulder buttons. These abilities are generally the more insane attacks, ranging from elemental control to sword-spinning charges. When your character has all of his or her abilities at his/her disposal, the combat really opens up and 2000+ hit combos start becoming a reality.

 

basara_02

If the intro didn’t make it abundantly clear to you, all of the character designs are incredibly flamboyant. This gives Sengoku Basara part of its charm. Instead of attempting to directly imitate the attire of the historical characters featured in the game, Capcom reinvented them.

 

Date Masamune, for instance, still retains his iconic helmet and eye patch, but now wields six katanas as claws. One of his obtainable weapons replaces his regular katanas for triple-bladed ones.

 

basara_03

Like this, but katanas! And six of them! As claws!

 

Further cementing the game’s taste for the delightfully garish is the flavor text that accompanies a boss encounter or a mission objective, generally completely absurd and overblown. In Sengoku Basara, you don’t just open a floodgate, you open a “SUPER ROARING RAPIDS GATE.” If a tiger crosses your path? You will be informed that it is “TIGER TIME.”

 

In case the point hasn’t been made by now, Sengoku Basara is WEIRD. You’ll fight drill-equipped wooden tanks, zombies, floating men, Bruce Lee wannabes, tigers, Bruce Lee wannabes with tigers, poets, the aforementioned robo-Samurai, stereotypically silent ninja, stereotypically foppish generals, and a whole lot more. All of this is craziness is wrapped up in a story about a war that would determine the fate of Japan. The game’s balance of serious wartime narrative with all the strange events and borderline-bromantic dialogue seems to be just as confusing to me as it is to the game’s fantastic voice cast.

 

This is the first game I’ve ever seen that gives the voice cast and the characters they play their own page in the manual. These are seasoned veterans, too. Liam O’Brian (Grimoire Weiss from Nier), Troy Baker (FFXIII’s Snow), Reuben Langdon (Devil May Cry’s Dante), and the ever-popular Johnny Yong Bosch (everyone in everything ever) are all cast as main characters.

 

However, perhaps due to the disjointed mishmash of a story, it almost feels as though this talent is squandered. For instance, Bosch’s Yukimura Sanada in particular always seems to be conveying the wrong emotion at the wrong times, but at least this seems to make the all of his lines hilariously more homo-erotic. Despite the professional voice acting, Sengoku Basara unfortunately lacks a Japanese-language option, which makes the rather stiff localization stand out even more.

 

basara_04

Sengoku Basara is so over the top and so strange that it’s hard not to have fun with it. The bland gameplay and weak AI is counter-balanced by combos that last thousands of hits and involve explosions and air-juggles. The stilted voice-acting is almost a complement to the gonzo history and dialogue. And you know what? That’s what makes the game special.

 

Food for thought:

 

1. According to a friend of mine, the lack of Japanese voice acting in the game removes some of the humor. For instance, Date Masamune’s hilarious use of Engrish as seen in this video.

 

2. In that video, Masamune’s horse seems to have handlebars and exhaust pipes. I really wish that had made it into the game.

 

3. A lot of the humor tends to fall flat, but the sheer absurdity of the game just made me take everything in stride.

 

4. The powerups in the game look and act very similarly to that of the Dynasty Warriors series. Although the health-restoring dumplings have been changed to rice balls in Basara, the Musou and Basara gauges are both filled up with jugs of what appears to be sake.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/jstack Jon Stachewicz

    The best word for this game is ‘bombastic’. Objectively, it’s lukewarm at best, terrible at worst, but there’s a frenetic energy about it that makes me not be able to help getting into the gameplay, middling as it may be.

  • Exand

    A LOT of the humor in the game is lost because of the conversion to English, and that’s a shame because the series is known for it’s sense of humor. It’s not even the voice acting (which is pretty bland in English), but the loss from translating Japanese to English / cultural jokes that don’t translate to English.

    It’s also too bad this game gets compared to Dynasty Warriors because it’s quite a different game.

    • Guest

      Oh cmon its a blatant DW clone and everyone knows it. Thats not a bad thing either so dont be ashamed to admit it

      • http://www.facebook.com/gakun Ngoc Ton

        i compare Sengoku Basara with Devil Kings.I compare Devil Kings with Samurai Warriors.Samurai Warriors is Dynasty Warriors with Japanese warriors.I like Dynasty Warriors, so i gotta get Sengoku B.

        Edit: T.M. Revolution has the same singer as Abingdon B. School or do i mixed something up?

        • http://twitter.com/VietKnight Alexander Le

          Yeah actually the lead singer in TM made the group Abingdon Boys since TM doesn’t really exist that much anymore.

        • http://myfigurecollection.net/collection/ashgail Ashgail

          Yeah, like Alex said, his T.M Revo persona is not that active anymore… I’m posting this just for fun, but behold the awesome-ness of ‘Hot Limit’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0X_3-ssznE

      • Exand

        Clone? Not really. I guess if you haven’t played it or just like looking at things superficially, it’s easy to make that assumption.Just like Gears of War isn’t a Halo clone, or Lamborghini isn’t a Ferrari clone (I chose those two examples for a specific reason btw), the only “clone” part is that it uses an asian setting and it plays in the third person. The game play mechanics, graphics style, writing style, etc are all different.

  • Code

    rar, I’ve been debating trying this or Samurai Warrior on the Wii — I’ve never really been into these kind of games (although have a good friend who buys into them all), but after reading this it sounds so ridiculous, hilarious, and over the top, that I may just have to! rar, I mean seriously, I just saw handlebars and exhaust pipes on a horse, if that’s not worth investigating, nothing is.

  • http://twitter.com/colonelxanders Alex Sargeant

    I adore this game so very very much. It does wear a little thin when each character’s campaign isn’t quite different enough from each other to resist trying to plough through getting as much experience as possible and thus earn the craziest attack fastest, but I think the sheer insanity of the entire piece keeps me interested even now.

    Last thing that happened to me as I unlocked a one-eyed pirate lord who refuses to remove his left arm from his trousers for ANY reason whatsoever. He also wields a massive spear with a wired anchor on the end with just his right arm, which allows for some really fanciful choreography as he does in some 500 soldiers. Magoichi is probably my favourite though, as the attention to detail with her is fascinating. She can charge shot with her pistol, after which she throws the exhausted one behind her, spins a holster on her leg and plucks out a brand new one to keep firing with.

    They absolutely should’ve included a Japanese voice track, but at the same time I can’t help admire the effort to make the Wii version as close to the PS3 one as possible.

    • Zal_Yagun

      actually the WII version was the original, the PS3 version is more a visual upgrade, sharper graphics, more dynamic effects, and HQ shadows. like one of those HD ps2 collections. both versions have the same amount of enemies on screen, but the PS3 runs smoother in splitscreen

      • http://twitter.com/Agnates Alexander

        It’s also worth mentioning that the “we wanted the versions the same” thing, if they actually said it themselves, was obviously just an excuse considering the Wii release isn’t on a dual layer DVD so they had plenty of space left to fit basically double the content if they wished to. Honestly though, the localisation is very, very good, fun and cheesy in a good way, not in a “so bad it’s good” way like the early Resident Evil titles. The versions aren’t the same either considering the Wii release lacks the online co-op even though (the Western version of) Samurai Warriors 3 includes such a mode and it works perfectly smoothly (but sadly gimps it by offering it only in Murasame Castle mode, which is the worst thanks to annoying traps, hazards and enemy types not found in the main stories). I don’t think anyone believes they wanted to treat the versions equally as they didn’t even have but one story-only trailer of the Wii version from like half a year before the release and then never showed anything of it outside certain outlets’ own efforts to provide footage from a couple of gaming events and later from the actual release. It was kind of like Activision does for COD’s Wii versions in the West. It’s no wonder it didn’t do so great compared to the PS3 release (although it still sold better than previous entries in the series, and the Wii version after being initially waaaay was neck and neck in later weeks’ sales, and actually stayed on the top 50 for a few weeks more so far, although this isn’t likely to have reduced the difference greatly). Of course, Wii owners also had Samurai Warriors 3 to satisfy their itch so perhaps that affected Basara’s sales somewhat as well. It did sell better too, though not quite PS3 Basara numbers. Whew, enough wall of texts for today!

        • http://www.pixiv.net/member.php?id=2704923 Buntar0

          Thanks, I always wanted to know wether the Wii version was on a dual layer DVD or not.

          You post some very interesting information, but as you said yourself: wall of text. Please use your enter key more. It makes your good contributions look even better.

  • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

    “…A war between J-rock frontmen over a magical cupcake.”
    Mmm… why does that sound so delicious?…

    I still doubt I will buy this game but thanks for the strangely compelling article. :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472407455 Charles Lupula

    The demo for this game convinced me to stay far, far away from it.

    • http://twitter.com/Ale598 Ale598

      Weird, it made the exact opposite to me.

    • Barrit

      The demo was pretty horrible. I didn’t think it did it justice at all. I think they gave you 2 attacks to use, and the starting weapon with no items slotted into it. As the article above said, it can be really boring at the start until you level up and unlock all 7 (5 you can use at a time) of your special attacks which enable you to pull off some crazy combos. A hit combo a little over 31,000 is my record so far.

  • http://www.jb2x.com/wordpress/ JB2X

    Okay, so, my story is that my cousin decided to buy the game when he came over, and we played it on his Wii at my place. After seeing him and my little brother play through one of the stories, I immediately went out on a hunt to find another copy of the game to buy that same night.

    My friend and I immediately started playing that game and that went on for about 8 hours straight.

    Our best and initial thought was “THIS SHIZ IS MULTIPLE INSTANCES OF RIDICULOUS! IT IS RIDICULI! WHAT THE HELL!!”

  • http://twitter.com/Agnates Alexander

    I’m pretty sure Put Ya Guns On is in the game when playing as Ieyasu and you meet Date who challenges you to a horse race (I still haven’t managed to beat him or his sidekick). Although I don’t remember if he says it out loud or it’s just a flashy CAPCOM-type text on screen. I love the variety this game has with such challenges that stray from the standard gameplay, unlike the Warriors series, thanks to acknowledging the craze and taking it to extremes, instead of pretending it’s in any way realistic, when it obviously isn’t. It’s also worth noting how differently the characters play. Magoichi (use a gun, shotgun, machinegun for normal attacks until you use a special that uses another weapon) feels nothing like Masamune (samurai Wolverine!) who feels nothing like Ieyasu (potential to charge up each combo hit, air juggles), despite doing all the specials with the same button combinations. It can be quite challenging on Hard difficulty, especially on that level with the armored undead enemies and the bastard of a boss who keeps resurrecting them. Such stuff don’t only take skill but also a bit of strategy on when to use your specials in order to build them up again for when you need more of them, as well as the limited health pick ups. And the way you can choose to do the special moves when you want with the button combinations instead of requiring a particular number of normal attack hits to enable their use as in the Warriors games makes it feel much less repetitive too.

  • Barrit

    Good article, probably one of the few that actually seemed like they played through the game before just dismissing it as a DW clone. I have the Japanese version and I agree completely with the effect of the missing Japanese language track. Not only does the humor not translate over, but the English VAs don’t quite bring out the same personalities of the characters, which is very unfortunate. Date just isn’t the same without his engrish. For example in the JP version he will say in a very heavy accent “You’re gonna be sorry.. Okay?” and it is just the same hilarity as the anime (obviously since it is the same VA!). Don’t even get me started on Kenshin.. it is a complete miss for his English VA. He usually has a somewhat softspoken, kind sounding voice, whereas in English he sounds like a straight up evil monster from outer space. It’s mind boggling how they left out the original language track.. 2 anime seasons, the 3rd confirmed, a movie in the works, and a damn theme park attraction based on it, yet it was left out

  • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

    I love this game’s story, i love the fact most of the characters (cant say all of them because i still havent done all of them) have 2 paths to follow .This game is really good, it doesnt tire/bore me, because this is the first time i play a game like this

    • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

      I remembered the feeling from the first time I played Dynasty Warriors 2 on the PS2. I kept thinking how amazing it was; the PSOne couldn’t handle something like this. Who cares if the enemies were dumber than logs, there were *so many* of them and I was a badass warlord flailing a giant bladed stick riding around on a horse. It was so empowering, and I just kept at it for hours on end…

      Unfortunately I think I’ve had my fill of non-stop hack n’ slash to last a lifetime.

      • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

        haha, yeah, i just cant get tired of taking like 50 guys at once and pwning them all, and hit and hit, AND HIT, DIEEeeeeE! and my hand gets so tired it hurts, but i love it.
        I also love all the thing the characters say between the battles, and some of them sound pretty cool :P

  • Aara_Malik_Davoodi
  • Aoshi00

    TM Revolution is still around? I quite like his songs (especially Kenshin’s 3rd ending). No offense, but pls don’t sing the “entire” song in Engrish (I love Kageyama Hironobu but not his Eng. songs..).. The Eng. VA cast sounds good, but no Jpn option is kind of a drag.. Because Nakai Kazuya (Zoro, Travis) sounds pretty cool as Date Masamune…I’m always for games and anime giving cool designs to historical chars like Oda, Tokugawa, Date, Shinsengumi, 3 Kingdom generals, etc, as long as they don’t turn to scantily clad girls, that really makes me cringe..

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alexander-Groce/100000039461956 Alexander Groce

      The only scantly clad girl I remember is like one ninja. The rest are fairly overdressed and wear kimonos or something else that covers most of their body.

      • Aoshi00

        No, I meant the bastardized Ikkitousen, Koihime Musou, etc where the historical chars all turned into girls.

  • shion16

    bad but fun??
    yep thats the sengoku basara religion

  • urbanscholar

    Well for everyone that has played this can attest, Troy Baker’s voice work as Mitsunari Ishida is damn good. Now that man is insane & filled with rage. side note: I’ve poured in so many hours & I can’t get enough.

  • http://www.pixiv.net/member.php?id=2704923 Buntar0

    No Norio Wakamoto (JP Vega, Omega Rugal, Chiyo’s father, Mechazawa,…) voice acting in the western version, no buy.
    I might try this in the future (imported version), or in case of a Wii undub.

    I’m not too happy with the character designs in this. Way too over the top for my tastes. Now don’t get this the wrong way: I like handsome male characters (I really do) and I like freaky characters (Q, Necro, Tweleve, you name them) but almost the entire cast of this game puts me off.

    • Aoshi00

      I thought they kind of look like Yoroiden Samurai Troopers. They look ok I guess, the Eng. voice acting in the demo is not bad, but I just kind of want to listen to Ieyasu, Nobunaga, or Date (Zoro) in Jpn.. I thought someone said the US PS3 release was supposed to be dual track, what a pity.. Btw, I got the Jpn ver of Heavy Rain for the addt’l Jpn dub right, while it’s great, I just realized today all nudity of Madison were cut :(… I was watching some HR videos today and saw the disclaimer nudity, I was like what nudity? Shower, sex scene w/ Ethan, and dancing in the club were all censored. It’s not like I’m a perv, but it drives me a little crazy my game is not complete :(… (that scene w/ Ethan Mars was steamy! I can’t believe I missed it). I guess the trade off was worth it, but still.. makes me want to collect the US ver as well :(

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