Anyone familiar with the Samurai Warriors series should have a general idea of how this game goes. Players relive various battles from the Sengoku (Warring States) period of Japanese history. This means you’ll experience events between the mid 1400’s to 1500’s, fighting for various sides to unite Japan. One minute you’ll be on one side and then you’ll befriend the generals you just defeated. After you create your custom avatar (male or female), you get to fight around the country. The differences between male and female avatars isn’t that big – armor and your initial weapon will look different plus you’ll sometimes have different dialogue options with certain characters.
Before I get into the gameplay, Samurai Warriors: Chronicles is one of the prettiest 3DS games out now. It looks fantastic. These screenshots you’re seeing alongside this playtest do not do the game justice. You have to actually see it in action on a 3DS to appreciate how amazing it looks. I’d say these are practically PS2 quality graphics and the 3D effects are implemented perfectly. With the 3D on, it provides the perfect amount of depth. The characters’ faces during the dialogue segments look especially good, and quite realistic.
Back on how Samurai Warriors: Chronicles works. You fight. Don’t overthink it – your in-game companions don’t. Initially, you’ll have other teammate generals/warriors assigned to you, but later you can choose who you want to fight with you depending on who your friends are. Up to four player controlled characters appear on the map, with the player controlling one and computer AI managing the others until you switch over to them. As the battle goes on, you’ll be assigned various goals that you need to either clear within a few minutes or before an enemy character reaches a designated location. Keep an eye on AI controlled characters, as they aren’t too bright and tend to roam, sometimes all clustering together in one area of the map.
It’s pure hack-and-slash, button mashing goodness. If you see a character that actually has a name above his head, even something generic like guard or defense captain, take that dude down. Even if it isn’t part of the current mission, sometimes spotting and attacking an enemy with a name will trigger another mission requiring you to take him or her down. Aside from the general attack, you can also build up a gauge to use special abilities or a special attack. For the most part, unless you’re surrounded or facing a "boss," you’ll be fine with button mashing. Defeated enemies drop equipment, items or gold.
After a battle in Samurai Warriors: Chronicles, you get the opportunity to build friendships with your comrades. There will be a chance to talk to one of three different people. You then see an event scene where you talk to the person and usually get to answer a question or two. Answer correctly and you’ll become friends. If you build a close rapport, then that character can fight in battles with you, even if he or she normally wouldn’t, and you may be able to have your avatar wear his/her armor or use his/her weapon.
That brings us to customization options. You can collect and fuse weapons for all characters to build stronger ones with better attributes. You can also change your avatar’s appearance and equipment. There are quite a few mounts to choose from, and have registered for your character too. In addition, when you start the game you take a brief personality test to determine a "type" for your avatar that loosely determines initial stats. It’s fun and provides a bit more replay incentive.
While Samurai Warriors: Chronicles doesn’t have a true multiplayer mode, it supports StreetPass. You can unlock this mode after reaching a certain point in the game. This lets you put together a team of warriors who will battle against other people’s warriors if you pass them by. You don’t really do anything though, aside from deciding the battle formation and team members. You do get rewards and friendship levels with the selected team members increase when you win, so it is a nice little supplement. You can also choose one weapon to exchange with the other player. Unfortunately, you have to find and defeat a supply captain character in the next battle you participate in to actually get that weapon.
Samurai Warriors: Chronicles does not have massive armies of enemies facing you, simply because the 3DS can’t handle it. You will encounter a few squadrons of faceless troops as you run around the maps, but they really aren’t too much of a threat. The only danger to you are characters with names over their heads. If you see one of those, then take him or her down immediately. They’re trouble. The faceless ones are usually content to just stand around though, acting as occasional combo-fodder.
Horseback riding can also be an exercise in frustration. You can purchase mounts for your character and they do have their good points. If you need to get a character from one side of the map to another, then bit’s great to just press on the d-pad and summon a horse so you can get there a little faster, but battling on horseback is absolutely annoying. You have to position your character just so, otherwise you’re flailing your weapon at air and hoping the enemies are stupid enough to walk towards you. Maybe I’m just not doing it right, but it just seemed easier to use horses to get from point A to point B, then hop off to crush enemies in standard hand-to-hand combat.
Samurai Warriors: Chronicles is going to be an acquired taste. This is my first experience with the series and I loved it. I enjoyed the hack-and-slash missions and didn’t mind replaying missions repeatedly to acquire new items, level up and build friendships with the other characters. It may not be for people with short attention spans though, since redoing missions for extra points is practically required.
Food for Thought
- I really like that Tecmo Koei made sure StreetPass and SpotPass compatibility were added, but unfortunately I’ve only passed one person who also was playing Samurai Warriors: Chronicles. Also, we won’t see extra SpotPass missions until probably May.
- If you’re interested in grabbing it, prepare for a bit of a search. I had to check three GameStops, two of which said they had it online – one even mistakenly saying it was in stock on the phone, before finally acquiring a copy.
- Be prepared to read a lot, if you can’t understand Japanese. There’s no English voice acting. I see this as a plus though, as it makes the game feel more authentic.
- Each mission has three difficulty levels. I recommend playing it on Easy the first time, so you can see what the goals will be and get a feel for the area and characters you’ll control, then go through it on normal or hard.