Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes is the latest in the Sengoku series, which began back in 2005 with Devil Kings. The series is basically Capcom’s take on the popular Dynasty Warriors saga from Koei, and so bears a ton of similarities, including over the top vivid characters, supernaturally powerful combat abilities, battlefields with hundreds of foes and endless cheesy dialogue. Once more, this is all present and correct, and this latest outing is about as by the book as it gets.
The game’s core mode is the story, which lets you pick one of a handful of warriors, with which you’ll then fight through several stages against opposing generals, taking over regions of Japan as you go. Each character has his or her own plot, but regardless of this, the general mechanic is simple: mash buttons and don’t stop until you’ve won.
It really is as simple as that, and aside from collecting new weapons and accessories, along with basic materials to make your own accessory power-ups, there’s almost no variety here at all.
Of course, we’ve come to expect little in the way of innovation with the endless stream of Dynasty Warriors clones, but here it’s made all the worse due to some particularly bad issues.
First and foremost is the difficulty level, or should I say, the total lack of it. Every enemy you face on the battlefield is a total non-event, and even a lowly level one character can cut through swathes of foes with minimal effort. Once you level up your chosen hero, this becomes even more laughable, and no one stands a chance. Even bosses, while slightly more challenging, are usually pointless, as you cut through them like butter, even when tackling screen-filling robotic creations.
What’s more, enemies very rarely attack. I stood in the midst of about 50 soldiers, who all proceeded to dance around me, only taking the occasional jab. It’s all rather pathetic, really, and makes the whole game pointless. What’s the point of even fighting when your foes are practically useless?
You do have one powerful enemy, though, one that will drain any last desire to persevere with the game, the camera. Yep, although Dynasty-type titles have always experienced problems with the camera, here it’s perhaps one of the worst I’ve seen.
Through much of the battle, you’ll probably spend most of your time looking the wrong way as your combos send you spinning wildly out of control, attacking thin air or walls, and thanks to the lack of any form of lock-on, boss fights can be a mess of flailing arms and constant camera adjustment. It’s a poor showing, and one that damages and already iffy title.
The stages are also a bit of a letdown. Far from the wide open areas originally sported by Dynasty Warriors and its ilk, here stages are often a series of small, confined arenas that force you through set routes. They’re made up of sections, which each contain an area captain. Killing him (as he stands fixed within a guard tower, and so is no threat at all) causes your forces to take over the section, which doesn’t really do anything of note, and makes you wonder why you bothered in the first place.
Occasionally there are some special guards that need to be killed to open gates or disable traps, but for the most part, there’s little aside from running from A to B. Needless to say, it doesn’t make for a riveting time, and boredom doesn’t take long to slide up beside you on the sofa and whisper in your ear, “Why don’t you play some Call Of Duty or Fallout instead?”
There are a couple of upsides, though, albeit small ones. Visually, although not exactly current-gen material (think PS2 with a memory boost) it’s better than most other Dynasty/Samurai games, and some areas and characters do look good. The musical score also deserves a little praise, and aside from the cheesy J-pop theme, and a couple of pop-rock battle tracks, is actually very good, with plenty of booming orchestral movements accompanying some of the stages. Voice acting is surprisingly decent too, despite some poor scripting, and the stories featured are actually quite interesting at times.
The ability to recruit an ally to fight alongside you is a nice feature, and as you win battles with these allies, they’ll grow more confident and become more useful. Sadly, they also suffer from the same passive nature as most of your foes, and will usually simply dance around doing nothing. They can perform a dual special move with you, though, which is the main reason to bring them along.
As for the actual gameplay, it’s solid enough, and Capcom’s presentation and general skill at creating fast, fluid and enjoyable hack and slash combat is demonstrated very well. This is certainly the best and most well-rounded title of the series, but this doesn’t change the fact that we’ve seen it all too many times before. There’s just no spark here whatsoever, and the total lack of any form of skill needed to play the game means most players will find it instantly dull.
In the end, Samurai Heroes does little to hide what is essentially more of the same old button mashing, mindless violence crap that’s become so damn boring. There are a few new characters and areas, but as far as innovation or substantial new features go, you’ll find absolutely none here, which is a problem when you’re making another title that’s the same as bazillions before it. The Dynasty formula is far, far past old. It’s now downright ancient, and it’s time for developers to either change things up and add something new or move on.
If you’ve got any of the previous titles in this series, or any other similar franchise, then there really is no reason at all, not even the slightest, to buy this. If you’ve yet to try this kind of title, you may want to give it a go. Just don’t expect a challenge.
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.