IGN Review of Samurai Warriors 2
Samurai Warriors 2 arrives at a time when the hack-and-slash genre could use some of that fresh air that the original game in the series brought. The first Samurai Warriors was lauded for bringing RPG elements to a stale genre, but development house Omega Force has essentially released the same game again in Samurai Warriors 2 with some new additions that fail to add enough to a genre that is feeling more outdated with each successive release. If you're in love with the hack-and-slash style of gaming, you'll find plenty more in Samurai Warriors 2. But if you're looking for a new videogame experience or any variety, you'll only find more of the same mindless gaming we've seen too many times before.
The gameplay in Samurai Warriors 2 follows the same tired button mashing formula the Dyansty Warriors series has grown famous (or is it infamous?) for. Attack combinations are performed by pressing one button repeatedly and capping it off with a strong attack. Sometimes you get to push the strong attack button twice in a row. Each of the 26 characters, most of which must be unlocked, has two unique moves that can be performed by holding down one of the shoulder buttons while pressing either attack button. While this adds a little bit of a distinctive quality to each character, the special moves do little to break up the monotony of pressing a single button 99% of the time.
Significant additions have been made to the RPG elements that Samurai Warriors introduced, but the actual gameplay experience has remained stagnant. Each level in either Story Mode or Free Mode puts players on a map and gives them conditions for both victory and defeat. For most levels, these are simply to keep your commander alive while defeating the enemy leader or leaders. Things generally get complicated while you're out knocking skulls and you'll find yourself running or riding from one end of the map to another while you attempt to keep all of your allied commanders alive. Rarely will you find a level where you can simply run directly for the enemy commander and fight them as you often could in Samurai Warriors.
Survival Mode has also been held over from the first game. In it, you'll have to fight through a series of floors that are essentially small missions. The goals range from killing thieves and finding their gold to rescuing and saving peasants, but the core gameplay remains the same as the Story Mode; kill the commander, or whoever is in charge, and wipe out any lesser enemies you see along the way. In between each set of five small stages you're allowed to save your progress with an interim save and visit the shop to upgrade your character with the gold you've collected. Although the goals are slightly different than the other modes, anybody walking by wouldn't be able to tell the difference as the enemies and core experience are unchanged.
Unsurprisingly, the fighting and AI is stuck at the same poor levels we've been seeing for years. The foes that inhabit the battlefield in such large numbers mostly stand motionless as you wipe them out through a series of button mashes. Occasionally you'll also notice these deficient soldiers stuck in a routine where they can't decide to move towards you or away and they'll end up shaking in one place uncontrollably. Your ever-present solitary guard will occasionally take out one of the lesser enemies that you missed, but their actions are rarely helpful. Commanders will put up a fight and even try to defend against your attacks, but you'll still find that blocking isn't necessary while continuously shooting out extended combos is a much more effective method of attack.
Exclusive to Xbox 360 is the new Xbox Live versus mode. If you're wondering which system to buy Samurai Warriors 2 for, don't let this sway you. Although you are competing against a person, the battle is indirect. You actually only get to fight computer controlled AI. The winner is the one that can kill the enemy commander first or have the most health taken off when time runs out. Although you may get some satisfaction in showing that you've made the stronger character, the same result could have been achieved from simple leaderboards. Going online just to fight AI is a poor attempt to pawn off what is basically just another mission mode to unsuspecting 360 owners. Simply put, it's not fun.
Just as you can't compete against another person online, you won't be able to pit your warriors against someone else offline as there isn't any versus mode present. The only way to get some serious multiplayer action is through the split screen co-operative mode. Still, we're glad for that as co-operative play is by far the best way to experience a hack-and-slash game.
One more new addition to Samurai Warriors 2, though it is hardly worth mentioning, is Sugoroku. This mode allows 1-4 players to play a dull board game similar to Monopoly where opponents must vie for control of Japan. The directions provided for what you're supposed to be doing are vague and by the time you actually figure them out, you'll probably realize that there are hundreds of better ways to spend your time.
So what does Samurai Warriors 2 do right? Well, the refined RPG and shop elements are implemented well. While progressing through levels, players will obtain new weapons, experience, and gold from fallen enemies and broken crates. Regardless of whether you die before completing the mission, you'll retain this experience and money. This allows you to go to the shop and improve your character by purchasing new skills or upgrading your weapon or through buying new guards and horses. This relieves much of the frustration involved with dying because you rarely feel like you aren't getting anywhere and each successive run through a level becomes easier. Interim saves and the fact that character and guard experience carries over from one mode to the next also help to keep aggravation levels from rising.
Purchasing new skills, guards, and mounts, also allows you to refine each character for the exact method you prefer to play them with. Even better, gold is shared by all characters, allowing you to upgrade a character you're having trouble with by blasting through levels with your best warrior. Although the game routinely falls into the mindless category, hardcore fans will be pleased to see that there is a reward for investing a lot of time in the game.
One aspect of the game that nobody will be thrilled with is the visuals. The graphics in Samurai Warriors 2 can only be described as ugly. Although the game succeeds in putting hundreds of fighters on screen for you to pummel as they stand in one place without any slowdown, the environments are bland and vacant. There is almost nothing present to give the levels any sort of liveliness. When we're told that the building we're in is on fire and is draining our health, we generally expect to see more than a few small flames scattered around the walls.
Even on Xbox 360, there is significant fog and pop-in. In fact, the game doesn't look like anything was done to improve the look for the new hardware other than slapping on some higher resolution textures. This is a quick port and release job that after you play, you'll probably be left wondering why you spent $400 dollars on a new system.
The sound has actually gone backwards from the original Samurai Warriors. The option to switch the voices to Japanese is gone, forcing you to listen to the bland, poorly scripted and performed English dialogue. When each character has only a few stock lines that they'll repeat every time you defeat one of the enemy captains, you'll probably find yourself muting the voices and turning off the events in short order. The music that plays in the background is equally generic and unmoving.
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