Review by LordShibas
A Great Way To Hack and Slash On the Go
PSP gaming is stereotyped as being gaming on the go, but few games really conform to this archetype. The PSP is home to many scaled down console ports, which seem to offer little leeway in the favor of gaming on the go. Lots of games are plagued by infrequent save points, long and grueling gameplay sessions, and overall structures that seem closer to console gaming than portable gaming. However, every now and then I come across a game thats perfect for quick, portable gaming sessions and I often find myself hard to put it down due to its accessibility.
Enter: Samurai Warriors: State of War. This is a game from Koei thats cut from the same mold as the Dynasty Warriors series, but focuses on feudal Japan instead of wartime China. Having recently not been too impressed with the first Dynasty Warriors PSP game, I was not exactly filled with fervor before playing Samurai Warriors, but I decided to give the game a chance, and Im actually glad I did.
The Samurai Warriors series is a long running series of games that spans multiple consoles, and Samurai Warriors: State of War is the first, portable Samurai Warriors game. The style is very similar to Dynasty Warriors on the PSP since the game is no longer a large, full scale battle. All of the battle maps are now cut up into squares, like a board game, and you will need to move your character across the field to engage the enemy in combat. It gives the game more of a strategic feel, and makes the battles shorter, but the battles still retain all of the hack and slash action from the console games.
You will also have the ability to save your game at any time on the map screen, so its a very convenient game to play in bite sized chunks. IMO, Koei has moored Samurai Warriors: State of War to be a great, gaming on the go fix for fans of the Samurai Warriors series. However, since it has been shrunk down to the PSP, some features from the console versions are missing, which may adversely disappoint fans.
Overall, I would say that Samurai Warriors: State of War is a huge improvement over Dynasty Warriors, and Koei fixed a few of the annoying problems. The graphics have been cleaned up a bit, there is much more character involvement in the stories, and the controls seem to be much more precise. The interface and menus have also been cleaned up and simplified. I found the menus in Dynasty Warriors to be somewhat cluttered and not organized very well, but Samurai Warriors is laid out much nicer, and is much easier to dive right into.
There are also 19 characters to play as, multiple stories and scenarios for each character, and tons of customizable options via weapon upgrades, skill upgrades, sub-officers, and a new scroll system that can either hinder or bolster your progress during the battles.
I must say that I did indeed spend a good bit of time playing Samurai Warriors: State of War, maybe more than I should have, but for some reason the game kept calling me back for quick little gaming sessions here and there.
Samurai Warriors: State of War is a much prettier game to look at than Dynasty Warriors, but its still not without its problems. Everything seems to run much smoother, and Koei did a tremendous job of curbing the slowdown issue that plagued Dynasty Warriors. Samurai Warriors: State of War only slows down on rare occasions, and thats pretty impressive considering there are now even more enemies on-screen than Dynasty Warriors had. The character models also look much better, and the character animations seem to be much smoother.
On the downside of the graphics, Samurai Warriors: State of War only has a handful of main enemy models. There are plenty of enemy generals that are unique, but most regular enemies come from a pool of about a half dozen or so character models. Considering the amount of time that one needs to spend with this game, and considering how many battles you will be fighting, this can really make the game seem stagnant.
Cutting through wave after wave of the same enemies gets very repetitive, regardless of how many skills you have to use on them or your objectives.
So Samurai Warriors: State of War is a mixed bag graphically. While it is a huge improvement from Dynasty Warriors, be prepared to see the same enemies in every battle.
Sounds and Music 7/10
The music in Samurai Warriors: State of War keeps the high energy tunes from the Dynasty Warriors series and gives them more of a Japanese feel. Maybe Im just a little too familiar with the Dynasty Warriors tunes, but the Japanese music seemed kind of odd at first, but it actually grew on me a good bit.
The game also has quite a nice array of tracks to accompany the battles and story elements. People that have only spent a little bit of time with this game truly cannot appreciate the soundtrack that this game offers. A good majority of the later missions have their own distinct music, which does a great job of keeping the music fresh. This is good, since the sound effects do not differ at all throughout the game.
The sound effects sound pretty good for a wartime hack and slash game, but you will be hearing them over and over, so they can get kind of mundane. While the character voices in battle are very well done, the quotes are said far too often. I can only hear Yukimura say Come forth!, or hear Oichi say Get Ready!, so many times before I want to punch them .
So the sounds are not bad, but its kind of the same thing over and over, with a nice track listing to break up the music in the later missions.
The story in Samurai Warriors: State of War has been improved drastically from Dynasty Warriors. Dynasty Warriors simply had some text that you could read through before each battle, but Samurai Warriors: State of War has in-depth conversations with all relative characters prior to and after each battle. There is no spoken text or cut scenes, but its still a big improvement. This gives each character their own unique personas that genuinely reflect how they will act in battle. A brash, hot-headed character like Masamune Date will be on your front lines every time, but a conservative character like Lady Noh will wait by the allied camp for an enemy attack.
Even though characters are often grouped together, some of them will not get along, and some of their exchanges will often make for some funny pre-battle scenes.
You will have access to six characters initially, but upon completing their first quests, you will unlock a slew of other characters that have their own story lines. The cool thing about this is that a certain character may be an ally in one campaign, but they will be an ardent knave in another. This allows you to experience the battles from all sides, and ensures that there are always stories to break up the action sequences.
The individual stories really foster some much needed character depth for a game of this caliber, and Im glad that Koei spent some time with the story aspect of Samurai Warriors: State of War.
Well, its a Koei hack and slash war game, so be ready to hack and slash ..over and over. Being a pretty big fan of the game, even I can say that the repetitive gameplay took its toll on me after a while.
There are 19 characters to play as, which is great, but many of them play very similar to each other, and even their combo attacks produce similar results. For example, pressing Square, Triangle, Triangle, Triangle, makes most characters knock an enemy into the air, pursue them and keep attacking. Almost every character has a slight variation, but its mostly the same.
Characters like Nobunga can be fun to play as for their power alone, so there are a lot of options for the player, and its almost certain that you will find a few characters that you like. My advice on picking characters is this: Pick whoever you want to at first, but save Magoichi Saika for later on. I suggest this for one reason and one reason only: he uses shotguns!!! Magoichi Saika is a great character to pick when you start to get tired of the hack and slash gameplay, since he plays a little differently, and is really bad ass.
The large battles take place on a grid, and there are different objectives each time. The objectives seem rather marginalized and simple at first, but once you get to the individual character missions, things get a little more varied with the objectives and its a welcome change.
Samurai Warriors: State of War gives your army access to scrolls to utilize in battle. The scrolls add a new element of strategy to the gameplay, and enemies can use them on you as well. Scrolls allow you to poison enemies, heal yourself, gain extra turns, boost your movement, and many other things as well. You can only hold four scrolls at once, so its important to constantly be cycling through them to make sure you are not forced to discard them and lose their benefits.
Samurai Warriors: State of War adds a few, much needed features to the Dynasty Warriors formula, but the core game is still pretty repetitive, and your enjoyment of the game may hinge on how tolerant you are of the core gameplay. I found it much more endearing than Dynasty Warriors, but it still needs some work.
Longevity and Re-Playability 7/10
Again, your ability to play this game for a long time will break down to how long you can stomach the repetitive gameplay. The content and depth is no doubt there for you, but it wont take long for you to feel like not much is changing in each new battle.
The game has an impressive amount of characters, lots of storylines and missions to play through, and abilities and weapon upgrades to unlock for everyone.
If you are looking for a hack and slash game thats perfect for on the go gaming, then look no further than Samurai Warriors: State of War. It will scratch your itch better than Dynasty Warriors and can be digested in nice, bite sized portions thanks to the nifty save system. Just dont expect anything too out of the ordinary though. What you see is what you get with this game.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Samurai Warriors: State of War (US, 03/07/06)
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