Review by The Purple Pantywaist

Reviewed: 02/26/09

A railshooter with a sword - unique, innovative, mediocre

Samurai Warriors: KATANA is based on the Samurai Warriors series, about which I know nothing. It plays mainly like a railshooter, with the difference, that your main weapon is a sword (or another close combat weapon in later missions if you choose them). Nevertheless you can shoot too, but those weapons are supposed to be complemental. A few missions involve free movement, so it is remotely similar to a FPS. The game is set in feudal Japan, where you play as a nameless, faceless (probably male) person with a weapon.

Graphics 6/10

The graphics are fine, but not really above the average. You have about 10 different kind of enemies, which you'll meet repeatedly, and about half a dozen of bosses. Scenery includes classic feudal Japan settings, but do not vary greatly. The character portraits are good. The only thing which comes close to cutscenes are the intros of the bosses, which are a few seconds long and show them whirling their weapons around, while delivering a one- liner which may have been a witty remark in Japanese. Every story ends with a rather nicely drawn picture, representing the ending. There are no slowdowns, even if there are a lot of enemies around, but it could have been done probably on the Gamecube just as well.

Sound, Music, Voiceacting and Story 7/10

Maybe I did not pay enough attention, but I cannot note anything remotely remarkable about sound and music. It is there, it is not bad, and I forgot all about it. I feel kind of partial towards the voice actors, but that is really subjective. There is no voiceacting within missions, although there is often a lot of communication. Text is simply displayed, with no possibility of slowing it down or speeding it up, and sometimes the speaking characters say a few words like "Haha" or "brother".

There are 5 chapters, each with its own story, plus the trial missions which are each almost a short story in themselves. They are independent of each other, but feature partly the same protagonists. Stories revolve around conquest, betrayal, who the best swordsman is etc in feudal Japan. Well, I guess they are okay.

Gameplay 7/10

As I said before, most of the game is similar to a railshooter: You automatically move on a fixed route through the level. You encounter enemies, which you have to defeat. For this purpose you can make use of your weapons. There is a total of 8 different ones. The close combat weapons have a normal attack, which can be used in a combo, and one or more special attack(s). Some weapon types have additional functions, like displaying the enemies weak spots or can be charged up. Some special weapons (of all types) can have further effects on the enemy, like setting them on fire. For example, the normal attack of the sword is to strike at your enemy, which can be used in a combo of successive strikes. You can finish your combo with a powerful swing, which is the sword's special attack and comes in four flavours: from left to right, up to down. You get the picture. Now swords themselves come in different flavours as well, some are stronger, some boost your stats, some set your enemies sometimes of fire (and some do all of the above).

There are 4 ranged weapon types. They are weaker than close combat weapons, their main function is to shoot enemy archers, musketeers etc, but of course you can shoot all enemies, and can use them in combos as well. The difference between the ranged weapons are damage, rate of fire, affected area, reload time etc.

So, what to do, when you encounter many enemies at once? You have - besides your weapons - the ability to block their attacks. If you time that right, you bring them off balance. Some enemy projectiles can even be reflected. Some special attacks push enemies back. And then there is the "musou attack", which can be unleashed if the "musou meter" has built up.

So far it all sounds rather repetitive: You are walked through the level, encounter enemies and defeat them. That impression is not wrong, but they put a lot of effort in variety - besides that there are a different types of enemies and bosses, with different attacks, which appear in different combinations: In some missions you have a time limit, you have to defeat a certain amount of enemies, certain types of enemies, use certain weapons, do not harm bystanders etc. In a few missions you can even snipe, slow down time, dodge attacks, ride a horse or have to answer riddles. Still, a rest of reiterativeness remains. And the free movement missions do not work very well.

There is an RPG element as well. Firstly, your character has stats, which can be improved by spending money. Secondly, as I said before, you can receive better weapons, and even those can be further upgraded. Thirdly, you can bring two types of items into battle: Items that are to be consumed (e.g. food for health or to fill your musou meter immediately) and items which grant bonus effects (e.g. receive less damage or earn more money).

With all these various elements, weapons, missions etc one can not blame the game designers for not trying. Still, they whole concept might be fresh and innovative, but it still remains a little half- baked - or just a weird combination. I enjoyed the game, but it is clearly missing something. I have never tried multi player.

Controls 7/10

You have a cross- hair which you point with the remote. Pressing the A button launches a strike attack at that spot, B button a projectile attack. Z is used for blocking. The control stick is used for free movement or in those missions, in which you can look around, for that. The special attacks require a wave, stab or shake of the remote and works mostly fine. Some of the weapon types you receive later require combinations of waving and button pressing for some attacks. I never saw a point in using those. To activate the musou attack you have to shake the nunchuk, but to use it you have to wave about wildly with the remote. Wildly waving is what you have to do for those missions, where you have to run as well. I dislike senseless waving and some of the attacks to not work very well, but that is no reason for big complaints.

Replayability and Game length 8/10

It took me about 30 hours to complete all missions and trials and get at least an A ranking in every mission. Besides to improve your ranking you can replay completed missions to earn money or receive better weapons and equipment. If a later mission is too hard, it might be necessary to do so.

In a nutshell 7/10

The combination of swords and railshooter is an innovation, but does not please every taste. It is by no means a great game, but I enjoyed playing it, although it clearly lacks something, although I cannot name, what that is exactly (besides mediocre graphic). It might be recommendable to try it out before buying.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Samurai Warriors: Katana (EU, 02/22/08)

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