Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Release Date: September 29, 2015
ESRB: T for Teen
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game
I have been out of the loop with Musou action games for a good while. Back on the PS2, I had fond memories of playing the original Samurai Warriors, but the mere existence of Samurai Warriors 2 & 3 completely slipped me byâ€¦ not to mention the enhanced versions of those same games. Regardless, Musou titles have been getting more and more positive fervor as of late, from fanfare spin-offs like Hyrule Warriors to the most recent Dragon Quest Heroes.
Even last year“s more traditional Samurai Warriors 4 picked up traction as well from series enthusiasts. Of course, it would not be a proper numbered Musou release without an annualized and somewhat confusing enhanced version, so here we are with Samurai Warriors 4-II.
As I implied before, Samurai Warriors 4-II in general is all new to me. So, aspects like being able to switch between two characters on the fly mid-battle, multiple special meters for "Hyper Attacks" and "Rage Mode" skills, interim saves for convenience during combat, and 50+ playable characters were all pleasant surprises for myself. Heck, just the regular attack animations are infinitely more responsive and cooler to look at than my old man's Samurai Warrior's perspective of a bygone era, like Nobunaga Oda floating and demonically swinging dark energy matter to decimate foes or Motochika ChÅsokabe playing a Shamisen like an electric guitar... that can somehow cut down armies of soldiers.
But, after an hour of so, the new sheen wore off for me and the basic it the basic hack and slash formula was not nearly as foreign to me as as I would have expected -- for better or worse. I mean, Mitsuhide Akechi still for some reason has purple hair, the enemy soldiers like to stand by and do nothing, and pretty much every key figure in the Sengoku era of Feudal Japan apparently felled 1000+ enemies in a single battle with bread and butter attack combos in around 30 minutes -- clearly the pinnacle of historical accuracy.
Humoring series quirks aside, actually, the main difference between the original Samurai Warriors 4 and Samurai Warriors 4-II is its the story mode. The prior release divided the storytelling into four factions while 4-II is by different groups of characters. Though the surface-level character motivations and cutscenes makes it seem like it's easy to follow, I am pretty sure the transition from one fight to another will make next to no sense for anybody who doesn't have some background knowledge of Japanese feudal history (and in some instances make far less sense with that knowledge due to some characters being, erm, alive.). To be honest, it's pretty disjointed from any perspective (and not particularly entertaining), even if it seems like Omega Force was probably aware of this by making the latter unlocked story modes progressively less and less serious.
Going down the list of additions beyond the story mode it appears like most are real minor quality of life stuff or giving players more excuses to chip away at grinding levels for its huge character roster. There is a new Final Fantasy X styled sphere grid system where you collect tomes from battles to unlock passive and stat bonuses for every characters. Also new is a "Survival Mode" which brings a risk/reward mindset as players decide for themselves whether to climb further up a tower with varying objectives for a potentially huge cash out . Other than those, the typical incentives from the previous game from loot drops, leveling up weapons, and a create character mode to give really devoted players to chew on something for a good while. This sorta hits the underlying theme of Samurai Warriors 4-II (and doubtless other Musou games)...which is, how much do you enjoy turning off your brain and grinding in the quickly familiar a hack & slash gameplay formula?
After my initial novelty seeing what is new from my ten year gap away from the series I eventually learned that my answer was "not very much". Even removed from my context of not enjoying mashing the square (and triangle) button THAT much, at least without the gameplay moveset depth of a good character action game to compensate it (which this doesn't have), the value proposition does not seem strong even for returning fans of the first iteration.
There is literally only one new character, Naomasa Li, whom honestly seems rather lukewarm compared to many other characters in the roster and the save transfer functionality between the two is woefully short for how little has been added. Also, the recently announced Samurai Warriors 4: Empires, which seems to have more new going on, makes Samurai Warriors 4-II as a follow-up seem fairly lacking.
With a near ten year gap from the last Samurai Warriors title that I have played it was fun to see the transition to the most recent release of Samurai Warriors 4-II. There is plenty to chip away at from a time perspective with its diverse, huge roster or characters and mechanics to grind. But, after getting over that initial novelty rather quickly, it is quite telling that its love it or hate it button-mashing formula made me quickly learn my stance for this release on its own.
For those that have played the previous Samurai Warriors 4 there doesn't seem to be a strong incentive to check out this psuedo-expansion because of its near negligible changes to gameplay and modes, and Samurai Warriors 4: Empires frankly seeming more substantial for those willing to wait. From the context of somebody who is not an already established Musou fan, Samurai Warriors 4-II does even less to change one's mind.
+ Tons of varied playable characters
+ Responsive controls and satisfying, flashy attacks animations
+ Love it or hate it button-mashing gameplay
- Is an unapologetic grind when it comes to unlocking new attacks or improving stats
- Fairly minor additions over the previous release
- Story mode is really disjointed and underwhelming
- Love it or hate button-mashing gameplay
Overall Score: 6 (out of 10)
With little to invite series veterans, or even newcomers, Samurai Warriors 4-II is a confusing expansion/sequel that is likely better off being ignored for an ultimately better iteration down the line than having those try to stubbornly uncover its merits.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.