I never understood why some outlets complain about certain series feeling “samey” over time. Yes, Pokémon is going to play very similarly from one iteration to another – it’s Pokémon! There’s a way we expect those games to play and diverging too far from those expectations could damage the experience. Likewise, every time a Warriors game comes out, there’s always someone going to rant and rave about how they’re all identical, missing the point that Warriors games play a certain way and expecting otherwise suggests that one should just play something else.
Anyway, the point is that Samurai Warriors 4-II is here and, yes, it is a Warriors title with all that entails. Years of sticking to their guns with these games have ensured that Tecmo Koei know what they’re doing, though, and 4-II is a solid game that’s worth a look.
Samurai Warriors 4-II’s claim to fame is an increased focus on individual characters via the game’s Story Mode. This plays out as a set of mini-campaigns interspersed with cutscenes where characters chat and discuss their motivations. New flagship hero Naomasa Ii has his own story campaign, for instance, which is a deep and involving tale about killing thousands of dudes in the dutiful service of one’s daimyo. Okay, so the stories themselves aren’t exactly gripping, but the important thing here is that the Story Mode offers a gradual descent into army-slaying madness that the vast majority of previous entries in the series did not. You’re given the chance to gradually wade into the pool and get used to the water instead of being shoved off a thousand-foot diving board into the end that’s filled with sharks.
As a result, I’d say 4-II is the most easily recommendable Warriors game since the Wii U’s Hyrule Warriors. Rather than being presented with a vast cast of heroes that newcomers would find largely indistinguishable from one another, you’re given a more in-depth experience with several at a time. This is especially nice given the increased focus on more complex movesets found in modern Warriors games, as you’re able to spend more time with a given character and learn how to use their attacks to your advantage. By the time I was done with Naomasa’s story, for instance, he was one of my favorites solely because I used him so much and grew so accustomed to his playstyle. I can’t say this has come up in most of the other Warriors games I’ve played – in those I generally focused on the character edit mode and just played as my own officer instead. That’s back, by the way, just in case you’re as obsessed with creating custom characters as I am.
The other big addition is the return of Survival Mode, which is presented as an expansive castle packed with baddies that you’ll need to clear floor by floor. If you want a break from the typical objective-based gameplay in order to focus on pure and simple combat, Survival Mode’s the way to go. Loot found here is equally applicable to the rest of the game, so it’s not like you’re wasting your time playing, and it ends up being a nice way to learn characters so you’re better prepared for the other modes.
Other tweaks to the series’ formula are a little more marginal. There’s a skill tree that plays out a little like the License Board from Final Fantasy XII, for instance; you obtain tomes used to progress on this tree as loot fairly often, which means that weapon and item gathering might feel a little more slow as many of your drops will be tomes instead. Gear is a bit more customizable as well, with weapon fusion offering a use for less-valuable equipment beyond just selling it. There’s even a bonus for Samurai Warriors 4 players in the form of a gold and tome bonus, which is a nice touch.
As is typical for this series lately, everything looks and sounds great. The game runs smooth as silk 99% of the time, it plays like a dream, the voice acting is…well, Japanese, so I’m forced to assume it’s good. I played this one on PlayStation 4 and had no technical issues whatsoever, though as always with Koei Tecmo games on that platform it’s worth noting that the game will need extra time to install even after it appears to be playable, so watch out for that. I’m told that the PC version is solid as well, and I’m inclined to believe it given how well Dynasty Warriors 8 ran on my system, but I’ve yet to try 4-II on that platform myself.
Series fans have already bought this one, of course, but as I mentioned before I feel like Samurai Warriors 4-II is one of the best entry points for newcomers to the Dynasty Warriors series in recent times. If you’ve ever been intrigued by the Warriors games but they seem a little too intimidating or even too Japanese…er, buy a Wii U and play Hyrule Warriors, because it’s awesome and needs more attention. And then once you’ve done that, play Samurai Warriors 4-II! It’s more welcoming than the norm for this series and a great time all around.